Between A Rock And A Spider-Place: Reviewing ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ beautifully threads the needle of creating a very classic Spider-Man-type situation but in a modern way befitting the young biracial Spider-Man of Brooklyn and the issues he has to face. Miles deserves every bit of the same spotlight, maybe even more, that Peter has enjoyed for decades and this series catapults him back to his rightful place in the Marvel Universe.
It ain’t easy being a spider. That’s something both Miles Morales and Peter Parker can fully agree with. Brooklyn’s own younger Spider-Man is going through some rough stuff as life begins to slip away, and someone who covets that which he doesn’t appreciate has their sights set on everything and everyone he loves.
There is no hiding how much I just love everything about this series. It’s always a sort of gamble when long-established characters come under new care because each entry is not going to always resonate with the audience for that character. This is fine, that’s how creative stuff works, as not all things will ever appeal to every potential audience member as that’s just how the world works. Sometimes though magic happens and the right team, right voice, and right premise just take things up a notch and can connect with people like nothing else.
That’s how I feel about this newly relaunched series. With just two issues it’s clear that Cody Ziglar, Federico Vicentini, Bryan Valenza, and Cory Petit are creating something special with Miles Morales and his world. I love the concept of the Multiverse and what it can do but that concept was handcuffing Miles down a ton over the years, to the point of becoming almost a defining characteristic, keeping us from getting a lot of really in-the-moment powerful stuff watching as Miles deals with being a hero and juggling that double life. A great many stories about Peter that are beloved have to do with his constant attempt to balance his life and be the hero he feels he must be but also be a human being with a life of his own.
Ziglar just has the perfect voice for this character at this moment, scaling things back to a very personal level as we watch a young man struggle to understand what he is and who he wants to be. Miles isn’t just a young Spider-Man. He’s a young biracial male living in this world where a lot of stuff is stacked against him, but he also has more privilege than others which can be easy to forget sometimes and also has amazing abilities that he uses for good. Those abilities also mean he has friends and mentors and more that are also powerful and privileged, allowing him to travel the universe and multiverse alongside saving them (and the world) numerous times. The boy was both an Avenger and a Champion and hangs out with the likes of Captain America on the regular.
We can feel it in these issues, the weight that is upon Miles’ shoulders as he tries to understand himself and his place which is leading him to inadvertently push those he cares about away. Pairing him with Misty Knight is perfect because of all the heroes she is one that has a different view of things being more ground level and able to live a mostly normal life, but is also a fellow Black superhero which means something. She can understand some of the other issues that Miles is dealing with, but can also give him that cold dose of reality that he needs to hear too. The Miles/Peter relationship is paramount and important, but as a young person of color having mentors that can relate to being a young person of color is important.
Being biracial myself, Miles has been a character that I have loved since the moment he appeared on the scene. There aren’t very many biracial comic book characters of major note out there, and growing up there wasn’t a ton just in general in most entertainment, so it spoke to me so much to have a Spider-Man (my favorite comic book character) that was just like me in that sense. Because of that, my feelings about Miles’ stories are always going to be a bit firmer in some senses, just wanting the best for this character, but I can fully say that this series is not only doing the character justice, it’s a story so many of us have been waiting for.
Tapping Vicentini and Valenza to bring this story to life was another perfect choice. While Ziglar nails the voice and brings the right energy back to Miles, the visuals that these two are creating are just something else really. We get a world that is deep and has weight to it, feeling just like one would expect a city like New York, namely the Brooklyn area in this case, to feel as the character moves through the world. Rather than everything being straight on viewpoint shot, Vicentini’s work incorporates a lot of angle work where many of the viewpoints are tilted causing our vision to move upward towards action or just to establish how huge this city and some buildings really are. Adding some perspective, that plays well with the rough yet smooth sort of style on the page.
Yes, comics are not a form of media where actual movement is happening like films or shows, but there is artwork that very much has a very movement-oriented energy to it. This is what we have here because the action beats and just any moment feels like the characters actually are moving through the world. One element that helps with this is the choice made with paneling where we get a variety of shots including closeups on a person or an item before zooming back out, allowing us the viewer to then essentially ‘move’ as we get a look at things from different spaces.
I want to also point to the emotional/body language work here that makes sure we can completely see/feel what the characters are feeling at any given moment. These facial expressions feel natural and real, not just an approximation of what emotions might look like when written all over the face. Spider-Man wears a full facial mask but the best artists can completely make that a face of its own with all the emotions still very easy to see, and Vicentini is one of them. Miles is sheepish and excited and mad and we can see it just by the shape of the mask’s eyes and how it scrunches up. Putting more emotional/talker folks like Miles or Peter with those that have perfected a poker face like Misty is always going to make for a delightful juxtaposition.
Stories that are centered on superheroes or other fantastical elements are going to generally feature colors that are far more vibrant than one might see on a daily basis, because of their nature of being somewhat a bit beyond reality. Stories set in the Marvel Universe though have long held the idea that it’s the world outside the window, and Valenza captures that dynamic so well. Everything from the costumes to technology for heroes and villains is so vibrant and powerful, while the buildings and most of the average people we spot are toned down to levels that feel real to the world around us. It keeps the world feeling closer to reality but also works to make the fantastical elements pop even more because they stand out quite a lot from what is around them.
Alongside this, the colors are slick but have weight to them to match the slightly rougher qualities that are featured within the artwork. I also greatly appreciate when there are accurate lighting effects put to work, where the amount of light or shadows in a space, or the time of day, feels very authentic rather than being overly lit or darkened as sometimes happens in things to ‘make sure we can see.’ Making something visible but also feeling real on such levels is a great place to meet up.
Previously I spoke about how the emotions are clear on the page through facial expression work, but it’s the work of Petit that allows us to also hear those emotions and feel them more. Lettering can entail spreading the dialogue and captions and other words across the page in pleasing and easy-to-follow ways, but when done well it does so much more. It helps bring a feeling or tone or even energy, take your pick, to a story that is needed. We cannot actually hear characters in a comic book but when we’re reading, great lettering work allows us to hear them correctly in our head as we read.
Changes made to bubbles or font sizes give us visual indications about whether a character is being loud or quiet, and often can then tell us whether that volume is because they are mad or sad, or even sarcastic. A perfect example is when Miles mocks what his teacher said in the first issue, the bubble with his dialogue has a jagged bottom that quickly gives away just how sarcastically angry he’s saying the words, followed by his journal comment that confirms this feeling. Great lettering helps tell the story in more ways than just putting the actual words on the page, and should be celebrated far more often.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2 is now available from Marvel Comics.