While the unabashed nonsense that is Marvel’s fetish for plodding, overarching, “universe- changing” events continues with Civil War II, many a title gets sucked in to service that narrative. These kinds of things don’t have to be a deal-breaker when they’re well done, but after just a few issues, I myself have pretty much given up on enjoying Civil War II, and its messy, poorly managed plot structure has damaged my ability to enjoy many of the titles caught in its wake. I’d like to say that Miles has gotten a reprieve from this situation, but while this issue brings things up a step from the previous, it’s still unfortunately safe to say there’s a long way to go.
I’ve always like Brian Michael Bendis, as far as his work on Ultimate Spider-Man has been concerned, even when his famously “decompressed” style of storytelling can sometimes come off as stilted and dragging. What I have admired about his writing of Miles Morales in particular was his ability to take this new character, put him in a similar situation to Peter’s, and change up the specifics of his story while making enough connections to the touchstone moments of Spider-Man lore to leave no doubt that this character is Spider-Man, and his story is a Spider-Man story. Miles is likable, engaging, and has a similar moral compass to the original Spider-Man, which he carries off successfully, thanks to Bendis.
Which is why, even with the unfortunate backdrop of Civil War II still hanging over his story, it’s a good thing this issue at least gets back to the basics of seeing things from Miles’s perspective. The wisdom of Marvel’s decision to bring Miles into the “prime” universe may be a subject of debate for some time, but there’s no doubt that the best way to keep things engaging is to keep the writing tight and simple, which (to me at least) means keeping the focus on this character. This is where Bendis shines, and helps him deliver a story that, while ultimately pointless in the context of the larger event, still provides an emotional hook that makes Miles and his supporting cast so memorable.
Miles’s friends have been looking for him, and now that Ganke has found him back at their dorm, the troops are gradually assembled as he recounts his version of events in Washington, D.C. We get a compelling look at the anger that sometimes drives Miles in his exploits as a superhero, as well as how that anger almost certainly influenced the ultimate outcome. The character moments from Miles’s friends that dominated the previous issue are notably toned down so we get a better sense of the gravitas this installment proffers, even if this story feels essentially like a retread of what we’ve already read in Civil War II.
And that is, unfortunately, the big problem here. I may sound like a broken record when it comes to my distaste with major event stories, but when a consistent part of the tie-ins becomes a simple rehashing of the main event with little to no extra insight, it’s hard to get excited for either. There are one or two scripting and pacing issues, such as Kamala’s sudden pop-in to the scene with no context, but next to this larger problem of event-itis, it’s an easily forgotten or dismissed oversight. We’re already pretty well removed from the story at this point.
Artistically, this is an issue that is fun to look at. Nico Leon proves his versatility, showing he can deliver excellent line work in more contained, intimate scenes as well as larger, sprawling action sequences. He’s helped by fine color work from Marte Gracia and Rachelle Rosenberg, making for artwork that helps put emotional weight into Bendis’s script, even if the overall story ends up feeling less consequential that if it had not been tethered to Civil War II.
Overall, I think we’re in a better place than the previous issue, but only just barely. If Bendis can get back to letting Miles have his own story, and give him more of a purpose for his big switch to the main universe, that will be a big improvement. As things currently stand, this installment is less of a good standalone story and more of a completionist’s buy, either for a Spider-Man collector, or someone who wants any and all of the Civil War II stories. While I can use one of those reasons for buying this issue, I can’t claim a genuine sense of overall enjoyment here, and that’s hardly a good place for this series to be.