“This was all rather elaborate.”
S.H.I.E.L.D. puts Jefferson to the test! Will he pass? And if so, what will his fate be?
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST: Sara Pichelli
INKING ASSIST: Gaetano Carlucci
COLOR ARTIST: Marte Gracia
LETTERING: VC’s Cory Petit
COVER ART: Sara Pichelli and Jason Keith
TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Idette Winecoor
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Jefferson gets activated for a mission by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the middle of the night, but all is not as it seems.
…and Miles shows up for the final page when a worried Rio calls him.
THOUGHTS: Sara Pichelli kicks things off with a heartfelt, but interpretive cover. For months I’ve been trying to figure out what it represents. Was Miles being sucked into an alternate reality, perhaps Earth-65? Merging with the Speed Force over in the DCU? Being erased from reality, Back To The Future style?Perhaps being turned into V’Ger? It could have stood for what might have happened before the issue’s big reveal showed Jefferson the truth, but wouldn’t explain the light bursting forth from Miles. Symbolically though, I’m gonna go with “Spider-Man” was fake this issue, in addition to Jefferson’s civilian life. This cover reveals both truths.
After months of Civil War II tie ins, you’d think Bendis would give Miles a chance to settle into the next story, and he does…if you count Jefferson being the sole focus with nary a real Miles to be seen until the end. With all the confusing solicits I’ve seen for this issue, I thought Bendis was going to repeat his story from Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #8 and #9, two issues of the old volume that I loved, or at least the “WHAT REALLY HAPPENED” in the 616 of it all, but nope. Everyone’s new backstory continues to remain a vague mystery, despite responses in the earlier letter columns that answers were coming.
So, what is this issue all about? Well, S.H.I.E.L.D. needs Jefferson to be a link in the chain towards nabbing a big time crook. In the 1610 continuity, Jefferson had to pose as a dealer of MGH, but Bendis has updated the drug to reflect the current landscape of the MU, with this new drug using Terrigen to possibly boosts its user’s abilities. It seems like Bendis is just rehashing old stories, but it makes sense that if Jefferson would be trying to stay “in the game” that he would move on to selling the latest hot item to stay relevant.
Utilizing some fanboyish references to Dazzler albums and Jackpot Records, a restless-in-the-middle-of-the-night Jefferson gets activated. Were thoughts of how Miles views him keeping him up? Of lying to his wife? Or maybe it was pondering who Zendaya is really playing in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Regardless, he goes to the meet and Dum Dum Dugan gives him the third degree.
I thought Bendis pulled off the meet well. Jefferson is clearly irritated by the whole thing and is as direct as possible, meanwhile Dugan keeps pushing buttons, looking for any weakness or hesitation. If Jefferson was lying awake worried about his double life, Dugan amplifies those fears tenfold, trying to convince Jefferson that it’s just a question of when Rio will leave him. Pichelli conveys their respective emotions deftly and makes them feel at odds. Likewise, as Jefferson works his way up the chain, Pichelli makes it easy to see his nervousness, despite the undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent telling him to be cool, like they were in a Tarantino movie.
Pichelli is easily one of the issue’s strengths. Leon was great to fill in, but I missed how Pichelli lays out a page and renders her character’s faces. Check out the juxtaposition between Dugan and Jefferson or Black Cat’s entrance! My only quibble is the diamond shape she often gives to the lenses in Spidey’s masks, but it is a minuscule complaint and really doesn’t detract from anything this issue. I was really happy to see her back.
Whilst the Black Cat looked great, I didn’t feel that her dialogue matched up. Also, I was curious as to how she deduced who Miles was. Even with seeing him unmasked, her and her lackeys were never able to get an ID thanks to the safeguards put in place by S.H.I.E.L.D. Furthermore, I found it pretty convenient how the guards rendered Miles unconscious just before Jefferson entered the room. I’ve read enough spy novels to know not to trust who may or may not be under that mask.
As the situation goes from bad to worse and Jefferson ends up in a standoff with his fellow undercover agent dead, I had to think of the original Lethal Weapon movie. Danny Glover’s Murtaugh winds up in a similar situation, with his daughter being held hostage and surrounded by bad guys. When he pulls out a grenade, his opponents claim he’s bluffing, to which he retorts that if his daughter is going out, it’ll be his way. That’s pretty much what Jefferson does here. He goes from fearful for his son to determined all in one panel, taking out the Black Cat’s goons with swiftness. Bendis really succeeds with making it feel tense, in no small part thanks to Pichelli’s art.
At the climax we get the big revelation-this whole assignment was a test to see if Jefferson could handle the REAL mission. Maria Hill was really disguised as Black Cat, hence the dialogue feeling off, Dugan was Hammerhead, and another agent was disguised in Miles’ Spidey suit, hence the “unconscious” Spidey. The whole affair still concludes with a cliffhanger, as the actual mission is left undisclosed to the reader.
On the last page, we finally get to see the titular hero as his mom calls him, worried about Jefferson. Seems Dugan’s words are turning to be prophetic. At least she called her son, and not Gloria!
I honestly feel a bit conflicted on how to grade this. Pichelli is back with some stellar art that goes a long way towards selling this story and making it as tense as it is. There’s a great sense of danger throughout, really making it feel like an undercover spy story gone wrong. A few issues I had wound up getting thrown out the window when it was revealed everything was a big trick. It’s just that part of this feels like a retread and whilst I really like seeing Jefferson get some screen time, it came at the detriment of Miles. Granted, he had his big moment expressing his feelings about Civil War II last issue, but he seemed to be pretty carefree as he swung through the city, as if nothing bad had happened last issue. I guess teenagers rebound quick?
At the end of the day, it was a taught story with crisp art, I just wish we could’ve had more Spidey.
MY GRADE: B-
JAVI’S HUH?: Is Miles talking to himself out loud? And what girl is he talking about?
How does Jefferson NOT know the legendary Dum Dum Dugan??? I know he wasn’t wearing his bowler, but the ‘stache is a dead giveaway! He was even second in command of S.H.I.E.L.D. to boot!