New To You Comics: Peter Parker Meets Miles Morales In ‘Spider-Men’

by Tony Thornley

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 take a look at one of the inspirations behind an Oscar winning movie!

Cover by Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor

Since the launch of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe in the early 2000’s, readers had always kind of hoped to see these drastically different versions of Marvel’s heroes meet one-another. Readers finally got their wish after the introduction of Miles Morales as Spider-Man. About a year after the character’s debut, Marvel debuted Spider-Men by Miles’ creators, Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, Justin Ponsor, and Cory Petit.

When Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, investigates a strange phenomenon, he didn’t expect to get sucked through a portal into Earth-1610. Now he has to try to find a way home, while stopping one of his oldest foes who has somehow found a way to commit crimes in BOTH universes. Thankfully he has help – Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man!

Tony Thornley: So one of the first times you and I had an in-depth conversation about superheroes, it was about Sony Pictures’ Into The Spider-Verse. It was the first time I got to be enthusiastic about Spider-Man with you. 

Spider-Man is my single favorite superhero. One of my first comics was the first part of Spidey’s Tiny Adventure and I read Spider-Man off and on until the series reboot. From there I’ve always had at least one Spider-Man series, if not more, on my pull list. So I’ve been wracking my brain since we started the column to figure out what Spidey story to use when I realized this was it. So what did you think of this one?

Brendan Allen: Oh, man. Spider-Verse is a big hit in our house. I think that was the first time I ever really watched a Spider-Man movie all the way through. It’s got so many great things going for it. I was really glad my kids got into it, too. Although, by the 247th viewing, it does wear a little thin.

The only Spider-Man book I ever remember reading before very recently was one of those garage sale finds. You remember. The old milk crate with a couple hundred tattered comic books in it for a nickel apiece or whatever. I bought the book because it had a badass picture of Spidey getting crushed by this giant zombie guy. Tombstone? It had the one cool fight scene in it, but I wasn’t moved enough to start buying the books. 

So, when you were all excited over this one, I was a little hesitant. I have to say, I liked it though. I am a little confused, because there are a lot of things here that line up with the film, but then there are a lot of things that just don’t. It is similar enough that I kind of felt like one was at least a spiritual extension of the other.

TT:  Yeah definitely, a lot of the inspiration is obvious. I like this one a lot. Now it’s clearly not a one to one (especially since it only features Peter and Miles), but you can see a lot of the human/emotional beats here. I really think that’s Bendis’ greatest strength. He’s an incredible character writer. I think this might be one of the best examples of that.

The superhero side of it is pretty standard. Peter Parker gets sucked through a portal into another world, finds his doppelganger, a villain and saves the world. Where the story really excels in my opinion is when the duo explore the world a bit. At this point Miles was still new, so these crazy scifi events were new to him. And Peter? The scene between Peter and Aunt May was just damn near perfect. One of my favorite things about the entire series.

BA: Yeah, I kind of feel like they downplayed that bit in the movie. I mean, I get it. Aunt May is super cool, but who doesn’t completely break down at an opportunity to speak to someone they thought they lost? It’s kind of cool to see all the stages she goes through in those few panels on her way to realization. But then, it’s like, oh yeah. Multiverse. She clearly gets it more than I do.

TT: It’s a fantastic use of the comics medium for sure. From the cliffhanger at the end of the third issue to pretty much the entire fourth issue of the series… it’s just so well done by Pichelli and Ponsor and it’s done through panel layouts and perspectives that would be dizzying on film. Even though Bendis writes the hell out of it, Pichelli is just able to make the characters act. 

There’s movement in every panel in extremely natural ways. Human beings don’t just sit and face each other when they talk and she knows that, from small head movements to changing facial expressions to the body language of each character. It’s so dynamic even in the quiet moments.

BA: Yeah. You’ve got something there. It’s easy to get caught up in the action sequences, and there’s a definite slick signature style that runs through the Spider-Man books I have read. It’s a hard thing to hit emotion with masked characters, but it comes through, through subtle facial cues, posture, and ambulation. 

TT: Definitely. She also does a fantastic job setting Miles and Peter apart in costume. A lot of artists would just make Miles slightly shorter than Peter and count on the different costumes to set them apart. But Miles is 13 and Peter is late 20’s/early 30’s in this story. Pichelli draws them like actual early teenagers and adults. It adds a lot to the story.

BA: I know Spider-Man is known for his smartass little quips, but I especially liked that little crack about Miles’ costume being cooler. And one of my all time pet peeves (this will come up again in the next book we’ll be doing) is when kids get drawn as little adults. Fully the same proportions and ambulation, just ⅔ the size. No, man. That isn’t how it works. Puberty sucks, and pubescent bodies are all kinds of disproportionate. 

TT: So in the end, what’s the verdict?

BA: I liked it, but if I’m seeing this right, this is a mini, and they don’t take this great setup anywhere beyond this story? That’s a damned shame. I would probably subscribe to this as an ongoing. 

TT: Miles DOES end up in the main Marvel Universe a bit later (in a story we might cover someday soon), so I might have some more recommendations! Glad you enjoyed it though! What’s up next?

BA: Last pick was pretty intense. I’m giving you a little bit of a breather. We’re hitting up one of my all time favorites, Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss’ 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank. I mean, I guess it’s intense, but there are no monsters. Fair?

TT: You know I’m a big fan of Matt’s Marvel work, so I’m excited to finally check this one out!

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 is 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.

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