The moment has arrived: Miles Morales confronts the monster that killed Peter Parker. Surrounded by smoke and flame, the new Spider-Man and the Green Goblin are finally ready for the Ultimate Showdown.
So naturally, issue #4 picks up from the previous story’s other cliffhanger (if you can call it that) by following up on a broken-hearted Katie Bishop, who is tearfully confiding to her sister about having just learned that her wonderful boyfriend is in fact Spider-Man.
My earlier reviews had already mentioned my frustrations with Katie’s portrayal as a cipher in the series to date. While I wanted to get to know her character better (as we knew nothing about her, her family, etc.), it seemed oddly jarring to jump from fire and terror to a quiet sisterly chat. Really? We’re doing this *now*?
O Me of Little Faith. Bendis has played this exceptionally well as seemingly disparate threads appear to be slowly tied together.
Katie’s sister Misha advises her to break off the relationship, mainly in fear of their parents’ reaction. But is Misha’s prediction of Mom and Dad’s response standard teenage hyperbole or is there more to it? Without spoiling it, I believe that the answer may be hidden in plain sight. Re-read the opening recap page and ask yourself: Why is that particular plot point being referenced when it’s not otherwise addressed in this issue?
Which brings me to why we’re really here: Spider-Man versus The Green Goblin! Epic showdown moments like these are traditionally built up over multiple issues or even several story arcs, but Miles Morales managed to generate an incredible level of tension and anticipation in only three issues. For a series whose established strength was in the art of the “slow burn”, this was a dramatic shift in storytelling. Even more excitingly, it’s successful!
The Goblin (and Peter Parker) also recently returned in the 616 continuity, which saw a huge build up resolve in a lackluster finale. I couldn’t help but wonder if this series would fall into a similar trap. Far from it! Here, Spider-Man and the Green Goblin jump into a full-on brawl. It’s spread out over several pages and is everything you’d want to see in an action sequence. As exciting as it was, I still wasn’t sure *why* the Goblin and Spider-Man both just happened to converge at the site of Peter’s death. Once again, Bendis playfully acknowledges his readers’ questions by having characters directly echo such thoughts within the script. Acknowledged, but not answered.
And then the intensity goes to 11. In a jaw-dropping moment, the original Spider-Man (or is he?) enters the fray. Familiar red and blue costume, ready to unleash his trademarked combination physical-verbal smackdown. Having knocked Miles unconscious in issue #2, he’s now ready to stand side-by-side with him (even giving him a nickname) to face a common enemy. In the heat of the moment, all is apparently forgiven.
This moment is remarkably powerful and is everything that the oddly weak “My turn” moment in Superior Spider-Man #30 wasn’t. Here, the script and instantly iconic visual firmly reestablish the heart and soul of a character once thought gone forever. I’d loved Peter’s story, mourned his loss, and moved on to welcome Miles. As such, I’m still not quite ready to accept his apparent return as real or even permanent (especially in a series entitled Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man).
And for me, this moment is where Bendis and Marquez bring their “A” game into full force.
While the game-changing scenes of Peter’s return and the Goblin confrontation in the Superior Spider-Man finale left me feeling almost indifferent, their equivalents in the Ultimate universe had me cheering out loud. Despite my “this can’t really be him, he shouldn’t be here!” reservations, I still found myself getting completely caught up in this punch-the-air moment. He’s (apparently) back!
David Marquez delivers what may be his best Spider-Man work yet. The fight choreography is astonishing while “everyday moments” like Katie bursting into her room feel dynamic and fluid. Characters are rendered beautifully and particularly shine in two separate pages depicting the supporting cast’s reactions to unfolding events. The composition of these pages is stunning; you may even recognize your own reaction (I was Jameson). There are even moments of humor, notably as Miles unleashes his own attack on the Goblin.
Justin Ponsor’s coloring is equally phenomenal as he covers a wide range of moods. The interior scenes are warm and intimate while the nighttime battle burns with intensity. There’s also some exceptional lighting work as helicopters fly over the fight.
Marquez and Ponsor also deliver another incredible and meaningful cover for this series. While it may not reflect an actual scene in the issue, it captures the evolving core character dynamic and over-arching plot conflict. Note the struggling poses and the specific damage to Miles’ costume. With the return of the original Spider-Man, whose book is this, anyway?
Their (first?) battle with the Goblin behind them, the stakes are somehow left higher than ever for both Spider-Men. If this really is Peter, then what does his return mean for his family, the public who’d learned his identity after his death, and most importantly, his successor? Where can we possibly go from here?
And what about Katie? Or Miles’ dad, for that matter?
Is it September yet?