If you’re reading this, then you either already know or are about to find out: Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man book out right now.
This series has a strong track record, even when it had to pivot to incorporate plot points from larger events (most recently Cataclysm). That said, I was relieved to see the current story somehow dodge the recent insanity of Spider-Verse. That lulled me into a false sense of security. I was so into what was happening with Miles and his supporting cast that I somehow forgot that “Secret Wars” is around the corner and the Ultimate Universe’s days are indeed numbered (for real this time). It was disappointing to see the April solicitation for Miles Morales. “Is This The End?” That had to be an early April Fool’s joke…right? I mean, this book is continually jumping from strength to strength. Why would it have to stop now? After reading this latest issue, all I could think was, “How will closing off this continuity benefit the character and his story?” This pizza-smashing mishegas had better be worth it.
When this run kicked off, it was jarring to see Miles seem to play a secondary role in his own title. I’ve written much on how this actually wasn’t a disservice to the character, but rather it served a reinforcement of his core values. Shining a light on Peter Parker and Jefferson Davis let us see how some of the people in Miles’ life have helped shaped him into the man he’s becoming. It gave us fantastic stories, great character development, and some truly poignant moments. And now with issue #10, it’s time to relax and have some fun.
I’m not kidding, this issue is a blast. Miles (with his dad’s encouragement) takes a “me day” and gets to enjoy being Spider-Man, encountering some old foes in a street brawl and cleverly outwitting them. This sequence captures the spirit, energy, and humor of the original Ultimate Spider-Man series, but with Miles as the lead. All of the plot threads carefully laid out over the last few years (growing into the role, proving himself to Captain America, confronting Uncle Aaron, giving up and being convinced to come back) finally tie into place here. The confidence, the wisecracks (!), the skills, even the “here’s what’s going on with my life these days” narration – all of the traits that we as fans associate with Spider-Man are in full force here. Best of all, they feel 100% earned.
In my review of the first issue, I’d described Miles as “a great character waiting to realize more of his potential.” That moment has arrived! At last, Miles Morales IS Spider-Man, and it’s a real treat to see him fully inhabit the role. Even as a fan of the character, I can honestly say that this issue was the first time that I’d thought of him as “Spidey” first and “Miles” second.
That said, the things unique to Miles’ world feature strongly in this issue, starting with a guest appearance by his former (?) All-New Ultimates teammates Cloak and Dagger. It was a welcome relief to see these characters “come home” to Bendis and Marquez. Not only were they stunning on a visual level (phenomenal lighting work here), but they were both funny and believable as a couple trying to talk with their friend about his relationship choices.
Then there was the long-awaited (and laugh-out-loud) return of Miles’ best bud Ganke. Their “bromance” has long been at the heart of this title and their brief scene together shines with warmth and charm. I was concerned about Ganke’s fate when I first learned about the Marvel continuity restructuring, but moments like this are reassuring: There’s no way anyone could drop such a goldmine of a character.
On a side-note: A rare misstep happens in this scene with a word balloon glitch that suggests a third person joining in their conversation. Unless there’s a secret parallel dimension Ganke and we’re all in for a wild ride with an upcoming Ganke-Verse event? No? Well, I’d certainly read it.
With just a few months to go until the series is forced to shift gears, there are still some major plot points to be addressed. Although it’s already packed, this issue manages to keep them in the picture. What is the deal with the Spider-Twins? This particular mystery seemed important in the beginning but was quickly moved to the back burner. They haven’t been seen in a while, but their almost-appearance in this issue was quickly forgiven with the welcome return of two rather familiar-looking detectives…
And then there’s Katie. Miles discovers the price of revealing his secret identity in a fantastic old-school Spider-Man style cliffhanger. I know that it seems this way at the end of every issue, but the preview image for next month makes it look like things are about to get even crazier. I haven’t been let down yet, but knowing that things are about to change, I’m cautiously optimistic.
Can this book realistically tie up all of the plot threads before the Secret Wars? My only hope is that Bendis is able to finish telling this chapter of the story on his terms as opposed to rushing in order to meet the editorial mandate. I loved Superior Spider-Man until it crashed into an ending in order to accommodate a movie release. Miles deserves better, especially after an issue like this, which encapsulates everything I love about Spider-Man.
The moment has arrived: Miles Morales IS Spider-Man! This is a fun issue that captures and maintains the vibrant spirit of the series that started it all. Easily the best Spider-Man book on the shelves right now. Go get it and enjoy!