With the comics industry slowly returning from the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This week we look at the legacy of a familiar hero and the origin of a recent video game star!
In 2011, Marvel Comics did the unthinkable- they killed Spider-Man. Peter Parker sacrificed his life heroically to save lives. However, a new Spider-Man soon appeared, and the world was introduced to Miles Morales. His origin unfolded in Miles Morales: Spider-Man V1 thanks to Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, Chris Samnee, David Marquez, David Messina, Justin Ponsor and Cory Petit. (Note: This collection includes Ultimate Comics All-New Spider-Man #1-10.)
When Miles Morales is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he does his best to hide his new powers. However, when Peter Parker is killed, he learns a powerful and painful lesson, a familiar one to Spiders. With great power… comes great responsibility…
Tony Thornley: So last time we talked Spider-Man, I’d say it was one of your favorites that we’ve discussed so far. So revisiting Spidey, I thought we should take a look at the origin of Miles Morales. It was just a coincidence that we had it scheduled right after his video game debut too! So what did you think of this one?
Brendan Allen: I think I had this one queued up to read someday after I saw the 2018 film. You see how far I got with that, though. Two years later, I still hadn’t read it. I loved the film, so I was a little apprehensive, thinking it was either going to ruin the film for me, or that it wouldn’t hold up. I actually ended up thinking they’re both amazingly solid, even with the obvious differences between the two properties. I’d be hard pressed to tell you which I liked best.
TT: I was almost thirty when I first read Miles’ story, but I instantly latched on. Even if you haven’t been a thirteen year old kid in Brooklyn, Bendis gives you a feel for what it was like. Miles is a poor kid, the son of a nurse and… Well, we never find out what Jefferson does in this volume. He’s not a cop like he was in the movie. But it’s clear he’s something.
However, even before Miles gets bitten, we get a strong case for why we should care about this kid. And that just grows more and more throughout the volume. When we talked about Spider-Men– which takes place probably about a month or two after this volume ends- we talked about how much Into The Spider-Verse borrows from that volume. It takes a lot from this one too, and I think it’s evident why very quickly.
BA: It does, but again, they’re obviously two different stories. The Prowler is way more of a dick in his ‘real life’ relationship with Miles. That one kicked me in the gut a little bit. I feel like the relationship they had in the film was such a great male role model thing that it packed more punch with the reveal of Aaron’s alter identity.
TT: Yeah, Aaron here… I think I liked him more as an antagonist here, and more as a character in the movie. Even though this story showed he clearly loved his nephew, he also was VERY much only in it for himself. That’s probably the strongest part about the story here. This is an unpleasant guy, and it gives Miles a serious reality check when he realizes it. This one had a few other major curveballs too.
BA: Good point. It does drive home that whole “loss of innocence” angle. The look on Miles’ face when it hits.
TT: Definitely. Seeing Peter die a couple issues into this story sets Miles on the path of learning that famous Spider-Man mantra, but the relationship with his Uncle Aaron is what teaches him that lesson firmly. I think the biggest problem with this volume, story-wise, is that it cuts off before that plot thread is resolved only two issues later.
BA: Which is something we discussed a while back. We really need to go back and revisit some of these down the line. These first volumes we’ve been covering are great introductions, but we do leave an awful lot on the table with some of these.
TT: Yeah, if there’s a flaw in these ongoing series collections, in general, it’s that a lot of publishers cut off at weird points. Especially because after the Prowler story resolves in #12, the series gets drawn into a “second civil war” plotline that would be incredibly weird in the same volume as the Prowler story.
Art-wise, I think this is probably the best big two book we’ve looked at so far. These three pencillers are among my favorites working in comics today. Pichelli has a very realistic line that avoids being too stiff. We talked at length last time about how her Miles feels like an actual 13 year old kid.
Marquez has a very similar storytelling and line style, to the point that the first time I read his issues years ago I almost missed that it wasn’t Pichelli drawing them. They really both do great work, especially with Ponsor’s colors over them.
BA: There were a couple of chapters that really broke away stylistically, and I get it. Stuff happens. It’s necessary to fill in here and there. Samnee’s chapters didn’t take me too far out of the story, and the spots where it happened really made me appreciate the style of the rest of the book, though. Overall, this thing looks fantastic, and if the whole thing were Samnee, it would have worked, too. It’s just the abrupt switch back and forth that hits me.
TT: Samnee is right up there among my favorite artists in comics today, but I can’t disagree. His issues were very good, but they were SO different from Pichelli that they can throw you a bit. I think you’d like Samnee’s run on Daredevil quite a bit actually.
And thinking about it, those issues are kind of where the writing is the weakest in the run as well. I mean, there’s some great scenes between Miles and his mother. However, everything involving Aaron in those two issues is just weird, including the introduction of Ultimate Scorpion who is just a total non-entity.
Again though, even though those two issues aren’t bad, they’re just a bit of a weird interlude in the middle of Miles’ origin.
BA: Yeah, like I said. It was a little jarring, but it moved back into the good stuff quickly enough.
TT: For sure. Now, I think it’s worth pointing out that as good as this story is, it’s not perfect. I have a lot of love for Bendis, and he makes a strong effort in everything he does. But there are a couple weird details that I’ve had pointed out to me over the years. For example, Jefferson Davis, Miles’s dad, would never actually share the name of the only president of the Confederacy in the real world. Rio Morales wouldn’t keep her maiden name, given her extremely Catholic culture. That would mean that Miles Morales should be Miles Davis… which is another can of worms.
BA: Didn’t I ask you about both of those when I saw the film? I definitely remember this conversation. I think the conclusion we reached was not to pull too hard at those threads or the whole thing unravels, and it’s too good of a story to let that happen.
TT: Yeah, I think we agreed that they were nitpicks worth pointing out, but not worth holding against the story.
This is without a doubt a comic that I would recommend to anyone, especially given Miles’ rise in prominence in pop culture over the past five or so years. I genuinely think the only thing that might be confusing to a totally new reader is Ultimate Spider-Woman, who’s a great character, a big part of the story but too complicated to get into here.
So final verdict?
BA: I’m into it. It’s a really great story. Bendis gets you hooked straight off, makes you invest. The art is fantastic. This is good comics. I’m sure we’re going to dig into some of the other Spider-Verse characters at some point, and when we do, I sincerely hope they’re as good as this. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loved the film and is looking for a jumping in point.
TT: Yeah, we’re going to have to hit a couple more good Spider-stories soon. So what’s on deck from your side?
BA: We’re going to jump into some revisionist history with Dark Horse Comics’ gangster/paranormal/horror piece Machine Gun Wizards Vol. 1, by Christian Ward and Sami Kivela.
TT: I’ve been looking forward to this one!
Miles Morales: Spider-Man Volume 1 is available now in single issues and collected editions from Marvel Comics, both in print and digital editions.
We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This remains a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.