Spider-Men II has been a disappointment thus far. What made the team up of Peter Parker and Miles Morales in the first Spider-Men crossover mini-series has not been tapped into with this sequel series. It has not helped that the antagonist of this story, the older 616-Miles Morales, has not connected in the way Brian Bendis has intended. Now with one more issue left in Spider-Men II it’ll be interesting to see if Bendis can end the story strong and tap into what the series can be. Let’s find out if that is the case with Spider-Men II #5.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli and Mark Bagley
Inker: Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D’Amico and John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Peter Parker thinks back to how harsh he was to Miles Morales and thinks of how big of an idiot he was to tell the kid he had no business being Spider-Man.
Miles suddenly shows up and before Peter can apologize for what he says Miles says Peter can’t take those words back. Peter still apologizes and says that he forgot how Miles also has the weight of the Multiverse on his shoulders in this current adventure.
Peter then admits that he believes Miles is an amazing Spider-Man and was recently telling his friend that if something ever happened to him (Peter) he is glad Miles is around to carry the Spider-Man mantle. Miles still thinks being Spider-Man is Peter’s pain and that is why he has been off lately.
Peter finally realizes what Miles is going through. Peter tells Miles about how when he started out as a teen hero Reed Richards rejected his credentials, which made him cry into his mask. Peter then promises to make it up to Miles.
Peter then senses danger and notices gas filling the room. He quickly covers his and Miles mouth and nose with his webs to keep them from succumbing to the poison. Peter and Miles then quickly make their escape just as Taskmaster enters the building to fire his gun at them.
Peter and Miles create enough space to get Taskmaster. They use that space to have Peter create a distraction while Miles gets behind Taskmaster and use his venom strike to knock out the villain.
As that is going on the older Miles Morales is watching the two Spider-Men fighting Taskmaster from his limo. Miles tells his assistant that he is not coming back and he is leaving everything to Sasheer. He then tells Sasheer to live her dream and walks out to where Taskmaster is fighting the two Spider-Men.
The older Miles ends up sneaking into the building and finds the spot the Multiverse rift was open. He takes out a special device that opens the rift again and begins to enter it.
Before the older Miles can go through the Spider-Man Miles tells the older one not to do it. The older Miles doesn’t listen and shoots Spider-Man Miles in the shoulder. The older Miles enters the rift as Spider-Man (Peter) is still fighting Taskmaster.
An explosion suddenly occurs as the rift closes. During the explosion Taskmaster makes his escape.
The young Miles is able to dig himself out of the rubble and is found by Peter who hands him his mask so the cops approaching don’t discover his identity. Miles expresses that he was hoping for some closure but Peter reminds him that there is no such thing.
The older Miles wakes up on a roof and upon seen Triskelion and the Daily Bugle realizes he made it to the Ultimate Universe. He quickly rushes off to a coffee shop where he meets the UItimate Universe version of his wife and happily starts chatting it up with her.
Suddenly Miles is distracted by Spider-Man (an older Ultimate Peter Parker) defeating Ultimate Green Goblin. After the fight Spider-Man sees that the Ultimates have flown in to see what was going on.
Ultimate MJ then calls Spider-Man to remind him that Gwen and May are waiting for them so he can meet May’s new boyfriend. Spider-Man rushes off with Ultimate Spider-Woman (his female clone) right behind him.
Miles then offers Ultimate Barbara his help to clean up the mess in her bar from the fight.
Back in the main Marvel Universe Ganki tries to convince Miles that there is nothing better than being Spider-Man. Miles expresses his resolve to be his own man and will start by taking his classmate, Barbara, on a date. Ganki helps Miles plan out a date with Barbara. End of issue.
The Good: Much like the rest of the mini-series Spider-Men II #5 ends up being a tale of two stories, with the one centered around Peter Parker and Miles Morales being the strongest. Unfortunately it is the story with the older Miles Morales that ends up bringing Spider-Men II #5 down from what the ending could’ve been. Things aren’t helped by how Brian Bendis decided to execute the ending of the story he crafted for the three main characters of Spider-Men II.
Before getting to were Spider-Men II and the overall mini-series went wrong there was one big plus for the series as a whole. And that big plus was how Bendis ended up handling the scenes that were just Peter Parker and Miles Morales. It was in the scenes were the two just got to talk to another that what Bendis was looking to accomplish in terms of their relationship the series shined. That is something that was nailed by Spider-Men II #5.
What was best about how Bendis developed Peter and Miles’ relationship in Spider-Men II #5 is how it builds off what was recently established by the Generations’ Spider-Man issue, which Bendis also wrote. In that Generations issue we got to see how Miles has come to wonder if he can even stand up to the legacy Peter created with Spider-Man. That same doubt manifested in Spider-Men II #5 as Miles expressed how he feels Spider-Man is Peter’s mantle and not his. That self-doubt makes Miles an even more compelling character to follow in the future as Bendis is able to establish how the character is now prepared to craft his own legacy with the Spider-Man mantle.
That character arc for Miles is complemented by how Bendis has Peter realizes he needs to be a better mentor to his successor. That realization at the beginning of the issue was a strong grown up moment for Peter that uses his experience in a way Miles could related. It’s that relatability that makes Peter such a great character and adds to how Miles presents a unique friend and ally for Peter to have.
Sara Pichelli’s art was as strong as ever in Spider-Men II #5. As her last Miles Morales story alongside Bendis she was able to show of how strong the character is. At the same time she is able to give good emotional depth to Miles and Peter’s evolving mentor-student relationship.
It was also great to see Mark Bagley back for one last go at drawing the Ultimate Universe since he is the defining artist for that universe, especially Ultimate Spider-Man. It felt only right for him to draw Ultimate Peter Parker, even if the return of the character was questionable from a story standpoint.
The Bad: As much consequence Bendis tried to create with the multiversal rift to the Ultimate Universe Spider-Men II #5 officially nailed how inconsequential this story was. Even though Peter and Miles’ relationship was able to grow their actual adventure together did not feel like there was much weight to it. That all falls on the fact that Bendis failed to make Taskmaster and the older 616-Miles Morales into viable threats worth a full five issue mini-series. Even in the antagonist success there was very little, if anything that they impacted.
The lack of impact is the most defining part of the older 616-Miles Morales. For as much as Bendis tried to build the character as having this previously unknown history with Kingpin it did not connect. Even with how the older Miles story circled back to his friendship with Kingpin it never got past feeling forced into the Spider-Men II story. There was absolutely no build up to make this part of the character’s arc satisfying.
The older Miles story is further hurt by how Bendis did not commit to make him a true antagonist. In the end he was was just a guy looking to get his wife back, even if it meant going to another universe to do so. He was absolutely no threat to Peter or Miles since he didn’t do anything to actually hurt them. Bendis didn’t even try to make him have a meaningful interaction with the Miles we know to help drive the young Spider-Man’s motivation to change.
Taskmaster being a distraction also made him look weaker as a villain. There was no moment were Bendis actually tapped into what made the character such a viable threat, such as his ability to adapt to whoever he fights. Instead Bendis treats Taskmaster as a typical mercenary for hire that the older Miles gets. Even when Taskmaster got the edge on either Spider-Men it never felt like Peter or Miles life was at risk. That ability to make the reader suspend their disbelief and make them worry if the main character(s) could die is something Spider-Men II never does.
And as cool as it was to see the Ultimate Universe again from a visual perspective it was not something that was satisfying. Even as someone that was a big fan of the universe I already said my goodbyes to the Ultimate Universe back in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. Seeing it pop back up felt like a random idea rather than proper ending for a team-up between the two Spider-Men. Ultimate Peter Parker reappearing back as an older Spider-Man alongside the Ultimates only furthered the idea of how random this ending was. So many fans were satisfied with how the character died/retired as Spider-Man that seeing him back in the tights after Miles was integrated into the main Marvel Universe felt like an empty gesture to give us a “happy ending.”
Miles sub-plot of becoming his own man ending up with him deciding to go on a date with Barbara. The fact that she just happens to have the same name as the older Miles wife just made the entire thing groan inducing. While Bendis may have meant this a full circle thing it meant that in the end our Miles isn’t actually moving forward. He is just doing what he is supposed to and inadvertently following his older self’s version. What would’ve been different is if he decided he needed to move or pursue something that would make him different from his predecessor.
The only weak part of Pichelli’s art was when the transition back to her art from Mark Bagley’s segment. The way Miles was drawn did not match the rest of the issue when we had close up shots of Miles’ looked as though another unnamed artist came in to draw the scene. It just did not match the angles used by Pichelli or Bagley prior to this final scene.
Overall: Spider-Men II was an absolute dud. As exciting as it was to see Peter Parker and Miles Morales spending time together the story they were placed in did not live up to its predecessor mini-series. The focus on the older Miles Morales and his unknown history with the Marvel Universe completely fell flat as Bendis forced to much of a connection with Kingpin. By the end of things what could’ve been exciting fan moments turned out to be a disappointing end to Spider-Men II.