Marvel Comics return to ‘What If?’ style comics, with greater lengths this time, continues to be a welcome one as the stories have depth and weight and present intriguing views of the roads not taken. Miles Morales moves forward in leaps and bounds in ways he hasn’t done as much in years, showcasing what could and should be with this chock full of potential character.
Miles Morales has been a lot of things in the just over a decade the character has existed.
Starting off as the Marvel Ultimate Universe Spider-Man when Peter Parker died, he became even more once that universe died but he survived to get shunted to the main 616 universe. Since that moment in 2015’s Secret Wars, the character has been an Avenger, a Champion, traveled and saved the Multiverse multiple times, had a number of solo series, been a fixture of numerous events storylines, and even had a big screen movie and PlayStation game dedicated to him.
At the same time, it is no secret that many out there, myself included, feel that in comics the character can often be stuck in a repeating pattern. Repeating storylines like finding out Uncle Aaron is secretly up to something, dealing with Uncle Aaron’s death, the forever back and forth “does he or does he not recall the Ultimate Universe, and did he actually come from there” moments, and then the moments where he gets to take on his own version of Peter Parker storylines.
What If…Miles Morales seemed like a series that maybe could push beyond the sort of rut that the character is in comic book-wise, and it lived up to that.
In just a few instances so far that he has been able to write Miles, it’s clear that Cody Ziglar knows and loves the character and has a lot to bring to the table. Alternate reality stories can sometimes be thin as paper when it comes to building an interesting world. Other times, like this, the changes are small but also big enough that even with such a tight focus we get a world that feels deep and lived in. A biracial character picking up the shield and becoming Captain America feels good here and avoids a lot of the stumbling blocks that things like The Falcon and Winter Soldier hit last year.
Even though Uncle Aaron has a large part in this that plays at some of his previous roles, it still feels very different in how it’s handled and isn’t the end all be all of Miles’ story. Tiana Toomes, Starling in the regular universe, being Falcon while Sam Wilson is the Nick Fury of this world and Tombstone is actually the Grey Skull here are nice touches. They are reminders of things we know that have been changed and made similar but different, which is one of the keys to great What If? stories.
Adding weight and depth is how well Paco Medina is able to capture all the emotional weight on the character’s faces and through their body language. Alongside the smooth nature of the action moments, it all feels very real and again lends itself to that lived-in feeling. This is a fleshed-out world and we can see it on the pages. How the panels are laid out aids this as the way panels shift and overlap and sometimes have white space borders and other times does not is calculated and perfect. Seeing more artists really break boundaries when it comes to panel and panel layout in order to achieve some spectacular visual feats is very much a welcoming sight.
Media is joined by Walden Wong, Victor Olazaba, and Sean Parsons as the inkers on this issue, and while there are three of them their work is pretty seamless as there is nothing that I noticed that gives away that there was more than one person handling that aspect.
Chris Sotomayor’s colors shift perfectly from the darker heavier ones to the popping lighter ones or even the few moments where an old-timey sepia-like filter covers the flashbacks. Things are bright but not too overly bright, keeping it somewhat grounded but centered in the colorful aspects that come with superheroes. Night-time scenes feel like actual night-time, not overly lit supposed to be night that sometimes happens in various mediums.
People underestimate lettering far too much and don’t give letterers the credit they are due, and Cory Petit is one that is killing it with all the work he does month after month. All of the dialogue is not only easy to follow as it flows around the page in the best reading order but there are also elements that add realism such as smaller fonts for lower tones and bigger fonts for louder tones which is always helpful. All of the SFX are not only muted colorful like other aspects of the art but have fun energy of their own as they fit into the action in big noticeable ways.
What If…Miles Morales #1 is now on sale in print and digital from Marvel Comics.