Amazing Spider-Man’s Beyond direction continues by bringing in Miles Morales into the fold. With the Beyond Corporation funding Ben Reilly’s Spider-Man activities since they officially own the rights to the Spider-Man name you knew at some point Miles Morales would become a target. That is exactly what is going to happen in Amazing Spider-Man #81 as Ben Reilly and Miles Morales clash. At least that is what it looks like will happen based on the cover for this new issue. Let’s see what really happens with Amazing Spider-Man #81.
Beyond Board: Kelly Thompson, Cody Ziglar, Saladin Ahmed, Zeb Wells, and Patrick Gleason
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Carlos Gomez
Colorist: Bryan Valenza
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Marcus Momplaisir shows Ben Reilly a Rhizome attacking Brooklyn and says this is an opportunity for Ben to show himself as a superhero to New York City. Marcus mentions that Ben will likely run into the other Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and if that happens to let him know that the Spider-Man name is the Beyond Corporation’s intellectual property.
While Janine Gobde is unsure Ben should be active as Spider-Man so soon after fighting Morbius and Kraven, Ben assures her he is fine.
Ben as Spider-Man goes to where the Rhizome attacked but is hesitant to help the recovery efforts since that isn’t the assignment the Beyond Corporation gave him. Miles Morales as Spider-Man shows up and confronts Ben knowing that he is not the original Spider-Man. Ben gets pissed when Miles calls him an imposter and the Spider-Men begin fighting.
They quickly stop fighting when Ben mentions that Peter is in the hospital in bad shape. After saving some people from a collapsing wall the Spider-Men decide to team up.
The Spider-Men then go deal with a Rhizome that is attacking another part of the city. They struggle when they fight the Rhizome individually. After agreeing to work together the Spider-Men’s are able to coordinate well enough to defeat the Rhizome.
Miles recognizes the technology used by the guy who became a Rhizome being something the Assessor (a new villains from Miles Morales’ Rogues Gallery).
Ben then says that things are good between them and he won’t do as the Beyond Corporation told him to have Miles give up the Spider-Man name.
Back in the Beyond Corporation, Ben is pissed off to find out that Maxine Danger is putting Marcus through some form of punishment for failing to equip Ben for his most recent mission. Ben says he was not going to beat up some kid.
Maxine reminds Ben of everything the Beyond Corporation invested into making him a first-class hero. She then asks Ben if he wants to throw all that away.
Minutes later Maxine is informed that Doctor Octopus is digging into what the Beyond Corporation is doing. Maxine takes out a container holding a Rhizome sample and says she knows how to deal with Doctor Octopus. End of issue.
The Good: While we are only starting the third month of this current direction with Ben Reilly as Spider-Man we’ve already six issues worth of stories with him in the role. So with what normally would be half a year worth of storytelling told in two months Ben’s journey as Spider-Man has become more formed than others who’ve done similar things with changing of the mantle. And you see how that many issues into the Beyond direction has impacted Ben’s mindset with Amazing Spider-Man #81 featuring a meeting with Miles Morales.
Right away Saladin Ahmed does a great job at establishing how the recent experiences fighting Morbius and Kraven the Hunter have impacted Ben’s personality. The brash, overconfident person we saw when the Beyond direction began in Amazing Spider-Man #75 is slowly disappearing. We still see that side of Ben when he tries to convince Janine Gobde that he is okay and flying around in his upgraded Spider-Man suit. But outside of those two quick scenes the rest of Amazing Spider-Man #81 we see how Ben is acting more unsure about just mindlessly following what Marcus, Maxine, and the Beyond Corporation are telling him to do. Just showing doubt in his assignment is a big change from the beginning of the Beyond direction.
That hesitance just to blindly follow the Beyond Corporation’s orders works well in clashing with how Ben is trying to be a superhero as Spider-Man. The scene at the destroyed neighborhood in Brooklyn shows this conflict within Ben. He knows he should help out but Ben still is trying to live up to the Beyond Corporation’s expectations for him. Which clashes with his own superhero nature as we see with how he jumps in without thinking when people are about to be crushed by a collapsing wall.
This battle within Ben makes the meeting with Miles Morales even more important. Because this scene is another example of how Ben is trying to do what the Beyond Corporation is telling him to do. But at the same time, he is trying to reason with Miles rather than go with the aggressive approach Maxine likely wanted.
Ahmed does a good job in this scene presenting Miles calling out the fact that Ben with being Spider-Man that is not the normal superhero. And to Miles’ credit he only does this because has a history with Peter and knows his predecessor well enough to know Ben doesn’t sound like him. This shows that while they don’t interact on a day to day basis that Miles and Peter have a strong bond between them that Miles picks up on things maybe others don’t.
Miles specifically calling out Ben as an imposter cut deep as it is something that Ben is clearly battling in his own head, which is why he lashed out. This made how things inevitably calm down with Ben revealing that Peter is hospitalized more impactful. Ben did this as he realized he escalated things. Miles surprise over this speaks to how Peter’s current condition is only known by a handful of people, and Miles is the first superhero outside Black Cat to know.
This leading to Ben and Miles teaming up against the rampaging Rhizome was a good transition. The overall choreography done by Carlos Gomez in this fight properly showcased the fact this is the first time Ben and Miles are teaming up as Spider-Man. Both act as if they are fighting in their normal solo adventures. Which told a story in itself as Ben and Miles grow to learn that they need to work as a team to defeat Rhizome. While they eventually do it was smart for Gomez to show that their teamwork wasn’t fluid and they just happen to win because they started cooperating.
As much as the interaction between Ben and Miles was the star of Amazing Spider-Man #81 it was the aftermath scene with Ben and Maxine that stole the show. Ahmed works well with establishing how Maxine does not care about being a protagonist or antagonist. Maxine holds nothing back in showing that she will not accept anything other than success. Failure like Ben and Marcus showed by not getting Miles to give up using the Spider-Man name was unacceptable. This scene certainly makes you wonder how much longer Ben will work with the Beyond Corporation as they continue to push him into a direction that goes against his natural superhero ideals.
The Bad: Something that severely impacted Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man is showing itself with the Beyond direction. And that is with starting to already rely on the supplementary Amazing Spider-Man issues to tell key plot beats for the Beyond direction. This is a very dangerous choice, especially given the heavy investment Amazing Spider-Man Beyond is with the series coming out three times a month. Adding the supplementary issues to actually make the series weekly would be too heavy of an investment to make in one series.
With how many fantastic comic books that are out on the market this is a choice that could make readers drop this series. It certainly has me considering it if the teased Doctor Octopus sub-plot is something being done in these supplementary Amazing Spider-Man issues. The tease at the end just made me groan because this final page of Amazing Spider-Man #81 is making it feel like you must spend more money to understand what is going on. I would rather spend that on a different Marvel title for diversity in my pull list.
Overall: With the three times a month schedule that Amazing Spider-Man’s Beyond direction has it is smart to do shorter stories that are one to three issues. Saladin Ahmed did a great job showing how to tell a quick story that holds importance to the overall Beyond direction with his work on Amazing Spider-Man #81. The interactions between Ben Reilly and Miles Morales led to a lot of potentially interesting developments for the direction of this series.
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