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Spider-Men II #3 – REVIEW

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It’s been one month since Spider-Men II #2 fumbled the “Who is Miles Morales” reveal that had been five years in the making. Instead of an answer, we got “nothing”. And it was underwhelming to say the least.

Probably seeing that annoyance and frustration coming from the fanbase, Brian Bendis and company decided to launch right into the answer in Spider-Men II #3. This comic book is 100% Evil Miles Morales backstory – no Peter Parker, no Our Miles Morales, nothing Spidery. This is just 20 pages of learning who that other Miles Morales really is, and why he might be such a formidable and shocking figure to our Miles Morales.

Except…that’s not entirely true. It’s not all about Evil Miles. It’s actually all about Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. And the Kingpin’s origin. Wilson Fisk is the point-of-view character, he’s the one pushing the action forward, and he’s the one with the most on-panel time. This is a story about Wilson Fisk and the friendship that he makes with a man he was sent to prison to protect, a man who wound up protecting him instead.

The problem with this story (and we’ll get to the good soon, this is a Bendis crime comic after all, so it’s really engrossing) is that we’ve been led to believe that the revelation of who the other Miles Morales actually is will shake us to our core and will be majorly important to Spider-lore going forward. But even after 20 pages, we still don’t know who Miles Morales actually is.

We get hints of this Miles’ backstory: he was sent to jail after taking the fall for something his cousin did, he’s tied to a mob family, and he’s in love with a woman named Barbara. But he’s simply a passenger in this car that’s being driven by Wilson Fisk. We have no idea about Miles’ actual personality or feelings at any point in this comic book. We don’t know what his cousin did or why Miles took the fall for it. We don’t know whether Miles is willingly tied to a mob family or if he’s more of  a reluctant participant, we don’t even know what Miles loves so much about Barbara other than the fact that she can now look past his face scar.

This issue is filled with a lot of surface level revelations that either means nothing to readers, or is worthy of an eyeroll. We see how Miles gets his face scar. We’re told how Wilson Fisk got the name “Kingpin”. We the start of Wilson’s fascination with suits. No. I am not even joking. His suits.

This other Miles is given no agency here other than a last page reveal that he wants out of the mob life for dubious reasons, and another mystery about how he disappeared so effectively.

As another chapter in this ongoing narrative, this issue is a failure.

But, despite all I’ve bagged on this comic to this point, on a surface level this comic book is some good fun. Bendis is at his best when writing simple crime stories (Defenders being his best current ongoing is just one of many, many examples of this) and this is a dumb fun crime story.

In this issue we get intentionally-incarcerated characters, prison shower fights, long-lasting crime-bro friendships, the usurping of an old don. All of the classics, really. Bendis writes it well, crime being the genre in which his distinct dialogue sounds most at home.

Sara Pichelli, likewise, draws it well. The violence is appropriate levels of gritty and the talking scenes are dynamic and energetic. She alters her style just enough to capture both the grunge of prison and the luxurious mob lifestyle on the outside. Justin Ponsor similarly dulls his colors slightly from the superhero brights of Spider-adventures to more accurately set the mood for this darker tale.

Really, this is an issue that I can see going either way for people. The creative team are so in their element in this genre that it makes for a solid, mindless read. But if you care at all about the ongoing tale that is being told, this issue is another failure to satisfy questions and a failure to establish a character. You get one chance for a supervillain to make their “full issue origin story” debut, and I think they blew this one for Evil Miles.

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