After the explosive events of Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #4 and repeated delays to the release date, my anticipation was beyond ridiculous. Could issue #5 possibly be worth the wait?
As longtime readers know, Spider-Man has rarely stuck around once the cops arrive on the scene. Peter (?) swings away thanks to the web-shooters he’d “reclaimed” from Miles, but not before revealing that he’s seen him in worse situations and then reminding him to use his “camo-mode.” Unfortunately, Miles’ escape isn’t smooth and he’s injured in the process. He’s picked up by Detective Maria Hill, who’d figured out his identity some time ago but chose to say nothing until she’d seen him in trouble.
Meanwhile, another layer is pulled back as the Spider-Twins return to the plot. Although it disproved my theory about their identity, I was amused to discover that they actually are twins! I was convinced that they were linked to Katie and her family, but it seems not to be the case.
Or is it? The twins are still disagreeing, this time whether or not to take advantage of the chaos surrounding the Spider-Men/Goblin battle and commit another theft. The decision is finally made (and another clue dropped) when they remind themselves that someone else is expecting them to collect a list of items. Someone who will not take kindly to being disappointed. But who could he be? One of the brothers notes that it’s not a list, but a task…
Still, they’re having fun playing up to the cameras as they pull off their highest-stakes heist yet.
For me, the surprising breakout star of the issue was J. Jonah Jameson. We all know JJJ’s 616 gruff, single-minded characterization, but his Ultimate counterpart is a refreshingly different and more complex man, having been humbled by witnessing the original Spider-Man’s selfless heroics. His feelings about heroes were strengthened after being rescued by the All-New Ultimates during Cataclysm (they’re busy arguing about how to take advantage of that over in their own series, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen).
Jameson is confronted by Norman Oborn and offers to tell his story. As he realizes that Osborn is truly unhinged, he takes an action that is shocking, brave, and potentially suicidal. With the scene left unresolved, I can only hope that it doesn’t spell the end of one of my favorite supporting cast members.
As it’s still night at this point in the story, the art and coloring alternate between fiery and dramatic and stark and moody. For me, the standout moments included the full page of Miles collecting himself after being injured (not to mention the stomach-dropping panel of the wound itself on the preceding page) and the astonishing depiction of Jameson’s stunning penthouse apartment. The care and craft in each panel only underscores my frustrations with the artwork in Spider-Man’s other Ultimate title.
The covers in this series continue to be powerful and thought-provoking. While it may initially seem frustrating to those expecting to see the same imagery within the issue itself, Marquez is working on a wholly different level – he’s essentially telling the same story, but from a thematic perspective. The original Spider-Man is cradling the broken body of his successor, while the bloody claw of the Goblin ominously looms overhead. No, that didn’t actually happen in the literal sense. But figuratively? It speaks volumes. The Spider-Man/Green Goblin conflict has always been a central part to the overall mythos. It’s inevitable that we’ll get a final confrontation between the two characters in this series, but the image suggests that although Miles is brave and worthy of the mantle, he’s still not the Spider-Man meant to battle Peter Parker’s arch-enemy.
Now to my one complaint:
Since the characters were first introduced, the nature of Miles’ and Ganke’s friendship has been the subject of a running joke: Their close bond compels people to speculate that they’re boyfriends (or that Ganke harbors a one-sided crush on Miles). I find this completely aggravating and unnecessary. Miles and Ganke are depicted as best friends, and until Katie is introduced, they seem to be the other’s only friend. While 616 Peter Parker was originally a loner, Miles was given someone (a fellow social outcast?) to connect with and confide in. This made complete sense from a narrative standpoint, because how could a 13 year old expect to cope with such crazy circumstances entirely on their own?
These guys are brothers in every sense of the word. They trust each other to be critical, whether it’s Miles nudging Ganke to grow up and put away his Legos or Ganke encouraging Miles to step up and claim his role as a hero. They’ve been there for support when the other was grieving (both have lost parents), and until Jefferson returns, Ganke is the only family that Miles has. Having their “bromance” repeatedly questioned for the sake of an unfunny joke is a rare misfire in a series that’s otherwise been consistently enjoyable.
Despite issue #5’s short page count, there’s still a lot happening and even more questions being asked. In a knowing wink to the reader, Miles is told that he deserves answers. Don’t we all? While I’m enjoying the ride so far, the central mystery of Peter’s return is soon approaching its sell-by date. It’ll need to be properly addressed before it goes from intriguing to frustrating.
Hurry up, October!
Perhaps the best Spidey book on the shelves these days, Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man shows no sign of slowing down. Beautiful artwork, a deepening behind-the-scenes mystery and a shocking confrontation make this another excellent entry in the series to date.