Welcome back to our latest Orbital Reading List! In celebration of Spider-Man: Homecoming slinging it’s way into cinemas we’re taking a deep-dive into NYC’s favourite wall-crawler. This segment concentrates on the later incarnations, namely Miles Morales, The Ultimate Spider-Man. Onwards, true believer!
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE-SPIDER MAN (ULTIMATE COLLECTION – VOL.1)
Brian Michael Bendis (w), Sara Pichelli (a)
Although our reading-lists usually follow the chronological order of the published trades and stay single-universe, this iteration of Spidey is different for reasons that will become clear later on in the list. This is the Ultimate Universe and Peter Parker is still Spider-Man, just as he is in the 616. But there are changes coming…
In terms of straight-up super-hero comics, this is one of the best things I’ve read in years! Miles Morales is a promising high-school student with a keen interest in science. Sadly for Miles he doesn’t have a kindly Uncle Ben looking over his shoulder (nor does he need it – his parents are alive well and happily married). Instead he has a distinctly dodgy Uncle Aaron. And sure, they like each other. Sure, Uncle Aaron dispenses advice… but Uncle Aaron is also a costumed thief who specialises in tech crime. When he robs the now-defunct Oscorp HQ, an experimental Spider stows away in Aaron’s kit-bag. Guess who gets bit?
Technically, this is an in-continuity reboot. Peter Parker is still in this universe and he’s still Spider-Man. But when events ensure that Peter can no longer continue in the role, Miles decides there still needs to be a Spider-Man and he’s going to step in. As with all the Ultimate books, this re-does the core touchstones, but edges them closer to ‘real-life’, whilst still having enough crazy elements to make it Marvel. Miles is a great character, full of angst (most of it imposed on him by his family) struggling with school and his secret identity. An identity that his best friend Ganke knows about and that they both struggle to keep a secret from Judge, their room-mate at an exclusive academy they have both been accepted to. There’s a LOT happening in this first volume. It’s entertaining, heartfelt and emotional. The way Spider-Man should be.
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (ULTIMATE COLLECTION – VOL. 2)
Brian Michael Bendis (w), David Marquez, Peppe Larraz, Sara Pichelli (a)
The first volume of this series was very much about Miles and his responsibility to a legacy. This volume is all about his responsibility to his family, his friends and as the book progresses, to his fellow super-heroes.
Miles is full on Spidey here, even gaining the web-shooters (finally!). But when an incident with Venom anchors him to tragedy, it’s ‘Spider-Man No More’ for Miles. This is a great way to redo those touchstone classic tales. For us newbies, it deepens the character. For the long-time readers, it gives them something familiar and new at the same time. Miles has to juggle with the morals of being a super-hero: who does it help and who does it hurt? When he quits, you really feel the kid’s pain.
But no one stays out of the game long in comics. Miles eventually comes back and has himself several good ol’ fashioned team-ups, most notably with the Ultimate U’s Cloak & Dagger! They prove a formidable team, a group of teen heroes struggling to figure out how they got the way they are. The answer is….
Nope, sorry you’ll just have to read it!
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (ULTIMATE COLLECTION – VOL.3)
Brian Michael Bendis (w), Various (a)
So we come to the final volume in the early days of Miles Morales. It’s this volume where Miles really starts to come into his own, facing off against Hydra, Electro, The Green Goblin and his new girlfriend. Miles stands on the cusp of adulthood. This feels a little more compressed than the other two books which does hurt it a bit. Personally, I could have done with another two compendiums’ worth of Miles’ adventures in the Ultimate Universe but alas, just as we get to to the good stuff, along comes Secret Wars to annexe your favourite titles.
Don’t get me wrong. This is still a great volume. There’s sixteen issues worth of Morales action in this and every one is a winner thanks to Bendis’ writing and the superb art. But I feel Miles should have stayed in the Ultimate Universe just a year or so longer. You do get the added highlight of seeing just what secrets Miles’ dad is hiding in this trade, though. Trust me, its good! Also, for the record, I have read Secret Wars. And I liked it.
SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES (2016 – VOL.1)
Brian Michael Bendis (w), Sara Pichelli (a)
So Miles is now part of the newly reformed ‘616’ universe, alongside the O.G. Peter Parker Spider-Man. The interesting thing about this is that now instead of his criminally-inclined uncle ‘looking out’ for him, Miles now has the Original Spider-Man looking over his shoulder. Pressure much?
Miles is still Miles. He still has girl-trouble, school-trouble and family-trouble. And he still has to add super-villain-destroying-the-city-trouble to contend with on top of that. Plus, he’s just made himself super-famous thanks to stopping a demon from destroying the Avengers. This has a great balance between Miles’ life as a teenager and student and his life as Spider-Man and the trouble those two lives cause for each other.
SPIDER-MAN: MILES MORALES (VOL.2)
Brian Michael Bendis (w), Nico Leon, Sara Pichelli (a)
This volume gets Miles all tangled up in a web he didn’t make: Civil War II! When one of Ulysses’ predictions puts Miles dead center in the heart of the conflict (where else would he be?), he has to make some difficult choices.
This is a great learning curve for Miles. He has to forge his own path, maybe away from the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. It also gives us a glimpse into the lives of his super-circle of friends (like Nova and Ms. Marvel) and it’s here that we see the beginnings of the Champions team, something that will change Miles’ life for the better. And if that wasn’t enough we dive back into the history of Miles’ father.
As with the earlier volumes of both the Ultimate Spider-Man and the 616 Miles, you really do get a sense of a character growing up before your eyes. It’s one of the benefits of an ongoing series that kind of gets ignored, but is very much the point here. Miles has to mature, has to fall in love, get his heart broken, get in trouble at home… He has to live a life. Most important though is nature of Spider-Man (Parker or Morales): The character isn’t just Amazing or Spectacular. He’s irrepressible!
That’s it for Part 2 of our reading list that does whatever a reading list can. Join us for the third part soon… In the meantime, check out Part 1 here. And remember, you can book your tickets here to see Spider-Man: Homecoming at The Cineworld Leicester Square. Oh and you can read Liz’s spoiler-free review right here!