Marvel has had a tough time fitting Miles Morales into the main universe for the last few years. In the Ultimate universe, it was easy to make sense of him; he was the only Spider-Man there at the time. But once he inhabited a space with Parker — and the other 50 spider-people in 616 NYC — it became clear that he was undercooked as a character.

Benis just kinda chugged along and wrapped his run up without really fixing the problem. Ahmed did perfect superhero comics–that is, as long as “perfect superhero comics” means forgettable and fixing problems like “oh, Miles’ dad’s name is racist”.

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Miles has very much needed actual characterization, especially after the Spider-Verse films have so roundly proved that it can be done extremely well. This time, it’s Cody Ziglar at bat, and he might have a pretty solid hit here.

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What works best for me is that way this shows the pressure that Miles is under. It centers the conflict around Miles doing the classic balancing act of being a student, being a teen, and being a superhero, and it does so quickly and effectively. I appreciate how much this doesn’t feel like generic Spider-Man comics either, especially with Miles having so many friends and family that know his secret, but still hold him accountable for making mistakes. He’s late to things just like Peter, and there are consequences, but those consequences get to be unpacked more. It’s a small thing, but everything feels fresher.

Still, that pressure is evident all across the volume. Miles holds himself to high standards, both as a person, and as Spider-Man, and this volume is all about those expectations, both internal and external. Immediately in the first issue, Miles is confronted by: his best friend, who he’s letting down; his parents, who are understanding of his complicated life, but still ground him; his teacher, who suspends him; and cops, ACAB; all of whom have different reasons for being let down, but all add to his general load of problems. Miles is held to such a high standard in so many areas, and he can’t always get there.

All of this comes to a thematic head with the villain of the book, which makes all of those expectations and standards literal. Raneem knows well the pressures of life, and how unfair it can be. Where Miles won the lottery to get into Visions Academy, she didn’t. And that could have been fine, but Miles is squandering that opportunity. So Raneem wants to make things fair.

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There are parts of Raneem that I think are one-dimensional and overly simplistic. Her motivation is a solid concept, but execution is kind of all over the place, and ultimately, she’s too extreme too fast, in my opinion. But the core metaphor there, where lower classes–specifically people of color–are pitted against each other to “earn a spot” or to meet some standard that was set for them reads really well here. It’s not enough that Miles is a good Spider-Man, or brother, or son, friend, boyfriend, protege, student, person; he has to excel at all of those things at the same time. He has to be nice and friendly and funny, even when breaking Scorpion’s jaw. He needs to get straight A’s even when he also has to save Brooklyn at noon.

For all of Raneem’s flaws as a character, she literalizes that metaphor in a way that was really effective for me – it was a great use of Miles and treatment of him as a character.

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The art in this volume is also really great, and has definitely made me a fan of Vicentini’s. He gets how to draw Spider-Man in dynamic poses all the time, and is some of the best web slinging I’ve read recently. Definitely up there with JRJR right now. Stellar action that makes Spider-Man look amazing at all times. It’s possible this series could take a big dip in quality — especially with all the tie-ins it’s been saddled with after issue #5 – but based on this volume, I can see this being the definitive Miles Morales book, at least for the foreseeable future. Vicentini and Ziglar are cooking here, and I think it’ll be fun to go along with it.

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 This could end up becoming the definitive Miles Morales book.  Read More