When I first heard they were killing off Ultimate Peter Parker, I didn’t think it was the best idea. Why kill off your teenage, continuity free, fresh start Spider-Man before he even reaches drinking age? What was the point of having a blank slate Spider-Man if you’re not going to tell all the stories that can be told, like sending him to college in the modern world for example? I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. Brian Michael Bendis not only made Peter Parker’s death one of the most heart wrenching and emotional superhero deaths of all time, but his origin story for Miles Morales is really selling this character as a worthy successor to the Spider-Man role.
This issue shows the events of The Death of Spider-Man through the eyes of Miles Morales who has recently gained spider powers of his own. Bendis revisits Peter Parker’s last stand, and I was reminded of how well he handled the death of Spider-Man. This may sound corny or overly sentimental to a lot of people, but I’m not afraid to admit it…I get a little choked up when I read Peter Parker’s last words to his Aunt May, “Don’t you see…it’s okay. I did it. I couldn’t save him. Uncle Ben. I couldn’t save him…no matter what I did. But I saved you. I did it.” These last words encapsulate the essence of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man’s crime fighting career was always about the crushing guilt of Uncle Ben’s death. Every life saved, every supervillain stopped, and every crisis averted was about saving Uncle Ben. The genius of Bendis’s decision to have Miles Morales witness this moment is that this new Spider-Man now has an Uncle Ben of his own: Peter Parker.
Peter Parker is Miles Morales’s Uncle Ben because if only he had been using his newfound spider-powers instead of hiding them, perhaps he could have been there to save Peter Parker’s life. The “Uncle Ben”, the unnecessary sacrifice that could have been prevented if only a better decision had been made is a crucial component in the equation that is Spider-Man. I think Bendis has made a brilliant choice to have the original Spider-Man serve as this sacrificial reminder of responsibility to the new Spider-Man.
Again, Bendis revisits the Death of Spider-Man by having Miles Morales attend Peter Parker’s funeral. We see the emotional moment of the little girl thanking Aunt May because Peter Parker saved her life but through Miles Morales’s eyes, and it’s just as heart breaking the second time around. Miles Morales brazenly asks Gwen Stacy why Peter Parker became Spider-Man, and her answer brings it all back to Uncle Ben. Gwen Stacy tells Miles Morales about the death of Uncle Ben, and she relays that line that is the eternal mantra of Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s important that any Spider-Man, Peter Parker or not, knows this quote and lives by it, and it would feel forced if Miles Morales’s father were to give him this line rather than someone who heard it first hand from Peter Parker.
In the next scene, we see Miles Morales designing his own Spider-Man costume, and he puts on a store bought, Halloween Spider-Man suit for his debut as the next wallcrawler. I liked the idea of Miles Morales using a Halloween costume, and it’s not without precedent. In Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original run on Amazing Spider-Man, the 26th issue involved Spider-Man using an ill-fitting Halloween costume because Aunt May confiscated his regular suit (ironically, she thought it was a Halloween costume that was in poor taste). It’s a nice nod to tradition to have Miles Morales do the same, and it also makes sense when you consider how hard it would be for a teenager to sew his own webbing covered Spider-Man suit.
I am enjoying this origin story of Miles Morales a lot. Bendis is proving that you can take Peter Parker away from Spider-Man and substitute someone else without losing the heart of the character. Miles Morales is written as a believable character who is slowly coming to grips with the massive responsibility that comes with being Spider-Man, and through his experience, I’m reminded of what Spider-Man was about all along. Spider-Man isn’t about Peter Parker; Spider-Man is about responsibility, personal sacrifice, and a willingness to throw it all away it if means saving one more innocent life from needless death. I can’t recommend this comic enough, True Believers.