There’s that fantastic line in Spider-Man #2 when Miles says, “I don’t want to be the black Spider-Man. I just want to be Spider-Man.” I loved that scene, and as I’d mentioned in my review of that issue, I’ve lived my own version of that moment. It was also an interesting reflection of Miles’ reception in the real world. Miles feels that he should be more than his skin color, and rightfully so. I remember being a teenager and feeling the true weight of that idea for the first time. I get it.
“Hey kid! Spider-Man is a kid of color now. That is cool. It’s important. Don’t screw it up.”
What the hell is that?!? When fangirl Danika throws out this kind of empty praise in issue #2, it’s meant to be aggravating, but when it comes from an elder hero (who happens to be black), then suddenly it’s supposed to carry some kind of meaning? To be fair, Miles doesn’t offer a verbal response and we can’t see his facial expression behind the mask, but Luke’s unprompted comment left me as a reader feeling incredibly annoyed. And no, Luke calling Miles one of “the little brothers” doesn’t excuse it.
Hey, I don’t expect a realistic in-depth lens into racial identity in a $3.99 mainstream superhero comic book, but if we’re going to open the door as we did at the beginning of this volume, then I certainly expect it to be handled a bit more thoughtfully and not conveniently summed up in such a trite manner.
Not to mention that Luke and Jessica had just finished lecturing Miles about protecting his identity…only for Luke to send him off by saying, “Don’t forget, everybody knows that you’re not white! That’s cool and important because…it’s cool and important!”
What a letdown. Miles debuted in 2011. At this point, spouting off lines like that with zero attempt to get into *why* feels worse than a missed opportunity; it feels like token lip service.
Then again, the idea of disillusionment is a running theme in this issue. Sara Pichelli’s movie poster cover captures these feelings in a beautiful way, with Spider-Man, Nova, and Ms. Marvel bearing the different burdens that come with inheriting another hero’s legacy. Despite the fantastic over-the-top nature of this story, there are still some very real moments here. I appreciated Miles yelling in frustration when he learns how Jessica Jones got involved in his life (I’ve had the same response to certain family members!). Then there was Nova’s pride at being included in the heroes’ summit and Kamala’s hero worship of Captain Marvel, only to then see them colossally heartbroken after things take a darker turn.
Speaking of which…
If your company has to do a major “nothing will be the same again” crossover event and you have to tie solo books into it, then (taken in sequence), Spider-Man #8 proves that there is a thoughtful way to make it work. Despite my frustrations with a key aspect of the plot, I still genuinely admire how Bendis carefully set up interesting ideas about profile-based judgment and the notion of feeling obligated to step into a conflict vs. looking out for yourself. These are big questions for anybody, and it’s been satisfying as a reader to see Miles get an interesting range of perspectives. I’m curious to see how they inform his decisions going forward.
I’d raved about Nico Leon’s thoughtful panel work last issue and he does it again here in the moment where Sam and Miles comfort Kamala, using a brief flash of humor before settling into a tender moment of reassurance, with Marte Gracia’s deep reds matching the warmth of the scene. Leon and Gracia cover an impressive range here, from the lighthearted feel of the rooftop conversations (I can’t get enough of Leon’s amusing expressions with the Spider-Man mask) to the nightmare scenario that happens once the book fully embraces the Civil War II crossover. It gave the issue a larger-than-life feel, almost to the point where it felt like two separate titles. Then again, that seems appropriate given the content.
I like the series and am still invested in it. I just wish it didn’t fumble the identity theme.
If we have to have a crossover event and have to tie in a character’s solo book, then this a thoughtful way to do it. This is a story about disillusionment, conveyed through believable human moments and intense artwork. Unfortunately, that same disappointment carries through in its half-baked handling of Miles’ racial identity. It’s been five years; hasn’t Miles earned the right to be more than a novelty?