How exciting is that Spidey POV cover? The promise of Miles taking on THREE classic villains (including one that hasn’t even appeared in the current volume yet) sounds amazing!
Sorry, tiger. While it’s clearly in the cards for the future, none of that actually happens this month. In fact, most of Spider-Man #4 takes place on a much smaller scale, as Miles and Ganke experience a significant bump in their friendship. Although the action takes a back seat to conversation this month, there’s a good balance of tension, humor, and heart that reads as another great step forward in making the characters more relatable and interesting.
There’s a little bit of a post-Secret Wars continuity dance happening, but it’s safe to assume that Ganke is still responsible for helping Miles become Spider-Man – not just in terms of solving the web fluid formula (still necessary now that Peter’s around?) but also motivating him when he’s facing self-doubt. While their friendship is so close that people have long assumed that they’re a couple, issue #4 is the first time we go beyond the playful and always-funny squabbling to get a better sense of their dynamic.
Miles and Ganke haven’t really had other friends, although it’s never been clear as to why. Their vibe has always been goofy, but hardly awkward or antisocial. Judge never clicked because they were too busy hiding Miles’ secret identity, and Katie never got to be more than a plot device, but the introduction of Fabio suggests that Bendis is making an effort to better define the pair as individuals.
I really enjoyed their game of “who has it worse” while arguing about approaching Goldballs, because it managed to be warm, poignant, and believable. Both open up about the loneliness in feeling judged solely on their appearance (something never discussed in the series to date), but rather than bond over feeling like outsiders, they gently undermine each other for the sake of scoring points. There’s a hint that while Ganke isn’t quite jealous of Miles’ relationship with the Avengers, he’s aware that he can’t relate to his only friend as well as he used to (which is *such* a high-school experience). I loved the feeling of honesty within the script, which got me to care even more for the characters.
I wasn’t initially sold on the idea of Goldballs as a new supporting cast member, but it was Ganke that helped me connect some dots. At first it seems like Ganke is simply star-struck by having an ex-X-Man as a classmate, but he sees Fabio as the Venn diagram intersection between himself and Miles. Not only was he a genuine super-hero, but he’s…also a bit heavier. That’s it, but his logic worked for me.
Personally, I found the earnestness behind Ganke’s rationale to be incredibly endearing, because even though Miles laughs it off, it’s clearly tough for Ganke who is usually so upbeat and seemingly oblivious to social norms. And though his enthusiasm about Goldballs throws Miles into an incredibly difficult situation, it’s clear that he’d sincerely meant well for his best friend. These types of interactions are what defined the original Ultimate Spider-Man and I’m willing to get Miles’ story at a slightly slower pace if it means more sharp and funny scenes like this one.
Sara Pichelli’s range continues to knock me out, especially as she makes a potentially boring visual scene (conversation in a high school cafeteria) captivating. At first glance, it might seem like repeated panels, but the slight alterations with expressions and movements perfectly matches the rhythm of script making their “acting” beautifully come to life.
It’s not all chatting as the script switches gears to deliver some action and Pichelli conveys a sense of speed as Spider-Man leaves school only to get ambushed. I don’t know if it was Pichelli’s or colorist Justin Ponsor’s call, but I loved the shot of Miles turning a corner and trailed by a blur of black and red to convey motion. As for the sequence itself, it’s interesting to see Miles on his own and scrambling to think strategically – how to stop the threat and stay alive while protecting the innocent? The danger itself isn’t particularly unique, but Miles’ internal monologue offered a great take on how Spider-Man uses humor to stay calm.
Spider-Man uses his camouflage mode during the chase, and similar to my response to the venom sting, this is an ability that I always forget about until Miles uses it. And then when he does, it never seems as exciting as it could be. I wonder if part of that has to do with Miles not really using it out of costume in his everyday life or the absence of any limitation to using it. It just sort of happens and adds a beat to the action sequence. That’s not meant as a complaint; I just feel indifferent about its use to set Miles apart from Peter.
While the cliffhanger reassured me that the vengeance plot wasn’t going to be dragged out for too long, I’m admittedly not invested in that part of the story yet. However, I appreciate kicking this volume off on such an accessible scale and now slightly dreading how Civil War II could potentially disrupt things.