Miles Morales is back and the more things change, the more they stay the same! Can he survive a fight against Blackheart when the other Avengers can’t?
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST: Sara Pichelli
INKING ASSIST: Gaetano Carlucci
COLOR: Justin Ponsor
LETTERING: VC’s Cory Petit
COVER ART: Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Mark Bagley, Dexter Vines, & Andrew Crossley; Adi Granov; Michael Cho; Skottie Young
TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Idette Winecoor
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Miles is having trouble with his parents, girls, and school thanks to being Spider-Man. When the sound of sirens causes him to chase after the first responders, he finds the Avengers already knocked out by Blackheart. Miles sends him packing and Peter Parker shows up, asking what has Miles done.
THOUGHTS: And we’re back! The last issue of Miles’ solo title was published in April of 2015. After numerous delays to Secret Wars (and consequently, Ultimate End), Bendis has reunited with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man artist Sara Pichelli to welcome Miles to the 616, er, “Prime Earth”. Is this a triumphant return?
Bendis has the reader dive in to a decimated portion of New York, freshly decorated with fallen Avengers. Just to prove this isn’t an old comic trope, the caption assures us, “this really happened.” Pichelli has staged the art so each successive panel pans down to feature the wreckage, then finally hitting us on the turn of the page with a two page splash of the issue’s villain, Blackheart. He’s far creepier than I last remember seeing him, and dwarfs Miles considerably, heightening the sense of threat. We’ll touch on him more in a bit.
The story cuts back to earlier and we see Miles and Ganke at school, with Miles getting turned down by a girl, presumably because he was off being Spidey and was late for their date. Something I loved about the original Spider-Man comics was that Peter slowly aged though them. He started in high school, went on to college, and got married. Pichelli ably renders the passage of time in her depiction of Miles. He’s definitely hit a growth spurt since she last penciled him, and he’s grown more lanky, his face more angular. He’s also moved on from Katie Bishop, but this issue neither confirms or denies if they have ever dated on this prime Earth. There’s also a subtle web pattern inside Miles’ hoodie that was a nice touch.
Twice in this issue Pichelli depicts a cartoony inner thought panel for Miles, bringing to mind the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. They’re goofy and kind of fun, but also don’t quite fit with the tone of what I feel this book is going for. Miles Morales isn’t Scott Pilgrim and as the regular art depicts Miles as maturing, these two panels take a step away from that. Had these been in the original run, I don’t think they would have stood out as much. I’m curious if these are going to continue throughout the series as a way to differentiate Miles from Peter.
We check in with Miles’ parents for two pages. As the recap in the beginning of the issue informs us, only Ganke and Miles’ dad, Jefferson, know the secret of Spidey’s dual identity. When Miles’ grades start to drop, Jefferson takes the news with a cool demeanor, trusting that his son will get back on track. Rio doesn’t take it so lightly, even wondering if Miles is on drugs. Things start to fall apart a little here for me. Not that anyone’s reactions are necessarily out of character, in fact, I quite like how Jefferson handled it, but we are given no context throughout the issue of what has come before continuity wise.
There’s quite a few questions I have about where everyone has been and where they are now, especially as I dropped out of Secret Wars half way through. Obviously, Rio doesn’t remember that she learned Miles’ identity as she died. How do people remember the events surrounding her death fighting Venom? Did it no longer happen? Is everyone aware they came from the Ultimate universe? Ultimate Peter’s death and Miles’ failure to help is what gave Miles his motivation. What’s his “Uncle Ben Moment” now if continuity has been erased?
If anything hurts this issue for me, it’s how we are thrown in without acknowledging what comes before. Bendis has penned a tale that seems to be fairly new reader friendly and I understand Marvel wanting this issue to be accessible. However, this is a major new status quo and all we get is that Miles has shared his secret with only Ganke and his dad. I get that explaining the Ultimate universe and Secret Wars in story would be a bit much. Why not add it to the recap page for those who are curious? I have no idea what the characters perceive their back story to be and as such, don’t fully understand their new motivations. Did Ganke use his Lego Death Star money to buy materials to make web fluid? Was Miles’ uncle the Prowler? Was Jefferson an undercover agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
One thing Bendis captured well was the pressure of being Spider-Man. This is classic territory here and you can see the regret on Miles’ face as he ditches in the middle of class to change into his alter ego. I’ve never been terribly crazy how Pichelli renders the white of Spidey’s eye lenses, but her compositions are on point throughout.
Spidey makes a dynamic save on his way to the fight, catching vehicles in the air with his webbing, reminiscent of Spider-Man 2. Also echoing the Raimi movies, the bystanders are active in the rescue, too, telling the Wall Crawler to head on to the explosions as they’ll take care of the scene there. I appreciated the depiction of normal people helping their fellow New Yorkers in their time of need. With the amount of danger in the Marvel Universe, they’re probably well versed in first responding!
It’s been a while since I’ve read a comic with Blackheart, so I don’t know if this is an old look, or one designed by Pichelli, but it’s suitably menacing. The size difference, along with the fact that Blackheart already took out the Avengers, gives the match-up a David and Goliath feel. There’s something else going on under the surface, too. Blackheart is the son of Mephisto, destroyer of Spider-Marriages, and now he is facing off with Peter’s successor. A venom blast with a slightly delayed effect takes the villain down and he promises his return. Is he going to pose a more personal threat next time? In a case of “like father, like son” will history attempt to repeat itself? I got a kick out of Spidey wielding Cap’s shield, using it as an offensive and defensive weapon with ease.
Spidey (Miles) peeks out from behind the shield after Blackheart ‘ports away and gets yelled at by Spidey (Peter). The story concludes with a splash page that places the accusatory Peter, eyes glowing, authoritatively standing over the defeated heroes, shouting down at a much smaller looking Miles, “What did you DO?” This felt very out of character to me, but going back to my earlier point, I don’t have the proper context for this. What is their relationship now? Did this Peter not meet this Miles in Spider-Men? Or Secret Wars? Is this not the Ultimate Miles, but the former 616 one that Peter googled at the end of the Spider-Men mini? Why would he automatically assume the disaster is something Miles caused? He’s experienced enough to know how these things go. Asking what happened would come off a lot better than sounding like a parent scolding their child. I know Marvel loves to have their characters suffer a misunderstanding, fight, then hug and make up, but it seems out of place with these two characters, like it was done for end of issue shock value. I understand why a writer would want to create that feeling, to get the reader to come back next issue, but it needs to be earned and true to the character.
On my first read through, I loved this issue top to bottom, but on my next few passes it started to weaken for me. The dialogue, art, and coloring are all strong, but there just wasn’t enough meat on the bones when it came to my understanding of this new world. Maybe things will get fleshed out as the arc continues, but after being strung along for Ultimate End, I’m not sure I have the patience.
MY GRADE: B