Cards on the table: I’m not interested in Civil War II and was dreading the plot gymnastics orchestrated to drag Miles into Marvel’s latest event. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see Spider-Man #7 play out as it did, and enjoyed it despite what I felt were a few missteps.
So far I’ve been impressed with Bendis’ approach in balancing this series’ narrative with the larger story taking within the Marvel Universe. Last issue was about responsibility and the burden of secrets. This chapter is about responsibility and the burden of having to make a difficult decision.
And what better way to establish that theme than Sara Pichelli and Jason Keith’s beautifully simple cover? Spider-Man’s pose set against the fading light of day conveys loneliness, fatigue and a sense of being overwhelmed; difficult but relatable feelings that have been a part of this story since 1962.
Spider-Man #7 had a rough start as I found myself really put off by the “pre-credits” nightmare scene. While the imagery of destruction and slaughtered heroes isn’t particularly shocking these days, I was taken aback by the extreme level of violence that followed. While it could be seen a throwback to the Hulk’s more grotesque depiction in the Ultimate Universe, that’s not an aspect that I get particularly nostalgic about. Nico Leon’s art is powerfully dramatic here, with the unsettling image of Miles’ tattered face mask and the brute force of the Hulk unleashing hell. Marte Gracia’s colors match Leon beat for beat in this sequence, moving from a hellish glow to the cool blues of darkened bedrooms (I loved Gracia’s subtle change between Miles’ and his parents’ rooms, reflecting the tone of the script for those scenes).
Besides the violence, the other weak link in this issue for me was Miles’ expression of terror while fleeing the Hulk – the size of his eyes and mouth next to the Hulk’s menacing shadowed face ended up looking cartoony which slightly detracted from the next four disturbing panels.
That said, Leon provides a lot to enjoy in this issue. The final page of Jefferson and Rio’s conversation features some elegant panel work: The large panels feature a profile shot of each character weighed down by their conviction, while the smaller panels diminish in size as the couple’s conflict literally pushes them apart.
The heart of this issue sees the welcome return of Bombshell. Lana is the only other Ultimate hero that “crossed over” with Miles, making her an inspired choice to help him figure out his place in the “new” universe and its latest conflict. In issue #6, Tony seems to bait Miles to his cause with the word “profiling”, which then informed the conversation with his dad, who encourages him to side with Tony, based on his own negative experiences. This issue sees Miles now convinced that his role is essential, but it’s during a particularly eventful night patrol that Lana suggests the very believable idea that he’s being manipulated. I loved seeing a character whose powers and personality are like a force of nature also able to act as a calm voice of reason. Bendis has her ask the lead character, “Why do you have to be in this fight?”, encouraging him to step back and focus on himself; something I (perhaps selfishly) want to see more of for the character.
The teacher’s lecture that follows might seem a bit too on-the-nose at first (i.e., the same story can look completely different depending on our individual perspectives), but I appreciated Bendis’ effort to tie the themes of the issue’s various plots together, especially keeping younger readers in mind. There’s a lot going on here, and as the Civil War II conflict is a bit more nuanced than the original event, it’s great to see this series carefully build on those themes as opposed to rushing toward spectacle.
As for the cliffhanger: The cynic in me says that it’s a fun bit of well-timed cross-promotion, but I think that this particular character could shine an interesting light on things for Miles (and give him even more to consider in the process).
Miles struggles to understand his purpose as a hero in a chapter about making tough choices. There’s a lot going on here, and as the Civil War II conflict is a bit more nuanced than the original event, it’s great to see this series carefully build on those themes as opposed to rushing toward spectacle.