After making a name for himself in Captain America: Civil War, it's time for Spider-Man's first real test as a superhero: a super villain. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spidey finally gets his first real taste at what the front lines really look like courtesy of his first nemesis, and oh what a nemesis it is. The Spider-Man: Homecoming villain, The Vulture, might be the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) villain ever. And, yes, I am including Loki in that group.
There are a few things that make The Vulture such an effective and entertaining villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It helps, for example, that he is the subject of one of the best and most surprising Marvel twists ever. And, yes, being played by Michael Keaton is also nothing to sneeze at. But what truly makes the Vulture such a great villain in the MCU is that he's actually just a regular guy. Spoilers ahead. The Vulture doesn't want to take over the world. Unlike The Avengers' Loki or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's Ego, he has no plans to enslave humanity or re-create the world in his image. Toomes becomes the Vulture and an alien arms dealer because he loses a job to Damage Control, a big, government company. He's just a man trying to survive in a rapidly changing world.
In many ways, Adrian Toomes reflects the anxieties present in the current American political climate. Forced out of a job due to the changes in the world (alien invasions, etc), he becomes bitter and distrustful of the law. He sees Tony Stark as a rich elite, someone who could easily be a member of the "swamp" certain Republicans keep insisting on draining. He sees the world as separated into two groups: the rich vs. the working man. In other words: he's the modern American narrative. It's this point that makes Vulture such an interesting villain. And actor Michael Keaton agrees. "I thought it was a really unique approach and kind of obvious when you think of it, to make this person someone who is approachable and has a legitimate gripe and a legitimate argument," he said at a press conference, via CBR.
Everything Toomes does in Homecoming has a logic to it; he's not evil for evil's sake. He breaks the law as the Vulture because he sees no other choice to provide for his family. He sells deadly weapons because that's what the rich like Tony Stark are doing anyway. Even at the beginning of the film's climax, when he learns that the Spider-Man he's been fighting is a 15-year-old boy with a crush on his daughter, he acts somewhat reasonably. Instead of killing a teenager in cold blood, he gives him a choice to walk away from the fight entirely. In contrast to other MCU villains, Toomes is basically just a normal guy. And that's what makes him so effective as a villain.
The MCU tends to be pretty black and white when it comes to bad guys. The heroes are always good and the villains are always bad (yes, even though hero Tony Stark technically created the villain Ultron). But Vulture isn't such a clear evil dude. No matter what he's doing to our beloved Spidey, there's still a hope that he can be saved. Toomes might just be the MCU's first redeemable villain. At least, the first post-credits scene in Homecoming seems to hint in that direction. In the scene, Toomes is confronted in jail by a fellow prisoner about Spider-Man's real identity, but he doesn't give anything away. In that moment, it seems like Toomes has respected the fact that he lost. Moreover, he owes Peter for saving his life, and it looks like he's returning the favor. That said, the scene could also mean that The Vulture is holding onto a grudge and wants to kill Peter for himself. Either way, it looks like there might be more to the Vulture than just Spider-Man: Homecoming.