Since Spider-Man first came onto the scene in the 1960′s we have had the catch-phrase the defines the persona of the character: “With great power comes great responsibility.” When Marvel launched the Ultimate universe, that same phrase defined the persona of the new version of Peter Parker, who lived up to that belief up until he was killed several years ago. Since then, a new Spider-Man has arrived within the Ultimate universe and he, too, has done his best to live up to that belief. But, as we all know, what truly defines a hero is when there is tragedy involved and that is what happens to Miles Morales. In the last issue, his mother was killed during an attack from Venom. As this issue begins, it’s been a year since that fateful event.
When Miles first came onto the scene, there were a lot of naysayers. I hold out the belief that it was because this was simply not Peter Parker in the role of Spider-Man, and I think that is the case (if the comments to 616 Spider-Man writer and, I presume, architect Dan Slott are any indication). The most recent issue, #23, dealers with the struggles of Miles in coming to grip with his mother’s death and knowing that his being Spider-Man was the reason. That’s definitely something quite hard for a young teenager to come to terms with, never mind everything else going on in the Ultimate universe around him (which definitely seems to not be as impacting to Miles as one would expect). Without spoiling anything within this issue, and the fact that Miles has quite being Spider-Man is not a spoiler based on the cover above, this is the perfect time for a new reader to discover the adventures of Miles Morales.
Brian Michael Bendis seems to have his hands full with a number of things in the Marvel universe, but this is his child within the Ultimate line. He has directed the adventures of Spider-Man within the Ultimate line of books since day 1, and his choice to kill off Peter Parker there seemed to not be as controversial as what Dan Slott has done in the pages of Amazing/Superior Spider-Man. (Perhaps this is because when Ultimate Parker was killed, the world still had 616 Parker around… but now I am wondering which Spider-Man that was in the pages of Spider-Men?) This story is well written and doesn’t rely on countless discussion to get things going, which is one of the things Bendis was known for as the architect of the Avengers line for some time and now taking on the X-franchise. No, he is able to convey the emotion and conflict of Miles with some distinct instruction to his artistic partner to make it all happen quite well. This is Bendis at his best, dealing with the conflict of the character and it not relying on a huge battle… He has the emotional pieces and the conflict down and it’s not 2-dimensional. We have supporting characters, some of which we know from the 616 and others we don’t, but they don’t serve to distract us rather they complement the character of Miles. Bendis is currently writing THE book that I think keeps the Ultimate universe still around within the Marvel offices as the others just don’t seem to have the stories or energy or quality compared to the original Ultimate run.
Dave Marquez takes over the art duties beginning this issue, which makes it one reason why this is a great starting on point. The first “chapter” in Miles life has had him struggling to come to terms with the powers without truly understanding what it means to be Spider-Man and that was done with some wonderful art by Sara Pichelli; this next chapter in Miles’ story will be using the visuals of Marquez. And it’s a great place to start, right with the new era in Miles and one year after the previous issue. First off, the cover. This is an homage to a classic cover by classic Amazing Spider-Man John Romita, and it truly sums up the content of the issue without giving anything away. He captures the emotion on Miles’ face as well as that of the supporting cast, including someone you may not be expecting to show up. The detail is there. The feeling is there. The flashback scenes of his mom’s passing in his arms gives the emotional connection we needed in order to truly relate to Miles. He is now one of the true Marvel pantheon – he needed the tragedy in order to progress into that arena and that has now happened. Regardless of what else happens, Miles can now well and truly be considered Spider-Man.
If you cannot tell, I loved this issue. It was a new chapter without starting the series over and it was marked by several pieces: An emotional struggle. A new art team to move the character forward without the need for a relaunch. But still keeping it the same world, the same cast, as we have grown to love. This is what Marvel can do when they want to – deliver an amazing story full of strong characters, strong emotion, and truly get the reader immersed in the story. Of all the Ultimate books, this is the one I look forward to every month. I’ve heard rumors that we’re going to see the 616 and Ultimate worlds meet again, but it’s hard to say how that will pass. All I know is that wherever Miles ends up at the end of that, I will be following him.