Stillanerd Reviews: Spider-Man #1

With the first issue of another (and adjective-less) Spider-Man series, Miles Morales officially joins the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe.

The moment Marvel revealed that Miles Morales would immigrate from the Ultimate Universe and into the “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe after Secret Wars, Spider-Man fans, comic book related websites, and even mainstream media outlets had all sorts of questions. Would this still be the Ultimate Comics version of Miles or a new “Earth-616” version? If it’s Miles from the Ultimate Universe, how will he fit it into the Marvel Universe? What about other characters from Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man such as Genke, Bombshell, the Ultimate version of Jessica Drew, and Miles’ dad? What would this mean for Peter Parker in having another Spider-Man swinging around? Well now that Secret Wars is (finally!) over and the long-awaited (and much hyped) debut of Spider-Man #1 has happened, it appears while some of these concerns do get addressed, others have been pushed aside in favor of getting Miles’ new solo series off and running.

Writer Brian Michel Bendis operates on the assumption that those reading this first issue are already be familiar with Miles and his supporting cast from both Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man. There are no flashbacks to Miles’ origin as Spider-Man here, and closest we get to a recap is a very brief, three-paragraph summary in the credits page. Instead, Bendis uses this first issue to set up Miles’ status within the “All-New, All-Different” Marvel landscape, and it seems, along with Spidey’s powers, he’s also infected with the “good ‘ol Parker Luck.” He gets dumped by a girl whom he had to stand-up to stop the Shocker; his mother calls to tell him he’s falling behind in school according to his latest report card; he gets reprimanded by his English teacher for failing his reading assignment; and he has to ditch class to stop Blackheart, the son of Mephisto, from wiping the floor with the Avengers. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Even if someone has never read a comic with Miles before, such a reader will have no trouble being able to relate with him in [Spider-Man #1].

Nevertheless, Bendis is able to make this otherwise typical Spider-Man fare work by doing what he does best: narrowing his focus towards a small cast of believable, well-rounded characters who speak with natural-sounding dialogue. Even if someone has never read a comic with Miles before, such a reader will have no trouble being able to relate with him in this issue. Sure Miles’ brave, clever, and mature for his age, but he’s still a teenager with teenage preoccupations, concerns, and hormones who, like anyone during in high school years, feels as if their life is just one big drama. We see through his interactions with his supporting cast what his relationships with them are like with a least amount of fuss. Just as it was before in both Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Miles and Genke’s friendship is well realized, with the later being a genuinely likable confidant. It’s also interesting to see the contrasting parenting styles between Jefferson Davis and the resurrected Rio Morales in terms of their parenting styles, in particular that Miles’ dad know about his son being Spider-Man while his mom doesn’t.

Sara Pichelli’s art in this issue is also excellent. Her figures are expressive not just in their facial features but in their very postures, and her action scenes are fluid as they are eye-catching. Details to settings are given a tremendous and loving amount of care, in particular the scene showing a wounded Miles face-to-face with Blackheart within the rubble of the previous battle, which is one of the best two-page spreads I’ve ever seen. Some long-time Marvel readers may take offense with Blackhearts redesign, which looks inspired by the Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings and the alien from the Predator franchise. Personally, I find it gives him a definite sense of genuine menace. If I do have one quibble, it’s the Chibi-style flashbacks from Miles’ perspective, which are little too reminiscent of Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Otherwise, I would consider this some of the best work Pichelli has ever done.

That said, there are least three drawbacks with this new series which, while not harmful to this first issue, could wind up being very problematic later on. First is the matter of how Miles and his current continuity fits into this “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe post-Secret Wars. Contrary to what I assumed about the conclusion of Ultimate End #5, Bendis, in an interview with Comic Book Resources, confirmed that Miles still remembers everything that happened in the Ultimate Universe and on Battleworld, which also means “everything you read about Miles…[still] happened.” Aside from Bendis having to clarify significant plot details in an interview as opposed to the story itself, the fact remains that even though Miles remembers everything, his real world is gone and he’s living in a world with a different history than the one he knows. And although Bendis says how “nobody…is interested in a Captain America-style story for Miles where’s he out of time and space,” he and Marvel will have to address this sooner or later, as they can’t keep sweeping it under the rug.

…the decision to give Miles Spider-Man’s more “traditional” status quo…runs the risk of robbing what made Miles (and Peter) unique.

The second is the decision to give Miles Spider-Man’s more “traditional” status quo of being a teenage superhero struggling with making money, keeping up his grades, and finding a date. Granted, it makes sense given how Peter Parker is now the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company with offices all over the world, but it also runs the risk of robbing what made both Miles (and Peter) unique. Like any good legacy character, the idea behind Miles is that, due being declared dead and his secret identity outed, it wasn’t possible for Peter to continue being Spider-Man anymore. But now Miles lives in a world where not only is Peter still Spider-Man, but that he’s just one of many spider-people. Couple this with Miles cracking wise and making fun of villains while he fights them, and the new series runs the risk of turning him into “Spider-Man-lite.”

Finally, just what exactly are the limitations when it comes to Miles’ venom blast? Here we have Blackheart–a literal demon from Hell–who in the past gave heroes like Doctor Strange and Ghost Rider a run for their money, and who in this very issue has taken out all the Avengers, including Thor. Yet with one touch of Miles’ venom blast, he’s all but incapacitated, then makes like the Knights of the Round Table from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and gets away. Which only begs the question that if the venom blast is this powerful, why would Miles have any trouble in any fight when he can just zap his opponents into submission? Moreover, it puts Miles into the same dilemma superheroes like Superman and Wolverine keep falling into, in that their own power-set makes challenges too easy, thus reducing the stakes and making the outcomes of their fights both boring and predictable. Yes, this has been the case for Miles since Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, but that’s still no excuse for Bendis to keep doing this.

It may sound as if I’m being over-critical with these last points, but rest assured, Spider-Man #1 is a very good beginning for Miles’ new ongoing series. If you’re a fan of Miles Morales, or Bendis and Pichelli’s previous collaborative work, then you’ll feel right at home with this comic. Time will tell whether it was good decision on the part of Marvel to bring Miles and his cast of characters into the Marvel Universe, or whether or not his presence could run the risk undermining Peter Parker or himself. So far, it sure feels as if he’s right at home.

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)

  • “New York. Today. This Really Happened.” Well, no it didn’t since this comic is a work of fiction. But hey, anything to keep up the sense of illusion, right?
  • “’…I was busy saving people from a guy who shoots electricity out of his face.’” Miles, I realize you’re somewhat new to the 616 or “Prime Earth” or whatever the Marvel Universe is called these days, but The Shocker doesn’t shoot electricity from his face. In fact, he doesn’t shoot electricity period. He shoots ultrasonic shock-waves, hence the name. And with his costume, it’s not as if you can mistake for Electro, either.
  • “You need to date one of your own kind, anyway.” Oh, Genke. I realize you meant Miles should date other superheroes and that you’re making the case for Lana Baumgartner/Bombshell, but that was an extremely poor choice of words.
  • “I am not dating Bombshell…We are like brother and sister.” Yeah, right. Try telling that to the folks on tumblr, Miles.
  • All right, when it comes to Miles not reading To Kill a Mockingbird for his homework, he really doesn’t much an excuse. Yes, I know what his doing Spider-Man stuff he wouldn’t have time to read it, but this the 21st century. He can look up detailed summaries of the novel online with his smartphone. The film adaptation is widely available on DVD and rerun all the time on Turner Classic Movies. Granted, it’s no substitute for the book, but it would at least give him an idea what it’s about to B.S. his way through the teacher’s question. Besides, the class assignment was just to read the first chapter, which would take them and Miles half an hour at most.
    How to tell Miles is having a fantasy sequence? When girls are going ga-ga over him capturing the Kangaroo.
  • “Bathrooms are for participants.” But what if Miles really needed to go the bathroom, teach? Because if you refused a student to go the bathroom and they wet themselves because of it, you might as well kiss your tenure goodbye.
    “Maybe I can…be one of those guys in Times Square…” Given all the run-ins with the cops the actual Spider-Man street performers have had, Miles, you might want to reconsider your career options.
  • Actually, Miles, your sarcastic quip about how you’d fall to your knees because of Blackheart’s stench is a little funny. Because if Blackheart does indeed smell as bad you say, then your quip has an element of truth, which is what all good comedy needs. Then again, I’m the last person to give advice on how to tell jokes and make people laugh.
  • Okay, not going to lie. Miles brandishing Captain America’s shield is pretty badass.
  • “What did you do?!” Yeah, Miles. If you hadn’t let Blackheart escape, then Peter Parker would’ve gotten a hold of him, which would’ve led him right to Mephisto, which would’ve undone a really bone-headed decision on his part, and then he, a certain redhead, and every other Spider-Man fan would be happy. Heck, if I was Peter, I’d be mad, too.