Good news: Despite a slightly awkward start, Spider-Man #2 continues to meet the high bar set in its debut issue.
What does it mean for Miles Morales to be Spider-Man?
Enter Peter Parker. While Miles is in full (and funny!) fanboy mode, Pete’s having second thoughts on allowing him to operate as New York’s webslinger. Their opening “confrontation” was a little off-balance for me. I didn’t quite follow Peter’s concern that Spider-Man would somehow be blamed for Blackheart, (especially given that the Avengers dropped the ball) nor did it seem likely that Miles would lose his hero privileges so early on in the run. The ensuing battle is almost an afterthought (more on that below), and although the payoff of Miles’ validation feels rushed, Peter’s words still set an important tone for the book going forward. It almost reads as if Bendis is getting the Peter-Miles link out of the way so that he can focus on his lead character, which is not a bad thing.
And this is where it gets interesting. Spider-Man’s costume was ripped during the fight, which has happened to Peter countless times over the years with zero repercussion. The world now knows that the new Spidey is not white. What does this mean for Miles?
I’ve written about Miles, race, and Spider-Man before, and had always appreciated how Bendis had steered clear of making Miles’ skin color a defining characteristic. Despite the mainstream shorthand of “black Spider-Man” to distinguish him from Peter, we as fans know that there’s more to him than that (he’s biracial, for starters). But given the character’s popularity and the surge in racial politics over the last few years, it’s become the elephant in the room.
Bendis handles this beautifully by taking an unexpected turn. Unlike Glenn Beck’s insane reaction to Miles in 2011, we see the opposite extreme as a teenaged video blogger gushes over how awesome it is that the new Spidey is a person of color! Diversity represent! That’s good, right?
Well, it’s not so black and white.
I grew up as a minority in the Midwest and was very aware of standing out in a crowd. I wanted be more than the token dark person, regardless of someone thinking of it as a good or bad thing. It wasn’t constant, but that kind of superficial acknowledgment (even when it was “well-intentioned”) often made feel like more of a novelty than a person. I resented it.
So I admit to feeling a bit emotional seeing Miles’ believable reaction, as he expressed similar resentment at being celebrated for his skin color. “I don’t want to be the black Spider-Man. I want to be Spider-Man” was a powerful moment. It’s not uncommon to see positive support for diversity as shown in Danika’s video blog, but we rarely see reactions like Miles’: Why is it such a big deal to you? Who cares? Why I can’t just be known for me instead of my skin color? Plus you’ve got it wrong, anyway – I’m half Hispanic.
This scene is a major step forward for both Marvel and Miles, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. That brief moment captured many of the complicated feelings that I grew up navigating and am getting ready to talk through with my own biracial kids. It also made me even more excited about the book’s title: SPIDER-MAN, with no qualifiers. So if you happen to read this, Brian: Wow and thank you.
In a nice display of efficient scripting; Bendis is able to have the media articulate more public reaction to the new Spider-Man while introducing a new player into the mix. This character offers an opportunity to reunite Peter and Miles again, but I’m more interested in seeing how Miles would handle them on his own.
Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor continue to deliver astonishing work in this issue. I was particularly taken with the panel of Ganke and Miles watching the video. Between the facial features and the dramatic lighting of the tablet glow, I thought that the two friends had never looked more real than in that scene (and that’s saying something, given the high bar of Miles’ series to date). Their intense expressions raised the impact of the dialogue to a new level. I’m also loving the playful chibi-style characters and warm colors for Miles’ flashbacks; I can only imagine how fun they must be to put together and that they keep things fresh for the creative team.
A few things didn’t click for me: I’m confused about Miles’ relationship with the Avengers here, given that he’s a full-fledged member of the team in another series. And while Blackheart looks phenomenal, the fact that he’s so “easily” dispatched makes him boring. The action sequence is beautifully rendered and choreographed (the use of the mailbox was REALLY satisfying), but there was little tension because it seemed like a given that Miles’ sting would save the day. The fight felt surprisingly tedious and the scene was saved by a funny fourth-wall tapping clarification of Spider-Man’s motto.
The cliffhanger introduction of a new character had me laughing out loud and then genuinely terrified. I think she’s an inspired choice to expand both Miles’ supporting cast and our understanding of him as an individual on a few levels. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this character and their relationship.
So far, Spider-Man is not only delivering the character-driven experience that made the original Ultimate Spider-Man a success, but taking it in a bold new direction. Bendis finally addresses Miles’ ethnicity and captures a viewpoint that many of us may not have considered.