There isn’t much constructive that can be said about this fourth issue of the overall weak multiversal What If series that has been given to Miles Morales. Egregious racial stereotypes, complete washing out of every character of color’s personality as they cosplay as white Asgardians, and painful dialogue alongside art that is okay when it’s not playing into racial tropes.
When it comes to representation, diversity, and progress comic books are truly a massive mixed bag. For every one issue or series that finally gives a marginalized group or groups some true representation and their place in the spotlight, there are five others that miss the mark or keep things at the status quo. Then there are the issues that actually turn back the clock years or decades and can put a stop to forward momentum by just existing.
Say hello to What If…Miles Morales #4 from Yehudi Mercado, Luigi Zagaria, Chris Sotomayor, and Cory Petit.
Point blank, this issue should never have even made it beyond the pitching process. Miles Morales as a character has just been stuck in a cycle of multiversal/Uncle Aaron for too damn long. This series has exacerbated that but so far has had issues that were boring/uninspired to decent okay ideas. Miles as Thor is just outright offensive and an insult not only to the character but to members of the Black, Latinx, and Afro-Latinx communities at large.
Everything from the words in the books to tons of the visuals are just pure stereotypes almost minstrel show-level stuff. Asgard is “the hood” and there are shoes hanging from powerlines for some absolutely nonreason other than “isn’t that what you see in black neighborhoods” sort of stuff. The usual Asgardian speech patterns are mixed in with the most over-the-top “this is what black people sound like” dialogue that I have ever witnessed.
Also, the almost purely white usual version of Asgard is all gleaming golden towers and palaces and such but shifting characters of color into the usual roles means we get just the usual Brooklyn but with some rainbow bridge and a few castle sort of things thrown in. Those same characters from Miles to Ganke to Miles’ parents to Starling and others are just devoid of any of their own personality and character as they cosplay as the regular Asgardian crew for no given reason at all. Jotunheim is also apparently just another portion of NYC but icy where the frost giants are all wearing copious amounts of jewelry and have dreadlocks and fades spouting off more of the obscene “black people” speak that the writer has decided is just how all black people talk all the time.
There is not a single thing about this that is Miles-like other than shoving his cast into this. Actual Miles as Thor just spouts out cliches and throws out references to rap songs or things like “Hammer time” for just not a single reason. Other than the fact that there were no Black or Afro-Latinx or anyone else involved with making this book come to life. Marvel’s continued lack of representation at times not only behind the creation of the actual comics but at higher editorial levels that might stop books like this from coming out is galling.
Mercado pushed back against those on Twitter who called him out for this issue by replying with stuff like“I should have added more upskirt shots and then you would have liked it!” before quickly deleting said tweets when they got ratioed to hell by the internet. This happens far too many times when creators put out issues that are abysmal representations of the struggles some groups go through, pushing back at our concerns before maybe finally going “Oh sorry that wasn’t my intent.” Mercado isn’t there yet, but it doesn’t matter because this issue is already out there and exists and can’t be changed. The damage has been done.
There is just not a single thing about this book that is redeeming. Sure the artwork and lettering are fine overall, but the imagery we’re presented with alongside the actual story/dialogue is just obscene. This is the type of issue that makes it feel like we just took a couple of decades worth of steps backward when it comes to actually achieving meaningful representation and diversity.
What If Miles Morales #4 is available now from Marvel Comics