From the publishers: “Miles Morales is hitting the big time! Not only is he joining the Marvel Universe, but he’s also a card-carrying Avenger, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America! But how have Miles’ first eight months been, coming to grips with an All-new, All-Different new York?”
After a brief break due to the hustle and bustle of 4th of July (and my employment), we return yet again to the wonderful world of 8-legged creature themed super-heroes within the realm of Marvel comics. In a contrast to the previous two articles, this guy has been stopping crime for quite a while now following his introduction in 2011. Coming in to save the day is none other than Miles Morales, Spider-Man of the Ultimate Marvel universe.
For those unaware, the Ultimate Marvel universe was set up in the early 2000’s as a sort of answer to “What if we gave all of our heroes modernized origins?” in an attempt to appeal to new audiences. Actually launching with a fresh faced high school age Peter Parker with an updated origin story, Ultimate Marvel was expansive and popular (and has arguably more influence on the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the main Marvel continuity). In 2011 however, a storyline was published in which the Ultimate Peter Parker sacrificed his life to save his loved ones, paving the way for a new person to take up the mantle of Spider-Man in that world. Enter Miles Morales, a brand new character who was bitten by a spider his uncle had stolen from Oscorp, subsequently developing similar powers to Peter. He maintains the standard heightened strength, wall-crawling and spider-sense, with two new additions. First of all, he can camouflage himself and his clothing, making him functionally invisible at will. Secondly he possesses the ability to release electrical currents from his body, which is often utilized to disrupt the nervous systems of his opponents with a “venom blast”. These abilities serve nicely to differentiate him from his predecessor without being too much.
Of course, the issues I am covering here are not from the Ultimate Marvel continuity. This is because in 2015 the Secret Wars event consolidated aspects of the main and Ultimate universe into one world as part of a “soft reboot” for Marvel’s publications. While not much was actually carried over from Ultimate Marvel, Miles Morales and much of his supporting cast was. Thus, this first volume consists of the first 5 issues of Miles settling into his new home that isn’t quite new. As is a hallmark of Marvel heroes but Spider-Family members in particular, Spider-Man focuses very heavily on the day to day life of the teenager within the suit instead of spending most of its time on superhero antics. Certainly, the first two issues pick up with Miles stepping in to help the Avengers in a conflict with a demon (leading to a really cool moment where he wields Captain America’s shield for a brief time). He surprises everyone with his capability, and Peter Parker (who is still Spider-Man but now with a focus on international crime fighting) shows up to sort of symbolically hand off the responsibility of being the Spider-Man for New York City. The use of Peter Parker here was honestly really pleasing, as Miles holds Peter in very high respects and it means a lot for his idol to give him support that he definitely deserves.
After the initial spectacle to show off just what this Spider-Man is capable of though, the main focus is on Mile’s struggle to balance his web slinging with his every day activities. He misses dates, is late to class, and in fact the biggest plot point of the volume is his conflict with his guardians over slipping grades. For some readers this may be somewhat disappointing, as there is an entire issue with no Spider-Man in sight, but I feel it plays out splendidly due to a spectacularly written cast. Miles himself is a great character who has a sense of duty that compels him to be a hero while also having a distinctly teenage sense of angst that never feels too overdone. He’s still getting the swing of the superhero life and it shows, both in his terrible excuses and in the mistakes he makes while out in the field.
Miles Morales would be nothing without his best friend Ganke though, the first person he told about his powers and truly the pillar that helps Miles hold himself together. Their friendship is fantastic and feels real, as they gossip about girls and bicker over solutions to Mile’s unique set of problems. Ganke is a perfect representation of the best friend who tries his hardest, and sometimes he can be a little overzealous due to his worry over Mile’s well being. Mile’s family is also portrayed in a realistic manner, his mother and father disagreeing on how to properly discipline their son (his mother even calls in Mile’s grandmother to aid in the situation which does not go well). You definitely get a sense that they care for their son and want him so succeed (his father having the additional motivation of a criminal background that he doesn’t want to see Miles repeat). I know that some people prefer their superhero comics full of punching bad guys and black-and-white morality, but Spider-Man shows why Marvel dominated the comic book industry once upon a time with its characters that the reader can relate to.
The quality of the illustration in Spider-Man is just as quality as the writing, with a consistent style that is somewhat realistic and captures loads of detail within every panel. Luckily at least within this first volume there is no swapping of artists on this title (looking at you Silk) so there is never a point where the art as presented can take you out of the storh, which is a major plus. Action is very clearly represented as well, which can be hit or miss with many comics that make their panels too busy and confusing during big set pieces. A point is even made to show the damage takes to his suit during conflict which I appreciate (this even leads to a minor plot point in the background). As for the suit itself, it is another winner, using a primary combination of black and red that simply looks badass. Spider-Family heroes in Marvel definitely have the monopoly on the coolest uniforms.
Miles Morales is one of the most prominent rising stars in Marvel comics, and his series fittingly a blast to read. It’s fun when it needs to be while simultaneously feeling very down to Earth, and I highly recommend it. I hear there is even the possibility of the character being introduced into the MCU farther down the line, which gives even more reason to pick up his book if you enjoy the films pumped out by Marvel Studios. Basically, if you are a fan of Marvel in an capacity and haven’t given Mile’s run as New York’s webhead a try, go out and pick this up now.