“Oh my God.” Those were Peter Parker’s exact words at the end of the first Spider-Men miniseries. At the conclusion of a cross-dimensional adventure that led to Peter meeting another world’s Spider-Man, a young man named Miles Morales, the hero thought to himself, “I wonder if we have a Miles Morales too?” Whatever he learned was so shocking that he audibly gasped, “Oh my God” to himself.
So what was is it? What was the stunning revelation to that Google search that we’ve been waiting five long years to finally learn? What was is it that shook Peter so?
Literally, the answer is “nothing”.
Peter Parker did a Google search for his world’s Miles Morales, found nothing, and then gasped “oh my God”. It’s an answer so anticlimactic, so disappointing and dull, that I’d probably just the drop the series at this point here if I wasn’t assigned to review the rest of it.
Now before we get into that “nothing” and how emblematic it is of this series’ first two issues (and more importantly, the overall Miles Morales narrative), let’s look at the counter to my disappointment. So, obviously the answer to the question “who is the other Miles Morales?” is something that is going to be answered in this series. We’ve seen glimpses of that character, we know a little bit about his evil, scarred ways. We are going to get some kind of answer, just not yet.
But why the “nothing” Google revelation is so problematic is because it feels like a bait and switch. We’ve been led to believe for the last five years that whatever Peter discovered on his laptop is something Earth-shaking. A game changer… We bought #1 hoping for an immediate answer. That was put off until #2 and now we have our answer, but it’s not actually the answer we were looking for – so maybe next month?
It’s a lie. It’s a retcon. It’s sleight of hand. Call it whatever you want, but clearly “nothing” wasn’t what Peter found when he uttered that phrase and looked bewildered five years ago. This is an artificial prolonging of the narrative.
Two issues into a five-issue miniseries and it still feels like we’re spinning our wheels. So far, Peter and Miles have teamed up and come across the Taskmaster. That’s it.
Worse, the creators knew the revelation was so dull that they had to structure the narrative in a flashforward/flashback style to let the readers know that there were future revelations coming. But that just slows down the book’s pace and makes for a jumbled story. Just when things get rolling and the plot is progressing we’re dragged elsewhere to see that Miles has still failed to catch up to that plane.
As with most of Miles’ stories since moving from the Ultimate Universe to the regular Marvel Universe, it just feels directionless and improvised. Marvel’s answer to The Kamandi Challenge. What happened in the last issue? How can we get out of that? I’m not sure yet, but we can think of something!
Beyond the directionlessness, this issue of Spider-Men II also exacerbates another of Miles’ biggest problems since joining the 616; what differentiates him from Peter? This was a concern directly addressed by Bendis in the recent Spider-Man #19, but apparently forgotten about here.
Bendis tends to have a problem where he writes multiple characters in the same scene to have the same voice. Often, it feels unintentional. A tick he either doesn’t know about or can’t help. But it’s seemingly written intentionally that way here and it’s completely bewildering why he would choose to do that. Peter and Miles’ banter back and forth in this chapter feels like a comedy routine between brothers. Or like Miles could be Peter’s younger clone. It takes all agency and uniqueness away from Miles when his dialogue and rhythms completely parrot that of Peter’s.
Also, and this might be a nitpick, Peter has a comment in this story about being three years older than Miles. I got the impression that Bendis was trying to write a joke here, but I honestly couldn’t figure out what the joke is and it just confuses the issue of the age difference. Peter is at minimum 10 years older than Miles right? Right!?
But I’ve spent too long bagging on the book’s writing when there’s plenty about the art to praise. Sara Pichelli’s characters are always in motion thanks to the way she renders character body movements and poses. Many of the book’s speech-heavy scenes are still dynamic thanks to Pichelli’s posturing. And if she’s making those scenes fluid, you better bet that when there’s action it goes from dynamic to thrilling.
Additionally, something exciting I noticed about her art for the first time here is how much her backgrounds add to scenes. There aren’t as many panels with backgrounds as I would like, but when they’re there they bring a new dimension to the scene. It puts you right there in the action.
Jessica Jones also appears here (Bendis cross-promotional plug!) and her one page montage of the crazy situations she got into while investigating The Other Miles is the best thing that happens in this issue and is a showpiece from Sara Pichelli (the final panel with Madam Hydra maybe being the funny/best panel of Pichelli’s career). I would love to read that miniseries.
Pichelli’s not enough to save a story that’s been fumbled so far. The revelations have been nonexistent to this point, the character interactions between Spider-Men baffling, and the plot progression insufficient. I was asked last week by a reader if they should pick up last month’s Spider-Men II #1. I told them to just wait until now and start with #2 because they hadn’t actually missed anything yet. That’s going to be just as true next month as it was this month. If you’re interested in the story, I think there’s enough Spider-intrigue here (plus the emotional pedigree of the previous miniseries) to believe this miniseries will eventually be worth it. But it’s not yet. Maybe start with #3?
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