Back in 2012, I reviewed the original Spider-Men series. Some people hailed it as the sign Marvel had jumped the ship (largely because Joe Quesada said that such a crossover would be a sign Marvel was out of ideas) but I remember that first mini-series being some incredible. It was my exposure to Sara Pichelli, who managed to distinguish the two universes from one another. It built off the spectacular Death of Spider-Man storyline. It was all about Legacy, which is the most important thing in comics in my opinion (something Marvel has both excelled at and struggled with in recent years). 2012 was a time I loved Marvel. Five years later, and I am very embittered with Marvel. I have seen more beloved series than I can recall cancelled. I deal with three plus comic events a year and the scourge of tie-ins that derail stories that never get the chance to get back on track. I see Marvel struggle to adapt to a new type of market, one that sinks most minor characters before they have a chance to thrive. I watch Marvel flood the markets, so any chance a good book has to survive is gone unless you have a big name in the title. But I thought hey, maybe Spider-Men 2 will bring back the love and give us some worthwhile answers to questions involving the Multiverse and the Miles Morales (plural) running around.
Boy was I wrong.
Spider-Men II #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
C.Artists: Sara Pichelli & Justin Ponsor
Editors: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis & Allison Stock
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
You Have Some Nerve: Our series begins with Peter and Miles suspended in rope over a burning plane as someone escapes in a second plane. Miles breaks them free with the emergence of a new Venom-Blast related power, but they fail to stop the bad guy. This leads to Peter telling Miles it is time to hang up the webs, before we jump back in time to one week ago. Miles is late for class, but successfully charms his way out of detention. He starts flirting with his classmate, Barbara Rodriguez, who reveals that there is gossip about Miles’ secret double life going around. Before she can grill him too hard, something explodes in the skyline and an advanced piece of tech crashes into the campus grounds. Across town, Peter Parker is fighting the Armadillo. After beating Armadillo, something erupts in the skyline and Peter investigates. He runs into Miles and they realize that the source of the explosion is coming from Ultimate Mysterio’s old hideout from the first series. They investigate and are attacked by Taskmaster.
Across the country, a second Miles Morales is revealed to have been linked to the events in New York and decides he will have to visit the city to take charge of the situation.
How Is The Illegal Underground Casino Operation Going: As I said in the intro, the first Spider-Men was something special to me. The passion of the creative team leaped off the pages. That passion is missing here, even if this is still a solid first issue. Let’s jump into some pros, before we hits the cons.
Everyone who has written on Sara Pichelli’s work with Miles Morales has praised her for how she has been subtly altering Miles’ appearance as he ages. It is something spectacular we do not get to see often in a universe where characters do not really grow up in real (ish) time. Either they jump forward a number of years (like the Richards’ children) or they are forever stunted at an age (like Peter Parker). And not only is her work on Miles phenomenal, but every figure in this comic has some special trait. Her Armadillo is a menacing monster, face obscured in shadow and rage. I particularly love the witch nose she gives Miles’ teacher. She fills this book with character, even for inanimate objects like flames and webs that fill. And Justin Ponsor makes her work pop, making even a simple beanie grab the reader’s eye. One thing that is missing though, for me, is the character of New York. In the first series, each New York had a different feel that made the other one stand out all the more and that is missing from this series.
Eliopoulos’ lettering in this comic leaves a lot to be desired. It is hard to tell at times who is talking (a complaint shared between Eliopoulos and Brian Bendis, who makes the Spider-Men sound just a little too similar) and the text in this series takes up a little too much panel space. Also, the distinction between Peter and Miles’ caption boxes is not great; Peter’s has a thin red outline, while Miles’ has a red backdrop.
Most complaints lie with the story. I think the one week earlier trope is horribly done in most comics, and Spider-Men 2 is no exception (it can be done well, such as in Matt Fraction’s non-linear Hawkeye series.) Peter trying to take the webs away from Miles just feels wrong, since Miles is very much his own hero. Miles apparently has a new power come out of nowhere, which I am dubbing the Venom Nova, but I imagine we will see his discovery of it during the flashback period. And apparently, both Miles and Peter remember the Ultimate Universe. Over in X-Men Blue, we discovered that other members of the Ultimate Universe made the jump but with no memory of the old universe, so it just raises more questions because Miles remembers it (I imagine Owen Reece from Secret Wars has a part to play in that.)
The big complaint of this issue is the reveal of the Marvel Prime Miles Morales… who is apparently just another villainous character. I audibly cursed at my comic when I read this. They already did this with the Reed Richards of the Prime and Ultimate Universes! And I doubt evil Miles Morales is going to be even a fraction as entertaining as The Maker. Perhaps this is a red herring, but if it is, then f&^% that again. This was the hook of the comic and it just feels uninspired. Also, he looks like evil Reggie from Archie Comics.
Verdict: Despite a ton of let-downs in the story, this is still an enjoyable comic. Bendis writes a good Spider-Man (does not really matter which since they sound alike) and Pichelli/Ponsor is one of the best artistic teams in the business. But the magic of the original series is missing and the hook of this series is flat, so not holding my breath for anything special this time.
- Hook of the comic lacking