Okay, I’m sure everyone’s expecting something about Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. But here’s the thing; right now I have nothing unique to say that wouldn’t just echo the fan and critical praise it’s already generating. I am in awe of this film. It’s so brilliant and fun and funny and it far surpassed my exceedingly high expectations. I’ve seen the future of Spider-Man movies and it is animated. Eventually, I’ll have something deeper or more thoughtful to say. But for now, I have to say this: If, like me, you’re beyond in love with Into The Spider-Verse then you need to read Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón’s Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1. For any Miles Morales fan, old or new, this comic is a love-at-first-page experience and the love grows exponentially with each following page. I’m one issue into the new creative team’s run and I’m already counting the days to issue #2.
Admittedly, Marvel does not have a great track record for timing their comic stories with their movie releases. When Steve Rogers takes a deeply divisive-yet-principled stand in the hugely anticipated Captain America: Civil War, Marvel runs the story of how Captain America’s *always* been a deep cover Hydra agent. When they release the “most ambitious crossover in history” with Avengers: Infinity War, they run their “Infinity Countdown/Infinity Wars” story where Gamora, the emotional centerpiece of Infinity War, is the major villain in the comic saga. I’m not one to say the comics and films should mirror each other, far from it. I prefer them being their own thing! However, I imagine new readers who love the film and want to experience more of the characters they fell in love with on screen could easily be turned off by such exceedingly dramatic tonal shifts. But Miles Morales: Spider-Man is a perfect pairing with Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse! And they came out the same week too!
Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón have captured lightening in a bottle with Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1. Anyone who loved meeting Miles in Into The Spider-Verse will adore this story. It’s also an exciting next chapter for those of us who already followed his adventures every month. Seriously, everyone wins with this comic.
The story is exceptional, especially for the first issue with a new creative team. Sometimes the transition can be less than smooth but it’s clear from go that Saladin Ahmed understands Miles and knows how to write a great superhero story. Via Miles’ journal we get to know all the people in his life. We see his relationship with his parents, Rio and Jefferson. We meet his friends, Ganke and Judge. We see his life at Brooklyn Visions Academy and get to glimpse the classes he’s taking which make him far more accessible as a character. He’s more real this way. We also meet his new love interest, Barbara. It’s exactly the sort of introduction new readers need but it’s also important for longtime fans as we see where everyone’s at in their lives as this new series begins.
We see Miles dealing with the classic Spider-Man struggle of balance and we get to see him doing his superhero thing too – from the daily issues like helping with fires and accidents to facing down the Rhino and some weird little robot things involved in a heist. I’d say more but, spoilers :). I will say I think the Rhino is a great choice for this first issue and I love how they use him. Also, I really dig Javier Garrón’s rendition of him. We see the towering monster but we also see his beard stubble jutting off his chin. It merges the real and the fantastic. I love how Miles moves too! For Spider-Man, so much of the feel of the comics comes down to movement and this feels like Spider-Man.
On the subject or Javier Garrón’s art, I always like to clarify I’m unprepared to comment on the art of a comic. It’s far from my area of academic training and I lack the technical language and knowledge to do it justice. But, as a fan, I can say I love it. Comic books run the spectrum from overtly cartoony to photo realism and Javier Garrón has Miles Morales: Spider-Man right in the middle sweet spot. It’s real but there’s a certain larger-than-life magic in the panels too. Since I was a kid that’s how I’ve always wanted my comic books to feel. And I love his depiction of Miles and Ganke! We see they’re growing up! The each have a new haircut. Their clothes are a little different too. Their style’s changing, becoming a little more mature and a little more their own. Teaching high school this is something I see all the time. As kids move from ninth to twelfth grade, they shed their middle school awkwardness and begin to develop their own personal style with their hair and clothes. The fact that we see this evolution happening with Miles and Ganke makes their characters so much more real to me.
As I mentioned above with the classes, this realistic development is part of the narrative too. Perhaps the most impressive (and realistic) way this character growth is presented is in how Saladin Ahmed uses our country’s current struggle with immigration and poverty.
Rio reads a newspaper article about more immigrant children being detained and she laments to Miles, “The whole world’s going crazy Miles. Look at this. I see this and I think about if someone took you from me at that age… People are afraid to bring their kids to the hospital. Afraid they’ll be locked up. It’s not right.” And when Miles hangs out with Barbara and her ten-year-old cousin Eduardo she tells him, “Poor kid. His father got deported last month. His mom is going through a whole situation trying to finally get them citizenship. He’s been here since he was two.” As Spider-Man, Miles swings around Brooklyn and sees people waiting in line for a hot meal and he wrestles with what he’s supposed to do.
I have the utmost respect for how Saladin Ahmed weaves this discussion into the comic. Obviously, I am a reader who appreciates social justice issues explored in the comics I read. I think it’s an important part of the mission of art and the comics that do it well find a special place in my heart. But it also fits organically with Miles’ character. I see this every year, teaching high school. I see kids become aware of the injustice in the world around them and begin to struggle with what they can and should do about it. What’s their power? What’s their responsibility? Having Miles see and struggle with this too doesn’t just make this a socially important comic book. It shows us he’s growing up. We begin to see things at fifteen or sixteen we couldn’t at thirteen. It also reflects his work with the Champions.
The cover of this first issue proclaims, “New Creative Team! New Direction! Your New Favorite Book!” As much as it may seem like it, this isn’t hyperbolic marketing. It speaks to the power and fun found inside the cover.
One of the first things I wanted to do when I returned to active comic reading after my seventeen year hiatus was track down the collected trades with Miles Morales as Spider-Man. As a lifelong Spider-Man fan, I had to meet this newbie who had taken the world by storm. Obviously, I fell in love with the character and, since then, have read all his solo comics. Towards the end of Brian Michael Bendis’ run, I felt arcs without a clear focus began to pop up. Miles felt a bit aimless, as though Bendis was losing his vision for where he wanted Miles to go. In hindsight, I’m sure his impending move to DC was weighing on his mind. I get that. It’s only natural and I certainly don’t fault him for it. The stories were still always fun, regardless.
However, in the hands of Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón, Miles Morales: Spider-Man feels like it has a clear focus, direction, and message. It feels like they know the sort of Spider-Man stories they want to tell with Miles. The title is fun, funny, relevant, and it feels important in a way it never has before. I have nothing but respect and thanks for all Brian Michael Bendis has done with Miles since creating him in 2011 but this changing of the guard is an exciting one. THIS is the Miles Morales I’ve been waiting for. And I didn’t even realize I was!
Perhaps this is the best way I can make my point. The single biggest factor that brought me back to reading comic books after so long away was G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel. I kept reading about this comic and I knew I needed to actually read it. Marvel felt relevant, important, and new in a way it hadn’t since I was a kid. I had to be a part of this. So, understandably, the news that G. Willow Wilson is leaving Ms. Marvel next year was a bit of a blow. THE author who created THE character who made me fall in love with comics all over again was leaving?? She’s the reason I have a DC title on my pull list! I couldn’t miss her Wonder Woman! I didn’t know how to feel. But then I read Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1. And while nothing will ever change how much G. Willow Wilson’s work with Ms. Marvel has meant to me, I’m now quite excited for Saladin Ahmed’s take on Kamala Khan. If his The Magnificent Ms. Marvel is half as good as his Miles Morales: Spider-Man then Ms. Marvel’s next era will be magnificent indeed.
Please, do yourself a favor. If you loved Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, read Miles Morales: Spider-Man. If you usually wait for the trades, that’s cool…but maybe think of getting a monthly subscription. It’s a whole new way to experience comics and it’s how they were meant to be read in the first place! I’m not trying to be preachy, just nostalgic :). You can support a little, independent comic shop in your area or, if you don’t have one, Marvel will mail it right to your house! (Here’s the link to this comic and, at the time of this writing, Marvel’s offering it at 40% off the cover price for a year! How can you resist?!?) Okay, sales pitch over. It’s just…I love this book. It became an indispensable part of my pull list with one issue. And I’m just excited to share the love! Go see the movie (again and again) and get your read on. You won’t regret it. We’ll THWIP it out together.