New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining, reviewing, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium.
With the reveal that Sony and Insomniac Games are releasing a new expansion to the hit 2018 Spider-Man game following the character of Miles Morales, I figured it’s the perfect time to dive into a book I’ve had waiting in the wings, the first volume of Saladin Ahmed’s Miles Morales: Spider-Man.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Saladin Ahmed
Art by: Javier Garrón
Collects: Miles Morales – Spider-Man #1-6
WHAT’S THE STORY?
Let’s be honest, you know the story of Spider-Man, and chances are you also know the story of Miles Morales, the ‘black Spider-Man’.
Introduced in Marvel’s ‘Ultimate Comics’ line, Miles Morales was bitten by a spider, just like the first Spider-Man, and stepped up to become a superhero after his predecessor died.
The character quickly became quite popular, and so, eventually, Marvel decided to move Miles over from their Ultimate Comics line, which had originally created to tell more modern takes on the classic heroes, without all the baggage, to their mainstream line. By this point, ‘Ultimate Comics’ had itself become quite bloated, and so the comics were dumped during the Secret Wars crossover, with their whole universe being destroyed.
Miles, however, escaped that fate by being in the right place at the right time. In the process of Secret Wars, he was transported to Battleworld; a patchwork planet ruled by the Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom, that had been created out of the remnants of the destroyed multiverse (I know, comics, right?).
Alongside other survivors from the main Marvel Universe, such as the OG Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Star-Lord and Mister Fantastic, Miles contributed to saving everything. In particular, Miles befriended a character called the Molecule Man – the person holding Doom’s patchwork planet together – by gifting him a burger he had smuggled with him on his trip.
As a thank you for being the only person to treat him with kindness, Molecule Man rewarded Miles by taking his chunk of the ‘Ultimate Comics’ line – his family, friends, and history, and implanting it in the restored main Marvel Universe.
For the longest time, Miles’ solo adventures were penned exclusively by Brian Bendis, who had written the entirety of the Ultimate Spider-Man books, from Peter Parker’s origin story all the way through to the end of the universe – well over 200 issues. These comics are hailed as some of Bendis’ best work. I covered the first volume (of the Peter Parker era) a few years ago.
However, after writing about forty issues of Miles’ adventures in the mainstream Marvel Universe, Bendis finally abdicated his webbed throne and went over to DC Comics to write Superman. I’ve not always loved the guy’s writing in his later Marvel years, but I do admire his overall journey.
That’s where we are now. Straight Out of Brooklyn is the first, non-Bendis-penned, core Miles Morales comic book. So let’s talk about it (after a quick Miles Morales bio):
Real Name: Miles Gonzalo Morales
Affiliation: The Champions, The Avengers
First Appearance: Ultimate Comics Fallout #4 (October 2011)
In another universe, teenager Miles Morales was bitten by a genetically engineered spider accidentally stolen from Norman Osborn by his cat-burglar uncle Aaron Davis a.k.a. The Prowler. Undergoing strange changes, Miles conferred with his best friend Ganke Lee, and the two concluded he had gained, with the addition of invisibility and an energy blast, powers similar to Spider-Man! However, shunning heroics, Miles instead decided to keep his powers secret and was wracked with guilt after witnessing the death of the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. Deciding the continue Parker’s legacy, Miles became the all-new ‘Ultimate’ Spider-Man, protecting New York and the World as the new web-slinger. However, through the machinations of Mysterio, Miles came to meet another Peter Parker, of Earth-616, and later, during a reality breaking crisis, found his friends and family transported to this Peter Parker’s reconstructed world after his own universe was destroyed. Now, in a world full of superheroes, Miles fights the good fight alongside the adult Spider-Man and a growing number of teen Champions.
WHAT’S THE PLOT?
The continuing adventures of Brooklyn’s very own Spider-Man, Miles Morales.
Starting a new semester at school, Miles is tasked with writing a journal for his creative writing class. As the pages start to fill, Miles struggles to juggle his strict high school life with a new girlfriend and his web-slinging adventures, as he crosses paths with an assortment of characters, such as old-school Spider-Man villains Rhino and Tombstone, the heroic Captain America, and the ambiguously aligned granddaughter of the Vulture.
I always used to have mixed feelings about Miles Morales. On paper, having a black Spider-Man is pretty cool. But when it came around to actually reading it, I wasn’t initially sold. Not because of the character, but because I was starting to lose interest in creator Brian Bendis’ writings. There were things about the pacing and dialogue of his comics in particular that were starting to growing tiresome, and as a result, I could never really grasp who Miles Morales was supposed to be and what made him unique from Peter Parker (beyond being black).
Something that further compounded my disinterest was the fact that, on top of all of Spider-Man’s regular powers, Miles also had access to invisibility and a ‘venom blast’. He could just jab someone in the side, make some sparkly hands, and they would go down. While I read his adventures on and off, he did it to a variety of foes, including (post-Secret Wars) a demon who had just handily defeated the Avengers.
Then in swings Miles Morales, zip, zap, zoop, the demon’s down.
It was too much. I tapped out.
Then came the PS4 game and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and I started to grow a bit more fond of the character. Here, the creators of these respective projects had injected some actual character and flair into Miles.
So jumping into Saladin Ahmed’s take on the character offered another, new, fresh perspective. Once again, we get to see Miles display likes and dislikes, get a good idea of what sort of person, and hero, he is.
Furthermore (and this is also attributed to Bendis) we get to dive into his supporting cast, which is diverse and beautiful; different characters, from different cultures with clearly distinct different personalities.
This is all rendered in a fun, poppy style by Javier Garrón, whose art seems perfectly suited to the adventures of Spider-Man. He captures the agility and fluidity of the characters movements well, and he brings real personality to the tamer, school-based scenes, which are often just as interesting as the web-swinging adventures.
Although that may also be because, while the first three issues are great fun, and a good way to jump into Miles Morales’ adventures as Spider-Man, the latter three seem to lose focus a bit. They hop around a lot, they bring in villains don’t get to contribute much to the story. Thus, the more ‘mundane’ aspects of Miles’ life seem just as, if not more, interesting in these issues.
The writing, particularly in the first three issues though, is just good, fun, knowledgable writing. It’s written from the heart, whether that be throwaway comments about Miles understanding how the Rhino feels to be judged due to how he looks, Captain America giving a speech about the reality of being a hero in war, or the teenagers Miles hangs with living through their teenager angst-filled world (I found this to be particularly on-point where Miles and his friends attend a cinema, talk through the film and one of them gets their phone out on full brightness. As a cinema worker, I can confirm that is 100% how the majority of teenagers we serve behave during movies.).
It’s got that classic Spider-Man feel, with a new ‘Miles Morales’ twist, which is exactly what these comics should be.
Plus, Miles still is able to pretty much take most people out with his ‘venom-blast’, but we do get to see it fail and thus be toned down ever-so-slightly. Still baffles me why he doesn’t lead with that every time though.
If the second half was just a bit more focused; perhaps had a more hands-on antagonist driving it throughout the issues, this comic would get that fifth star.
Oh, and also, characters meeting him should be more aware of who he is in the costume. He used to be an Avenger, for crying out loud*. But that’s a pretty trivial issue at the end of the day.
*Miles Morales being an Avenger: