Miles Morales has been shoehorned into the New Marvel Universe because, well, I am not really sure why. Marvel has never given an intellectually honest or intelligent answer to that question. To be sure, Miles is getting shoved into the old 616 Universe as a gift to Bendis for all of his years of loyal service. It certainly is not because Miles’ title has been a strong seller. Because it never has been. Miles’ comic has consistently sold in the low 30K unit range. Does the New Marvel Universe need two Spider-Men? I do not believe so. Miles could easily continue to exist in his alternate reality, the Ultimate Universe, and the small loyal Miles Morales fan base could continue to enjoy his comic.
Having two Spider-Men run around the New Marvel Universe is such a DC Comics move. And look at how well that approach has served DC over the years. Oh, that’s right. It hasn’t. That is why DC has continued to get beaten by Marvel in the sales charts. Having two Spider-Man just unnecessarily makes the New Marvel Universe more confusing. It also does absolutely nothing for Peter’s character or for Miles’ character. And I hate to believe that the reason that Marvel put Miles into the New Marvel Universe is because readers are so racist that they will only read a Spider-Man comic book if he is of a particular race. And that Miles is now Spider-Man to satisfy those type of readers. That is a depressing thought.
At any rate, here we are. Miles is now Spider-Man in the New Marvel Universe and has his own title delivered to us by the creative team of Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli. If nothing else, we know that we will, at least, get treated to some nice artwork. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.
Words: Brian Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli
Colors: 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: We begin with Miles arriving at the scene of a battle. We see the Avengers (Which team is this? We see Iron Man, Captain Falcon, Lady Thor, She-Hulk, Hawkeye, Vision and Scarlet Witch. What? Does Bendis even try anymore to know what is going on outside of his own little title? None of these characters are on the same team!) Blackheart, the son of Mephisto, is standing victorious. Blackheart then tells Miles to beg for his life.
We then flashback to Miles at his high school. Some bitchy girl named Julie yells at him for being late for their date. Miles has no good excuse. Julie tells Miles to screw off and leave her alone. Miles then goes over to his friend Ganke. Miles is sad. Miles says he was busy fighting the Shocker and that is why he was late for his date. Ganke says that Julie is a bitch and Miles should not date her. Miles says that Julie is pretty. Ganke says that there is more to women then them being hot.
Ganke says that Miles should date Bombshell.. That Bombshell is super cool and goes to a different school. Ganke says that Bombshell is “Joan Jett” cool and not “Dazzler” cool. (Yeah, this is how you know that a 50-year-old man is writing this “teen” title. Great dated reference, grandpa.)
Miles then answers his cell phone. His mom asks where Miles is and what he is doing. His mom starts yelling at Miles about his school work. His mom then asks Miles’ dad, Jefferson, to get on the phone and talk to Miles. Jefferson says that Miles has upset his mother. Miles apologizes and says he will fix things. Jefferson hangs up the phone. Miles’ mom is less than pleased with her husband. Jefferson says that if Miles says he will get the work done then he will get the work done and no amount of yelling will help.
We cut to English class where the teacher is talking about “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The teacher asks Miles a question about the book. He cannot answer because he still has not read the book. Suddenly, a fire truck tips by with its sirens on full blast. Miles says that he has to go to the bathroom. The teacher refuses to let Miles go. Miles gets up and leaves anyway. (Seriously. We are 11 pages into the debut issue of a new title and absolutely nothing has happened. Fascinating.)
We see Miles slip into his Spider-Man costume and follow the fire truck to the scene of a large explosion. Miles saves some bystanders from a few cars flying through the air. The bystanders say that they can take care of each other and that Miles should go deal with the bad guy. We then see Blackheart battling the random collection of super heroes that Bendis picked from a hat. Blackheart takes down all the heroes and we are now caught up to the opening scene of this comic.
Miles grabs Sam’s shield after stammering “Do I dare? Do I dare?” (Why not? What is the big deal? Only about 1,245 people have wielded that shield before.) Miles then uses the shield to attack Blackheart. Blackheart then decides to teleport away from the scene due to Miles’ venom blast messing with Blackheart’s demonic central nervous system. (What?! Miles’ venom blast is able to do more damage to Blackheart than the combined might of Iron Man, Falcon, She-Hulk, Lady Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye?! Okay. Sure. Of course. Patented Bendis logic.)
Suddenly, the real Spider-Man appears on the scene. Peter Parker stands there and asks “What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?!” End of issue.
The Good: Spider-Man #1 was a poorly written debut issue of a new title. But, there were still some positives to this issue. I have to commend Bendis in making Spider-Man #1 extremely new reader friendly. A reader does not need to have any knowledge at all of Bendis’ prior run of Miles’ comics books in order to enjoy Spider-Man #1. A reader who is completely unfamiliar with Miles and his cast of characters can pick up Spider-Man #1 and never feel lost. This is a vitally important quality that debut issues of new titles must possess and Bendis should get credit for making Spider-Man #1 pleasantly new reader friendly.
Sara Pichelli’s artwork is great as always. Pichelli draws great facial expressions and enables to inject a fair amount of emotion into even the most slow and uneventful stories. It is shame that Pichelli is being wasted having to work with Bendis. Bendis is any artist’s worst nightmare. Hey, want me to write in a double page splash shot for you to have some fun and show off your artistic chops? Here! Have a double page splash of…nothing but talking heads! Enjoy!
The Bad: First, let’s just remove the entire debate about inserting Miles into the New Marvel Universe and having two Spider-Men running around at the same time. The fact is that there are plenty of people who will review Spider-Man #1 through the lens of their own political agenda. People whose political agenda include seeing established white characters replaced by newer characters of different ethnicities will praise this issue. Regardless if the issue is good or not simply because it furthers their agenda to praise the issue. And, on the other hand, there are people whose political agenda is to protect established white characters and to push back on a movement that is seen as political correctness run amok. Those people will hammer Spider-Man #1 simply to further their agenda.
I am not going to engage in either approach. Miles is now in the regular New Marvel Universe. Marvel is going to have two Spider-Men running around at the same time. Nothing is going to change that. It is what it is. I am not going to waste any time debating either topics. It is pointless and has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether Spider-Man #1 is a good quality comic book that is worth your hard-earned money based upon its own merits. Therefore, I am simply going to critique Spider-Man #1 based upon the same standards that I would critique any comic book that I read and leave the political agendas to other reviewers.
As a debut issue of a brand new title, Spider-Man #1 was as poorly constructed and executed as it could be. Honestly, I am stunned at Bendis’ complete lack of effort on this debut issue. Yes, Bendis has his weaknesses as a writer. Those are well documented. But, I usually at least believe that Bendis is honestly putting forth what he believes is his best effort. That is not the case with Spider-Man #1. This issue reads like Bendis completely mailed it in with issue.
Bendis failed to put in the time to deliver all the basic necessities that a debut issue of a new title must deliver. I know that it is not “fun” and “sexy” to focus on writing the core nuts and bolts that are important to a debut issue as it is to deliver that patented Bendis Speak. But, it is done for a reason. The basics of a debut issue are important if the writer wants to make his new title as appealing as possible to the largest cross-section of readers as possible. Bendis fails to do that.
Debut issues of a brand new title must quickly establish the mission statement of the new title. This is the point and purpose of the title. It is what the reader can expect to receive from this title on a monthly basis. The mission statement is the purpose and the direction of the title. The mission statement is where the writer differentiates his new title from the numerous other super hero titles on the market.
Bendis completely fails to give us the mission statement of this title. What is Miles’ title going to be about? A meandering teen story? Is it going to be standard super hero adventure and action? Is it going to be kid friendly? Is it going to be funky and offbeat indie styled stories? Is it going to be a journey of a young hero into a man? Is it going to be Sci-Fi themed? Is it going to be a gritty street level story? Who knows? Bendis completely fails to tell the reader what the mission statement for this new title.
Of course, the biggest task the writer has with a debut issue of a new title is to sell to the reader why they should be buying this comic. A #1 on the cover naturally draws in a much larger readership than any other issue. This is a rare opportunity where the writer is going to have a chance to reach a much larger audience than normal. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the writer to seize on this rare opportunity and use the debut issue as a chance to put for their strongest and best effort in order to sell the new title to readers.
Bendis completely fails in this endeavor. Bendis offers up such a generic and half-hearted read with Spider-Man #1. It feels like Bendis was on autopilot with this issue. There appears to be little to no effort put forth on Bendis’ part for this debut issue. Spider-Man #1 reads like a pedestrian paint-by-numbers issue. At no point is there any excitement or the feeling that this title is anything special at all. Bendis fails to distinguish this title from the numerous other super hero titles on the market. Instead, the reader gets the sense that Spider-Man is going to be a rather generic super hero title. Spider-Man #1 easily blends into the background and gets lost among the myriad of other far more interesting and unique super hero titles.
By writing such a shallow issue and failing to install any major conflict for the hero to take on in this debut issue the reader has very little reason to come back for the next issue. Bendis completely fails to get the reader invested in the characters. Bendis fails to get the reader invested in any journey or conflict that the hero must undergo or take on. What reason did Bendis give the reader to come back for more? None. This new title was never given a point or purpose. This new title was not given a clear identity. This title was not given any interesting plot lines. This title was not given any conflict. There is nothing going on in this issue and, therefore, the reader has no reason to come back for the next issue.
The pacing is simply awful. The story meanders around with zero sense of purpose or urgency at all. Bendis begins Spider-Man #1 with a three page scene unveiling the collection of super heroes lying in defeat at the feet of Blackheart. Three pages for what could have easily been done in just two pages. There really was not much to this scene.
Bendis then rolls up and burns 8 pages like he was Scarface lighting cigars with $100 bills. Those 8 pages introduced the reader to Miles, his best friend Ganke and Miles’ parents. This could have been easily done in 4-5 pages and been more effective and entertaining. Instead, Bendis gives us page after page of endless dialogue and panels of nothing but talking heads that only serve to put the reader to sleep. That approach also gives the reader the impression that Bendis is simply wasting time with no real point and purpose to this story. I agree that it is important to introduce the main character and the supporting cast. But, it could have been done in a much more condensed, entertaining and effective manner than what we go in this 8 page scene.
After that, Bendis burns 3 pages getting Miles to the fight scene and then delivers the most underwhelming 6 page “fight” scene you will ever read. Bends stretches this scene out so much that it takes use 3 pages to see Miles taking the shield and attacking Blackheart once with the shield and blocking Blackheart’s blast with the shield. Seriously. This could have been done one page.
The entire construction of Spider-Man #1 was lackadaisical and unfocused. And it is not just the pacing that was poor. The plotting was equally unimpressive. Bendis fails to utilize the ever so important debut issue of a new title to install multiple plot lines designed to pique the reader’s interest and get them to come back for more. Spider-Man #1 is incredibly shallow. This is a thin read. There is little meat on the bones of this issue. The lack of depth makes Spider-Man #1 a comic that never requires the reader to engage their brain at any moment. Absolutely everything in this issue is right on the surface.
Not only is Spider-Man #1 shallow but the only real plot line that Bendis offered up to the reader feels like a generic plot line designed only as an excuse to get Peter Parker onto the scene for a “dramatic” ending. The one basic plot line we get in this issue is the appearance of Blackheart. Blackheart is a poor choice of villain for a debut issue. Blackheart is such a generic and bland villain. He feels so much like a “monster of the week” that is used to burn time in filler issue.
A story can rarely rise above the quality of the villain. The villain is the straw that stirs the drink. An excellent villain gets the reader invested in the story and creates quality tension with the hero. In Spider-Man #1, Blackheart is merely a plot device for Bendis to work Peter Parker into the story all mad and yelling at Miles. There is nothing of value in Blackheart’s appearance. The plot line has zero depth and there is no real reason or purpose for Blackheart being in this comic. There is no grand plan in mind. Blackheart’s attack is immediately written off by the reader as a simple plot device.
The dialogue is the typical “Bendis Speak” where all of the characters sound the same with their meandering “snappy” and “witty” dialogue. This is to be expected from any comic book that Bendis writes. The character work is absent. Blackheart is a one note villain. He is nearly completely devoid of anything resembling a personality. Ganke is more of a stereotype than an actual character. Miles parents are also the standard issue parent characters that are seen over and over in teen stories. There is nothing about Ganke or the parents that gets the reader interested or invested into their characters. They are simply bland window dressing.
Then there is Miles. Miles is basically just Peter Parker from the early issues of Spider-Man repackaged with a slightly modern twist for current readers. That’s it. Miles’ personality is identical to teen-age Peter Parker. There is nothing at all unique about Miles’ character. Place him in Peter’s classic costume and you would simply think you were reading a comic book about Peter in the beginning of his career as Spider-Man. That is awful. The only unique aspect of Miles’ character cannot be that he is biracial. That is simply not acceptable.
Now that Miles is in the New Marvel Universe alongside Peter Parker it is even more incumbent upon Bendis to grow Miles into a completely different character from Peter with a completely different external voice and different personality. When Miles was in the Ultimate Universe it was easier to get a pass with the fact that Miles was simply Peter with a different ethnicity. Now that Peter and Miles are sharing the same universe? Bendis has to stop being lazy and actually give Miles his own unique and separate personality that is clearly distinct from teen-age Peter Parker. Miles cannot continue to be simply defined by his ethnicity.
Then there is the handling of Peter Parker’s character. Peter is supposed to be the big “hook” ending that gets the reader to want to come back for more. However, Bendis fails in this endeavor for two reasons. First, why would Peter show up freaking out on Miles in such a manner? This was such an over the top and laughably ham-fisted approach to the end of the issue to try to set up some false suspense. Obviously, Miles did not destroy a city block and take down all the of the super heroes. Obviously, Miles played no role in what happened. Obviously, Peter Parker would know all of this and would never react in this manner. But, once again, Bendis disregards the well established core personalities of characters to fit his own personal little story.
Second, the meeting between Peter and Miles is no longer that big of a deal. We have seen it several times before with the most recent meeting being at the end of Secret Wars. If this was the first time then there might be some cachet with teasing an “epic” meeting that was long in the making.
Spider-Man #1 also has the typical gaps in internal logic that many Bendis titles suffer from. Does Bendis have any knowledge what is going on in the various Avengers and X-Men titles? We have Blackheart battling the collection of heroes that includes Iron Man, Captain Falcon, Lady Thor, She-Hulk, Hawkeye, Vision and Scarlet Witch. Iron Man, Falcon, Lady Thor and Vision are on the All New All Different Avengers. And Miles is also on that team so those character make sense. But, then Bendis randomly throws in Hawkeye who is on the New Avengers. There is also She-Hulk who is on A-Force. And there is Scarlet Witch who is not on any team at all and is on her own personal journey on her solo title.
How hard would it have been for Bendis to simply stick with the full roster of the All New All Different Avengers. He was nearly there. I understand that Bendis thinks that things like research, continuity and the most basic knowledge of what Marvel is doing on other titles is irrelevant. But, when you are writing a comic book that is part of a shared universe then these little details matter.
There is also the lack of logic that Miles’ venom blasts do more damage to Blackheart than the combined might of Lady Thor, She-Hulk, Vision, Iron Man and Scarlet Witch. That makes zero sense. It is moments like this where lack of internal logic pulls the reader out of the story.
Another aspect of Spider-Man #1 that is sure to aggravate some readers is that Bendis fails to address the end of Secret Wars and how Miles was brought over from the Ultimate Universe into the New Marvel Universe. And based upon what we get in Spider-Man #1 it appears that Bendis has zero intentions of addressing how Miles was brought over to the New Marvel Universe at any point in the near future. It is understandable that when a large refresh of a shared universe takes place that readers will want answers to something as massive as a character being brought from one alternate universe into another. Also, it is understandable that those same readers will want to know how Miles’ mother was brought back to life. These readers will also want to know how much of his time in the Ultimate Universe as well as the events of Secret Wars does Miles remember.
Again, when a writer accepts a big paycheck to write comics that take place in a shared universe then it is fair for readers to expect the writer to address such continuity questions. Bendis being willfully obtuse to those questions will only serve to turn off many readers. This move by Bendis also furthers his poor reputation as a writer who actively ignores what is going on in the shared universe that his comics take place in and his tendency to write characters opposite their established core personalities. Bendis continues to come across as a selfish writer who only cares about getting across his own vanity projects.
Overall: Spider-Man #1 was such an unimpressive debut issue. Bendis appears to have given little effort or attention to this issue. It is shocking at how lackadaisical Bendis was with this issue. Spider-Man #1 is a shallow read that feels more like a throw-away filler issue that writers slot in between major story arcs. If you are a die-hard Miles Morales fan then you will enjoy this issue. If you are a die-hard Brian Bendis fan then you will also enjoy this issue. For everyone else? Pass on Spider-Man #1. There is absolutely nothing here worth the high $4.00 price tag.