“Stay off the drugs!”
Miles squares off against his grandma as the Black Cat starts to conspire against him by forming an alliance with Hammerhead!
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST: Sara Pichelli
INKING ASSIST: Gaetano Carlucci
COLORS: Justin Ponsor
LETTERING: VC’s Cory Petit
COVER ART: Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Joyce Chin and Pascal Campion
TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Idette Winecoor
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Miles comes home to find that his mother has called his grandmother over to help straighten out why his grades have been falling. After taking away his phone, Miles has been sent to his room. Ms. Marvel shows up for their neighborhood recon together, but eventually leaves to let Miles study when his grandmother starts to overhear their conversation. Meanwhile, the Black Cat goes to Hammerhead to team up over the latest Spider-Man. Back at school, Miles and Ganke get a new classmate, Fabio Medina, the mutant known as…Goldballs.
THOUGHTS: I’ve decided for the purposes of this review to not ding the grade based on expecting any resolution or clarity for how things ended with Miles’ prior series, Ultimate End, or Secret Wars. I found I could enjoy this title a lot more if I let go of any questions or hopes about clarifying the new status quo. I still don’t like how it was handled, and I will most certainly bring up observations related to it, but I’m going to do my best to not let it color my opinions on where the series goes from here. Fair?
Bendis opens the issue “right now” in Miles’ parents’ apartment. Without missing a beat, his maternal grandmother, Gloria, starts tearing into him. Gloria is very much a stereotypical caricature of a grandmother. Every kid is on drugs, doesn’t need a phone, and Miles will be a future gas attendant if he doesn’t straighten up. Like Jefferson, I found her really infuriating. This was an opportunity to introduce and develop a real character here and I felt Bendis dropped the ball with every cliche uttered by Gloria. When she tells Jefferson that this is “your half” that they are dealing with, my eyes rolled.
I have to give Miles a lot of credit. Externally, he takes the accusations in stride and remains respectful. Had I been in the same situation, I’m not sure I would’ve been as graceful. Sure, he’s quietly seething inside and his frustration becomes more apparent under Pichelli’s pencils once he reaches the privacy of his bedroom, but he never gets petulant or blows up at anyone.
Jefferson, on the other hand, has had to deal with Gloria a lot more and they’ve clearly never gotten along. The feeling is mutual, too. It’s amazing he didn’t throw Gloria out immediately when she called his brother Aaron a “dead piece of crap”. Having the conflict between the two gives Jefferson a chance to talk about things with Rio and express one of the reasons why he loves her. It’s a quick, but nice moment as I can’t recall the last time we’ve seen one between the two like this.
It’s worth noting that references are made to Jefferson’s gangster past, but not of his time with S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, whilst Aaron gets a mention, none is made of him being The Prowler. Judge makes an appearance at school, but we haven’t seen any other of Miles’ peers that I recognize and certainly not M.J. and Gwen. Guess we’re never gonna find out what Ganke made for Gwen out of Legos.
Having troubles at school and home because of the secret ID is pretty standard Spidey stuff, but we’ve never had to see a Spidey deal with three parental figures over it, bringing some freshness to the dynamic. I liked how Miles’ parents were arguing with Gloria as to why Miles needed his phone and that Miles was smart enough to keep his Avengers contacts under code names in case his phone is ever looked through. I thought it a little odd that Rio would be in the Aunt May role in Miles’ imagination if she ever discovered the secret of Miles’ dual life. Granted, she was actually dying last time she found out, but she seemed to take it pretty well, all things considered. Given what we’ve seen of Gloria, it’s no wonder at all that Miles would think she would out him to the press to teach him a lesson.
I am barely familiar with the latest Ms. Marvel, so I can’t comment about how in or out of character she was portrayed, but I’m happy Miles still has super-hero peers in the 616. I was a little surprised that she wanted Miles to play hooky hero, but appreciated how understanding she was when she saw him with his grandma. Pichelli perfectly captured Miles’ expression as Ms. Marvel caught him getting huggies from Gloria. Her reminder to stay off the drugs as she left was a nice button to the scene.
I love how Pichelli captures a character’s expressions, so I was really curious how she was going to handle someone like Hammerhead. There’s something Dick Tracy villain/Al Pacino about him, not to say that Al Pacino’s character in the Dick Tracy movie was her inspiration.
I’ll go on record and state that I do not like what Marvel has done with the character of Black Cat lately and her return to a life of crime. If she is something of a villainess in Spider-Gwen that’s one thing as it’s a different Earth, but I hate how they have negated much of her character development over the years. Having said that, I love how the thugs instantly back down after she takes out one of their own with one punch. It’s also worth noting that she claims to respect Hammerhead as he’s been around for a lot of history and is still standing. On his side of things, he points out how Felicia is doing things different than the Kingpin, to which she retorts to look what that got anyone by doing things his way. You feel their mutual respect as they forge their alliance. How long that lasts, we’ll find out.
I’ll let you decide if Bendis is trying to be meta when Felicia states, “There’s just too many Spider-People crawling around, don’t you think?” I tend to agree with her, at least for this Earth.
The issue comes to a close at the Brooklyn Visions Academy with Miles and Ganke in class, their teacher asking about the difference between an Inhuman and a Mutant. I think it’s that one group is owned by Fox and the other Marvel Studios, but I digress. Fabio Medina gets added to the class, much to Ganke’s patriotic excitement, but I had no clue as to who the character was. I had to do a Google search to find that his Mutant code name wasn’t a joke.
Letting go of any expectations I had allowed me to enjoy this issue more than the first two. I found Gloria to be a weak character under Bendis’ pen, but enjoyed everyone else’s characterization, minus my feelings for Felicia’s new status quo, but Bendis made her feel competent at the least. The art is as stellar as always and I’m looking forward to seeing Miles’ new status quo fleshed out more as we continue.
MY GRADE: B+
JAVI’s HUH?: Goldballs? Really? Who came up with that name?
BONUS UPDATE: Fellow Spidey reviewer Mohammed Jaafar was kind to point out that Lana Baumgartner is also a member of the Ultimate universe and I missed pointing her out as being part of the surviving continuity, too. Thanks for the catch, sir! Even though she briefly stops by for two pages, we never find out what the purpose of her visit was, beyond establishing that she exists in the 616 now. Is there a threat she’s trying to warn Miles about, or did she just wanna hang? She only swore once, too, so she’s making progress on that point!