Spider-Men II has been a decent follow-up to its predecessor. So far it has been missing that special sauce that made the original Spider-Men so great. A big missing ingredient has been that Brian Bendis hasn’t tapped into how special it is to see Peter Parker and Miles Morales interacting since they now live in the same universe. The mystery behind the older Miles Morales, who is actually the Marvel-616 version of the character, has been sub-par so far. That is hopefully something that Spider-Men II #3 is able to change as the cover for this issue indicates that we will see the older Miles take a more active role in what is going on. Will that turn out to be the case? Let’s find out with a look at Spider-Men II #3.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Inker: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Many years ago, Wilson Fisk, when he was an enforcer for the Rigoletto Crime Family, is taken to Ryker’s Island as its new prisoner.
While eating lunch Fisk is threatened a blonde guy about answering to him. Fisk answers by biting the guy’s nose off. The guards quickly break up the fight and send all the prisoners back to their cells.
A month later Fisk is introduced to his new roommate, Miles Morales. Once left alone Fisk tells Miles that Rigoletto appreciated how Miles cover for his cousin and he sent Fisk to protect Miles. Fisk goes on to say that Rigoletto is getting both of them out in a few months since they are only being held there because of some paperwork.
Miles thanks Fisk by revealing that he was actually hired to kill Fisk but won’t do it, even handing Fisk the money he was paid for the assassination. Fisk tells Miles to keep the money and he understands what Miles gesture means.
In the prison yard Miles warns Fisk that even though he won’t kill him someone will try to kill Fisk.
In the showers Fisk is left alone and the lights are suddenly turned off. The guy that Fisk ripped his nose off tries to stab Fisk but is quickly countered. The guy reveals himself to be have some sort of powers and uses them to immobilize Fisk.
Before the guy can kill Fisk, Miles shows up and stabs the guy from behind. The guy slashes Miles face. Fisk recovers and quickly kills the guy.
Miles tells Fisk that the guy he killed was using Mutant Growth Hormones, which has been a drug prisoners are trying to use but is unstable. Miles mentions that there is a lot of money to be made off MGH once it is perfected. Fisk thanks Miles and they bond over what they want to do when they leave the prison.
A few years later Miles is on a date with a woman named Barbara. Barbara is put off by Miles’ facial scars.
Fisk shows up and talks about how he and Miles own the restaurant they are in. Fisk goes on about how the restaurant was Miles idea and he also hired all the chefs.
After Fisk leaves, Miles plays off how he did not tell Fisk to say those things as it is actually embarrassing to him. Barbara is still impressed and asks Miles how he met Fisk. Miles talks about meeting during a semester at sea. Miles and Barbara go on to talk about their respective lives, with Fisk watching from a distance.
Sometime later Miles and Fisk tell Rigoletto that he is not in charge anymore since the two of them have been paying the bills. Fisk tells Rigoletto that he will have to give Miles a “Ring Kiss.” Rigoletto says that isn’t happening.
Fisk thanks Rigoletto for everything he taught him and has Miles and their goons point a gun at Rigoletto.
Sometime later Miles and Fisk are celebrating their big takeover, with Fisk mentioning how one guy called him “Kingpin.” Fisk mentions how he knows Miles wants out just from the look in his eyes. Miles is hesitant to leave so Fisk asks Miles what he would want to do with his life.
Miles says he wants to take his winnings, get married to Barbara and disappear. Fisk says he can arrange that and hopes that Barbara will finally warm up to him as Miles’ friend. End of issue.
The Good: Spider-Men II #3 is an example as to how not to reveal your entire hand. One of the most interesting things going into this mini-series was how we didn’t know anything about the older 616-Miles Morales. But now after reading his origin there is much to be interested in for the characters future.
Before continuing on I will say there was one big positive for Spider-Men II #3 and that was Sara Pichelli’s artwork. Pichelli does a very good bring out the wide array of emotions from the older Miles Morales and Kingpin throughout the issue. That is best scene when we go from Miles date with Barbara, where the latter is shy, to when Miles and Kingpin are in full mafia mode against Rigoletto.
The Bad: There is a classic saying that “less is more” and that is true for Spider-Men II #3. Having an entire issue dedicated to the older Miles Morales, who is the antagonists of this mini-series, completely took away from the characters mystique. By exploring every part of the characters criminal past we don’t have a question as to who he is. And that is not a good thing for a new version of Miles Morales because as a reader I don’t need to learn more about him.
A lot of this comes down the how Miles backstory was executed in Spider-Men II #3. Even though it took up the entire issue it did not read as though it was complete comic. Instead of telling a full story, Spider-Men II #3 was executed to read as though it was a back-up companion to the main story. And going that route for the first three issues of this mini-series may have been a better choice in order to keep the main story moving forward.
Even the ending felt rushed with how there was absolutely no hook to bring you back as a reader. It just sort of ends without trying to tie into the first two issues of this story. That is not what should happen when Spider-Men II is a mini-series. There needs to be some form of momentum as Bendis has a limited number of issues to tell his story. But in not creating any sort of hook to the ending Spider-Men II #3 gets turned into an issue that would make it easy for readers to forget to buy the next issue.
And while the entire issue is dedicated to the older Miles Morales we do not come away actually learning about his backstory. For as much as this is his issue there is absolutely nothing about the character that makes him come off as more than just a generic mafia member. Even his time before ending up in prison is never touched on, leaving out a major part of the character that would added depth to the character.
Not learning about that part of his life made his choice to not live this mafia life he built for himself harder to believe. Outside of wanting to be with Barbara, there is no motivating factor from his backstory to make him leave.Because while he did end up in prison for his cousin’s crime it does not mean he was previously a good guy. Bendis does not spend anytime trying to make us think of this Miles more depth to his history than what was presented.
This in turn hurts how his relationship with Barbara is given such a great importance in Spider-Men II #3. Since we only get one scene between the two there is really no time given to make us believe in this relationship. It is just thrown into Miles story just to give him an out the empire he and Kingpin created rather than being a relationship that fleshed out Miles’ backstory.
Kingpin’s involvement with Miles also comes off as hollow. Throughout their interactions it felt as though Bendis was just trying extremely hard to integrate Miles into the Marvel Universe. In making such an attempt it never felt as though Miles and Kingpin’s friendship was to make the characters stronger. Instead it was just an attempt to have a new character elevated by Kingpin’s aura, rather than showing us how they actually grew to obtain power together.
In doing so Bendis forgot to actually develop Miles as his own character. Instead Miles just turns out to be nothing more than a right-hand man, at best. That status just brings the threat Miles possesses in the present day down. The disconnect just further makes it look as though Miles will be a one-and-done villain since there he is never able to reach that main guy level on his own.
Overall: Spider-Men II #3 failed to create intrigue around the older, alternate version of Miles Morales. That is a big problem for the rest of this mini-series given the character’s status as the main antagonist of the story. The failed execution of older Miles backstory halted all the momentum that Spider-Men II before Spider-Men II #3. Now it will be up to the next issue to get things back on track in order to recover the interest in this Peter Parker/Miles Morales Spider-Man crossover.