No one validates the phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover” like Marvel does.
Given the passionate image that graces the front of this issue of Spider-Man, you could be forgiven for supposing the story would be some hormonally-driven piece of drivel that comes out of nowhere between two teenage spider-characters who barely know each other. It is a romp, to be sure, but certainly not in the sense that image suggests, and instead we get a compelling continuation of events from the previous issue that leads Miles to a new (for him) locale as he searches for his dad.
Although bookended by appearances from Spider-Gwen on the first and last pages, the story in this installment is actually devoid of her involvement until the final panel. Readers are instead given the start of an adventure as Miles realizes his father’s absence, begins looking for him, and then gets a bridgetop visit from Maria Hill, who tells him his father is off on an unsanctioned S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, and that she needs him to find him for her. Using one of the dimension hopping wristwatches S.H.I.E.L.D. had, he journeys to another dimension, and finds himself suddenly in Spider-Gwen’s Earth-65.
I’m glad we’ve gotten back to basics with this character and his world, dimension hopping notwithstanding. Bendis and Pichelli both have given readers a lot to like about this issue, from Ganke hilariously lampshading the first image of the story to reaching way down into the D-list villains catalog to throw Miles up against the Ringer–well, sort of. Whereas last issue we got into Jefferson’s head, now we’re following Miles as he deals with the consequences of the thinking that led his father to this point.
The framing of this story within the device of recollection/flashback works well for allowing commentary and feedback from listeners, and Bendis wisely uses Ganke to take advantage of this. Hill’s willingness to come clean with Miles about his father, while self-serving, also puts the hero mostly on the same page with his benefactor, something we don’t often get in these kinds of stories. I like to think this, coupled with moments like Miles eschewing the tendency to get offended at Hill so he can instead just focus on retrieving his father, show that we’re getting a hero who is both tonally different from the original Spider-Man, and who prefers action to words, something I can totally get behind.
The artwork does a fantastic job of making this story unique and memorable. Pichelli’s depictions of Maria Hill were especially interesting, particularly when she kind of just appears to Miles in the sky from above, descending from the Helicarrier in her jet boots like some kind of angel. A lot is done with lighting and shade to uphold this image, and while I’ll never be convinced that Hill is any angel, her appearance to Miles with information and means to find his father certainly makes her a force for good at present.
I also love the way the color palette shifts from the relatively balanced, kind of dark-leaning tones of the prime universe to the pink-electric brightness of the world created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez when Miles gets to Earth-65. This contrast really illustrates the importance of how color can influence how settings are portrayed and regarded, and I think it’s great that Justin Ponsor took this into account and ran with it so adeptly.
While it’s not perfect–I had some issues with Rio’s panicked helplessness and Miles needing to direct her, an ER nurse who’s likely dealt with situations like this before–the flaws are relatively subsumed in a work that makes for a great continuation of post-Civil War II narrative that will hopefully keep showcasing just how great this title can be. Highly recommended for Spider-Fans and those who like a good adventure alike.