Spider-Men 2 #5: Spider-Man Is Pain
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli & Mark Bagley
Inkers: Sara Pichelli & Elisabetta D’Amico (Sara Pichelli) & John Dell (Mark Bagley)
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
C.Artists: Sara Pichelli & Morry Hollowell
Editors: Nick Lowe & Kathleen Wisneski
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Recap: After telling Miles to no longer be Spider-Man, Peter returns to the spot where he first discovered the Ultimate Universe. Miles also arrives and they discuss how the discovery changed both of their lives forever. Peter tries to apologize, but Miles admits he is right. When Miles first took up the mantle, it was to honor a dead Peter Parker but now that he has spent time with Peter, he realizes Spider-Man is not his; it is Peter Parker’s pain personified. Their conversation is interrupted by Taskmaster and Morales, who intend to travel to another universe through the same location. Peter fights Taskmaster, while Miles confronts Morales and ends up getting shot. Miles is never given the answers he is seeking and Morales escapes to another dimension before bringing down the building. Taskmaster escapes while Peter and Miles discuss the elusive nature of closure. Afterwards, Miles tells Ganke that he is ready to hang up the mantle of Spider-Man and be his own man.
In the other universe, Morales meets another version of Barbara Sanchez who runs a bar. Their meet cute is interrupted by the Ultimate Green Goblin, who is fighting the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Jessica Drew, Riri Williams, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Giant-Man, and Human Torch (several of whom seem to have been given a second lease on life). Peter leaves to meet up with Mary Jane and Morales stays behind to help Barbara clean up the mess in her bar.
Thoughts: Perhaps it is the pressure of space restrictions but this is easily the strongest issue on Brian Michael Bendis’ part; I find it is often the case that Bendis does well with constraints. He makes a lot of strong calls here, such as the reasoning for why everyone ends up in one place (For Peter/Miles it is where their journey began, for Morales/Task it is where the journey ends). I especially like the call he makes about the showdown between Miles and Morales and the elusive nature of closure. Perhaps there was more to the meeting, but Bendis does a good job of stripping it and making it the thematic core of the issue. The issue also starts off really strong with the conversation about Miles being Spider-Man in a world where Peter is alive. In my never to be published review of Secret Empire, I mentioned how a line is drawn between classic characters like Carol and Tony who are caught in repetition as their story-lines repeat themselves over and over, and new character like Miles who have the world before them. The conclusion with Miles abandoning the identity (?) feels well earned between this, Generations, Secret Empire, and Miles’ ongoing series; it also makes the continuity between this series, Secret Empire, and Generations a little tricky. I also felt like the jokes work really well, especially the exchange about Miles’ venom-blast. And while some may really hate it, I love that the Ultimate Universe is still around and the panel with Jessica smirking at the audience makes me happy.
Sara Pichelli also delivers one of her stronger issues. This issue has strong interplay between Pichelli’s pencils and Bendis’ script that shows her prowess as a story-teller. She uses a mosaic effect to layer her panels which utilizes her pages much better than the last couple issues. While we never see her hits land, the aftermath is often used to advance the story into a new environment such as when Taskmaster is one-two punched by the Spiders out a window. Pichelli uses a lot of effects to hide her lack of hit impacts, but she does excellent work with blurring effects and using black lines to indicate impact. My only large complaint is when Peter hands Miles his mask back, there is no damage to it but the final shot shows Miles’ damaged mask being left behind as he embraces being his own man; it is still a great final image but it has continuity issues.
Of course Mark Bagley is back for the final scene in the Ultimate Universe and his work here is so much stronger than the Ultimate End series he did back during Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. The battle between the Goblin and the Ultimates is kinetic, it has a strong punchline, it crashes through panels and judging by the appearance of Mary Jane, this is our first look at an adult Peter Parker leading the Ultimates. Plus, did I mention that I love that panel with Jessica smirking at the audience?
Justin Ponsor also works at problems I had in previous issues, such as odd color choices that make distinguishing times of the day difficult. Not only is the time clear, but the distinction between present day and flashbacks is too. Anytime he works purple into a page, it is the thing my eye is most drawn to, to the point I have started referring to it as Ponsor Purple. There is an odd choice to use lighting to portray Morales as a knight in shining white armor to Barbara, just pages after he shot our actual protagonist, Miles. Also, there is no color distinction in color between the Ultimate and Prime universes, in the way there is a clear color distinction between the Prime and Spider-Gwen’s universe. Cory Petit uses a lot more sound effects in this final issue, another complaint of mine being addressed in the final issue. Not only this, but he colors his sound effects in suitable ways such as toxic green letters for the sound effect of gas pumping into a building. It does feel too little too late for both of this artists though.
Verdict: This is the best issue of Spider-Men 2 and one of my favorite Miles Morales issues that Bendis has written over multiple series. The jokes land, it feels like the finale of something that has been properly built to, and it really honors the legacy of Spider-Man. The artistic team also brings their A game to the issue, something the series was in dire need of for other issues when the script had issues. I can not recommend this full series to people, but I can highly recommend this issue.
- Culmination of Miles’ personal journey
- Strong storytelling
- Colors and Letters are strong
- Return of the Ultimate universe
- Lack of distinction between universes
- Visual continuity issues
Event Review: Spider-Men took the idea of two universes crossing over, an idea once said to be proof Marvel was out of ideas, and turned it into some of Bendis’ best writing with either Spider-Man with a killer artistic team in Sara Pichelli, Justin Ponsor, and Cory Petit. When everyone came back for this project, the magic was gone. Pichelli’s work struggled to make the most out of page space, Petit gave us very little in the way of interesting lettering, and Ponsor… well Ponsor still killed it and was the creative MVP of the project. The story started off with non-linear storytelling before taking four freaking issues to catch back up to present day. And while the reveal of Miles Morales in the Prime Universe was underwhelming at first, he ended up being the best character in the story. The series was the most alive when it explored Morales’ relationship with Wilson Fisk. The series was also strong when Miles was in his own world and when it had a lot of fun side-notes, but those took too much time away from the actual story. Bendis wanted the story to be continuity light (there is no Parker Industries, the age difference between Miles and Peter makes no sense, characters appear in the wrong outfits) but this consistently hurt the story. As I said before this series is a poor execution of a man obsessed with reuniting with his one true love; something Bendis struggles with (see Ulysses’ story in Civil War 2). This series is also about Miles leaving the mantle of Spider-Man behind, which works more often than not. And lastly, it set out to restore the Ultimate Universe and really delivered with a single scene on that front. The three threads should have tied together better seeing as they all revolved around Miles and Morales, but they did not. I am hard pressed to recommend this, but if you want to read it I gurantee there will be elements to enjoy. It is just a shame it did not capture the magic of the first Spider-Men.