Spider-Man #20 (2016) Review


“Dude, you should be able to get anywhere in the world with 487 dollars and spider-powers.”

Miles runs away to Tokyo where he finds himself in over his head, dealing with a Goblin gang and going undercover in a tuxedo?!?!?

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis

ARTIST: Nico Leon

COLOR ARTIST: Justin Ponsor

LETTERING: VC’s Cory Petit

COVER ART: Patrick Brown

SPECIAL THANKS: Juan Vlasco

TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Idette Winecoor

VENOMIZED VILLAINS VARIANT: Ming Doyle

ASSISTANT EDITOR: Kathleen Wisneski

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis

EDITOR: Nick Lowe

STORY: In Tokyo, Miles locates a very secure briefcase that has a tux and gun inside for him. He destroys the gun, suits up, and enters a secret club/casino, where he meets Tomoe. Two weeks prior at school, Miles is frustrated with how his life has been and Ganke asks him where he wants to be. Ganke advises him to start over, so Miles leaves for Tokyo. Once there, he has a run in with a Green Goblin gang, catching Tomoe’s eye. Miles then gets an untraceable “altertext”, giving him instructions to find the case with the equipment he will need when he goes to meet Tomoe.

THOUGHTS: Given the current political climate in America, Brown provides a provocative cover of Spider-Man being arrested, an event that does not take place this issue. Granted, we’ve seen imagery of Spidey arrested before, but given some recent themes, I thought Bendis might be taking this and making social commentary. As we often see this art a few months in advance of the release, I thought it was indicative of where this storyline of the anger inside Miles would go, but at this moment, it’s pretty far from what Bendis is doing. This would’ve been more appropriate during Civil War II, when Miles was hunted for a future crime he had yet to commit, than a story where Miles runs away to Tokyo.

The story opens in Tokyo, with Spidey in silhouette, his eyes the only thing defined. For a moment, I wondered if Miles had an all black stealth suit, but it was just a stylistic choice by the artist. Miles opens an unusual metal briefcase, finding a tux and gun. I’m a pretty huge James Bond fan, so I got excited seeing Miles dip a toe into this type of story. We get all the tropes, too-a secret casino, a secret password for entry (Artie Simek, a nice touch to the former Marvel letterer), and the aforementioned tuxedo. My only wish was that when Miles introduced himself with his alias that he said, “Davis. Miles Davis.” Of course he catches flak for the name, but I liked that he acknowledged his dad, even though using your father’s last name isn’t much of a cover.

So, why is Miles in Tokyo? Bendis utilizes a flash back to two weeks ago, to a late night conversation between Ganke and Miles in their dorm. On top of all his other issues, Miles is freaking out that his parents aren’t speaking to each other still. Oh, AND he has homework. Questioning why he has to be in his situation, or why he needs school to get a good job, he makes the decision to follow his dreams and go to Hong Kong or Tokyo, with prodding from Ganke to go and be happy.

There’s a couple of problems with this. One, logistically his $487 won’t go very far in another country without a valid ID or visa or place to live on the plan of making money with his powers. Two, we’ve seen a Spidey try to cash in on his powers before and it never worked out too well for Peter Parker. Ever.

Most importantly, how is his leaving going to fix things for his parents? If anything, they’ll be fraught with worry, which could act as a way to bring them back together, but it’s a pretty miserable, excruciating way to do it. Contrary to Marvel belief, Spider-Man is about RESPONSIBILITY, not youth, and running away is one of the most irresponsible, selfish things Miles could do. He’s a kid, but Miles has always had a pretty good head on his shoulders and this just doesn’t feel like this rings true to his character.

I’m surprised by how zen Ganke is about all this. He tells Miles to go and start over, which to me does not mean he expects him to come back. How is he going to cover for the rest of their lives? He doesn’t seem to be all that broken up about it either. Both his roommates have bailed on him in the last few days and he seems totally cool with it. I guess he’s got Danika in his life so he doesn’t need anyone else? We get one panel where he seems to wipe away a tear and that’s it. It feels that everyone came to this “solution” for the sake of the story and not out of what they would normally do.

I did like Ganke and Miles communicating via text when Miles finally reaches his destination. It’s how they would have that conversation and I love Ganke’s avatar being a lego version of him. Bendis side steps the amount of money Miles has left, but has him state he’ll need a job soon. Two weeks to get there and I hope he at least has an idea how he’s gonna monetize his powers because otherwise this’ll be a real short trip.

The messaging back and forth gets interrupted when a gang of Elvis Green Goblins try and mug a girl, and no, that’s not a typo. There is a gang with Green Goblin masks and Elvis pompadours instead of the traditional purple stocking cap. Building off last issue, Miles decides he doesn’t have to handle it as Spider-Man. Although his injury from Hammerhead winds up tripping him up, I didn’t think one of the Goblins getting the draw on him spelled curtains or made for a lot of suspense before he gets saved by the mysterious Tomoe. It did serve for a good introduction to her as the gang showed her respect and she got to demonstrate her powers.

The issue concludes with Miles getting a mystery text which will lead him to a metal case and bring him full circle to the start of this issue. Is this someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. or whatever is left of it post Secret Empire? They know Miles, how to reach him, and even have his measurements to make a tuxedo. Could there have been more to the mystery visit to Jefferson last issue from someone who was presumably Dum-Dum Dugan? Or maybe it’s the A.I. Tony Stark. After all, a Spider-Man needs a suit from Stark, right?

This issue was very much a mixed bag for me. Leon was as solid as ever and I got a kick out of the spy trappings and even the Elvis Goblins. Even with everything piling on Miles, I just don’t see him up and leaving like that, abandoning his family, his friends, and his academic future. His education was important to him, as we saw from the lottery win back in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. Ganke is important to him. His parents are important to him and he’s too smart to not see how this makes everything in his life even worse than he feels it is. I think it’s a fair observation to say Miles isn’t as obsessed with the mantle of responsibility that Peter is, but he has always come off as a responsible guy, one that I don’t see just running away from his mom after all that he’s just put her through, or a dad he went to an alternate dimension to save. There are some fun bits and nice art, but the motivation for how we get there doesn’t feel right.

MY GRADE: C+

JAVI’S HUH?: Seriously, how is Ganke going to cover for Miles’ absence FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES?!?!?

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