I realize it’s easy for readers to make the assumption that Miles is getting consistently overshadowed by other characters in the various narrative arcs since his introduction into the “proper” Marvel universe. I would also suggest, however, that it’s still relatively early in this young hero’s career. He could stand to benefit from the guidance of the many more seasoned supers with whom he associates, and while Gwen may be an arguable fit into that category, I believe this issue of Spider-Man provides a compelling case for why he may believably still have a ways to go in his development as a superhero.
This arc, “Sitting In a Tree,” whose title I despise for its glib focus on THE KISS and not the organic development that has led these two characters to bond thus far, started in the previous issue with Miles landing in Gwen’s Earth-65 stomping grounds after Maria Hill confessed that Miles’s dad was likely there. He meets Gwen, and in the previous part, they banter and get acquainted as they try to find his dad based on a tip from that dimension’s Matt Murdock. After a couple of revealing exchanges that form the foundation for a believable friendship, they find themselves at Club Scorpion, facing off with Miles’s dad, Jefferson.
And it’s here where we see Miles start to come apart. Led more by his heart than by his head, he makes one questionable-to-bad decision after another, forcing Gwen to get involved so he doesn’t get himself killed. It could be argued that these are still rookie mistakes, even if they are very believable and understandable ones–Miles, after all, is looking for his dad, doesn’t know why he’s behaving in this way, and has found him in a strange dimension that is eerily reflective of his own. Without his head in the game, Gwen steps in and saves his hide several times, by taking on Jefferson and his goons, forcibly stopping Miles from pursuing the cops and his father by webbing him up, and using his dimensional wristwatch to help them escape from the cops.
The Spider-Man comics, particularly Amazing at several points, have had the criticism of the main characters being outdone or overshadowed by other characters. The difference between that situation and Miles’s here is experience. From a publication standpoint alone, Peter Parker has over fifty years worth of stories under his belt. However that may translate into his years on the job in comics, he should be an experienced, confident superhero. Miles has been around since 2011. He’s not even 17, and he’s therefore been at this superhero gig for a far shorter time. He should be making mistakes like these, and getting reeled in by his peers.
And yes, I realize Gwen is even “younger” in terms of publication history. But she’s also apparently been at this for a while before her comic started. I’ve seen enough characterization of her to have no problem with her status as a non-newbie superhero.
What I find strongest about this part of the story is that, even though Gwen does a lot of the rescuing and guiding for Miles, it’s never done in a derisive way. She webs him up to stop him from going after his father, but she immediately follows it up with a sympathetic hug, letting him know she understands how difficult this is for him. She talks to him like a peer, and treats him in a humane way, even when some of his choices could have easily provoked a snide, snarky response from her. Even Miles admits she’s more creative in the use of her powers than he is with his, as she takes on Jefferson’s henchmen while he’s down. It makes for a powerful reminder that, while Miles is formidable and full of potential, he’s still learning, and needs to take support from his allies when it’s offered.
The story within a story device is only utilized twice here, but in full support of the narrative. I was particularly amused by the latter one, with Ganke’s lampshading of all the possibilities of who this “evil” Jefferson actually could be. Long live the geeky, genre-savvy friend.
There’s little for me to say about Sara Pichelli’s artwork here, other than it maintains her usual high standards and is a joy to look at. That she gets to illustrate Gwen here is wonderful, and she and Miles both pop in their action scenes. Jefferson is also very well done, particularly when he gets injured during the fight with Gwen–one page has multiple panels of his face, one before Gwen clocks him and another right after, with his eye swollen shut. It was a nice attention to detail that actually made me wince briefly for Jefferson.
I continue to be overall impressed by this title, and this team, even as the title of this arc makes me cringe. The artwork is great, the characterizations of the two spiders is both believable and fun to watch, and the question of what has happened to Miles’s father continues to develop in an interesting way. Definitely worth a read.