Marvel has created its own Naruto (but Spider-Man just lit him on fire)
Did Spider-Man just light Naruto on fire to defeat Venom?
Amazing Spider-Man #15 (written by Zeb Wells and penciled by Ed McGuinness) is the latest chapter in Marvel’s Dark Web crossover event. The storyline features Spider-Man, the X-Men, and a host of other characters. One of those heroes is a ramen ninja by the name of Naruto – sort of. What’s Naruto doing in the Marvel Universe, and why is Spider-Man lighting him on fire? Let us explain.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man #15 (2022).
Naruto joins the Marvel Universe (sort of)
The Goblin Queen, Chasm, and Venom are tearing up New York, causing the city to look like a Tim Burton nightmare sequence. Inanimate objects like strollers, Christmas trees, and newsstands have come to life, and they’re using their sharp teeth to attack people. Battling demonic objects is hard enough, but Spider-Man also has to tangle with Venom. During a strenuous fight with Venom, Spider-Man comes up with a plan involving a beloved manga character.
Swinging by a nearby newsstand (which happens to be sentient and demonic) Spider-Man grabs the latest volume of a title called Ramen Ninja. We get a good look at the cover, and it’s clear that Ramen Ninja is meant to be a playful homage to the popular manga character Naruto. In a move that will horrify millions of fans, Spider-Man lights the manga volume on fire in an attempt to scare Venom.
In an amusing detail, the illustration of Ramen Ninja changes. The cover initially depicts Ramen Ninja devouring some ramen, but after Peter lights the book on fire the image changes to show Ramen Ninja looking shocked and horrified. This could simply be an artist gag from Ed McGuinness, but remember, The Goblin Queen is causing inanimate objects to come to life. It’s possible Ramen Ninja is alive, and feeling the heat as Spider-Man burns his pages.
Venom initially laughs off the fire, telling Spider-Man that the flame is too small to have an effect on him. Spider-Man tells Venom that he’ll use the flame to burn down the sentient Christmas trees. This causes the trees to wail in fear, which creates sonic sound waves. In case you’ve forgotten, sonics are one of Venom’s weaknesses. This subdues Venom long enough for Spider-Man to knock him out. While it might be a stretch to say that Naruto helped Spider-Man defeat Venom, it’s pretty close to what happened!
Wait, who exactly is Naruto?
If you’re a Marvelite who never reads manga or watches anime, you should know that Naruto is a popular series about a young ninja. Naruto Uzumaki is known for his enthusiastic attitude, his mischievous nature, his ninja skills, and of course, his love for ramen. The original manga run was 72 volumes published between 1999-2014. The manga was adapted into a successful anime, which ran from 2002-2007 before continuing as Naruto: Shippuden. The franchise has remained active, spawning sequels, spin-offs, films, and video games.
Naruto shares some parallels with Spider-Man. Both of their titles are considered coming of age stories, as both heroes have grown into adulthood over the course of their adventures. Spider-Man and Naruto are known for their sense of humor, something which annoys both their allies and enemies. In addition, both heroes initially rubbed their allies the wrong way, but over time their relationships have improved.
Both heroes started off as outcasts in their respective communities. Peter Parker was shunned for being a nerd, while Naruto was a pariah because an entity known as the Nine-Tails was trapped within his body. Okay, we’ll admit Naruto’s situation is a bit more extreme there.
What is Dark Web?
Dark Web is a crossover event that’s currently running in the Spider-Man and X-Men books. The storyline focuses on Madelyne Pryor and Ben Reilly, two clones who are turning New York into their own demonic playground. Ben Reilly was a clone of Spider-Man who once served as his ally, until the Beyond Corporation messed with his memories. Blaming Peter Parker for his predicament, Ben Reilly remade himself as the villain Chasm.
Madelyne Pryor is a clone of the X-Men member Jean Grey. After being treated poorly by her ex-husband Scott Summers, and being manipulated by villainous forces, Madelyne snapped and became the Goblin Queen. Dark Web is a spiritual sequel to Inferno, the 1989 storyline where Pryor became the Goblin Queen for the first time. Like Dark Web, Inferno also involves demons from Limbo invading New York City.
Marvel and parody characters
Ramen Ninja is the latest in a long line of Marvel parody characters. Throughout Marvel’s history there have been various nods to characters from other comic companies, movies, and television series. Sentinel #7-9 (2003) featured an off-duty cop named John who was clearly meant to be Bruce Willis’ character John McClane from the Die Hard film series. The Ghostbusters can be seen in Uncanny X-Men #240 (1989) during the Inferno storyline. During a flashback in Doctor Octopus: Year One (2004) a young Otto Octavius is bedeviled by three bullies who appear to be Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph from The Simpsons.
The use of unnamed parody and homage characters has allowed Marvel to do unofficial crossovers with DC. Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen have been seen at various Marvel Universe press conferences over the years, including The Ultimates #1 (2002). An amnesiac speedster with blonde hair and a tattered red and yellow costume appeared in Quasar #17 (1990). He called himself Buried Alien, but it was clear that he was meant to be Barry Allen, the Flash. Reading between the lines, the story implied that Barry had wound up in the Marvel Universe after his fatal encounter with the Anti-Monitor in DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 (1985).
In a world without lawyers we would get all these characters in an epic crossover, but until then these copyright-safe parodies are the next best thing. They’re fun, and they give the Marvel Universe that extra sense of meta awareness. While we may never see Naruto and Spider-Man battle side by side, the team-up between Spidey and Ramen Ninja was still an unexpected surprise. I’d ask if it was necessary for Spider-Man to burn him, but everyone knows that ramen tastes better after it’s been heated up.
Meet Marvel's version of Naruto - Ramen Ninja - in Amazing Spider-Man #15, which is on-sale now.
Fire style! A Naruto-themed hip hop album featuring English cast members has now dropped.