Over the past ten issues, we’ve seen Miles Morales put through the wringer both physically and emotionally. He was confronted by his late predecessor and battled their mortal enemy. He was wounded by gunfire. He decided to reveal his secret identity to his girlfriend and frightened her away in the process. He reconciled with his estranged father, which led to what may have the most powerfully raw and honest moment I’ve seen in a comic book.
Somewhere in there, Miles also supposedly flailed around with the All-New Ultimates, visited with the All-New and Ultimate X-Men, and even left reality to chauffeur his interdimensional counterparts in the Spider-Mobile. Much to my relief, this series shares my take in pretending that those ridiculous things never happened.
And now Miles has been kidnapped by his girlfriend’s father, a Hydra agent that knows that Miles is Spider-Man.
So yeah, things have been a little crazy.
What Miles hasn’t done (or rather hasn’t been able to do), was get a chance to slow down and enjoy some smaller scale storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed this series from the beginning and still maintain that it’s the highest quality Spider-Man book happening right now. It’s held steady in delivering its successful blend of action, humor, drama, and heart. Still, despite the measured approach to its dialogue and individual scenes, the pace of the overall story in this run has felt like a runaway train. Maybe it’s the scope of so many Big Things Happening back-to-back, but I find myself wanting a break in the action to see some “normal” days for Miles (and get to develop his character in the process). The original run had Peter Parker dealing with the everyday: going to school, dealing with his boss, figuring out relationships, etc. I don’t think it was necessary to repeat those exact same beats for Miles (he is and should be his own character), but those types of little moments had brought so much to the narrative table in the past while Miles’ plot trajectory hasn’t had the space to accommodate more of them.
For example: Thanks to the “one year later” jump, Miles suddenly has a girlfriend. Seeing Katie in this issue speak as a brainwashed Hydra sympathizer isn’t as shocking as it should have been, because she’s otherwise been a non-character throughout the series. If we don’t know what Miles sees in her, then why should we care?
While the series flew from revelation to revelation, the mystery of the Spider-Twins quietly lurked in the background. Issue #11 brings them to the forefront with a full action sequence as they take on Black Widow. Despite their cryptic references to their employer, I finally had to admit that I never found them remotely interesting. Even the visual connection to Spider-Man seems tenuous at best, despite the references in the script. They just couldn’t compete with the larger events happening around them. That said, it was great to have Jessica return on the heels of a Cloak and Dagger appearance, although she’s still saddled with her unfortunate new code name and even more unfortunate costume carried over from her time with the other series.
The cover announces the dramatic return of a character who had not been seen for some time (and telegraphs the cliffhanger in the process), but I was more excited to see Judge, who was Miles’ and Ganke’s third roommate when they’d started at Brooklyn Visions Academy. Judge’s main function in the early days was a comic relief obstacle for Miles and Ganke. There was nothing to suggest that he was a bad or unfriendly person and it seemed like a wasted opportunity not to develop him further as a character in his own right. Other than Katie (who essentially popped up out of nowhere), Miles and Ganke haven’t been shown socializing with their peers. Judge inexplicably disappeared shortly after his introduction, leaving me to wonder if he was an editorial casualty (i.e., the narrative kept changing to accommodate range-wide events). As someone that’s read the entire series, I found his appearance to be both a nice callback and a reminder of a lost opportunity. I was surprised by his revelation to Ganke in this issue and wonder how (and if) it can be resolved well for the finale.
This series has followed a general pattern of buildup-payoff-repeat, and issue #11 raises the stakes for Miles to their highest point yet. This time it’s truly personal, as his father, best friend, and his best friend’s mom (I’m guessing; it’s not entirely clear) are at the mercy of Hydra, who are the latest in the line of people who want to control Spider-Man. That’s not the most interesting plot idea on its own, but the windows in the Hydra facility look familiar to a certain room featured in Miles Morales issue #6, suggesting that their interest goes beyond Miles and that perhaps all may not be as it seemed. The “surprise” introduction of Dr. Doom seems arbitrary at best, unless you’d been following along with All-New X-Men #36.
The art and colors maintain their high standard, with moody blacks and greens defining Hydra’s control of the escalating situation. We were fortunate enough to interview David Marquez for our podcast and disappointed to learn that the time has come for him to move on. He will be leaving incredibly huge shoes to fill and will be missed.
As a penultimate chapter, Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #11 does a solid job of setting things up for the finale. It may be the first time I’m not looking forward to next month’s issue, as it’s sad to bid farewell to such an enjoyable series.