That’s a pretty bold proclamation, Marvel. And those are some awful big shoes to fill. Days before the release of the highly anticipated Sony/Marvel animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a new era of Miles hits the stands. This first issue of Miles Morales: Spider-Man, by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón, serves as a pretty good landing spot for new fans won over by the movie. But following up the work of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, who first created the character for Marvel’s Ultimate universe and have seen him through several volumes of titles since 2011, is no easy task.
Ahmed first turned heads in the comic book industry with his Black Bolt series. Partnered with Christian Ward, it was one of the single best superhero books on the stands in 2017. His workload has ramped up, both in independent projects like Abbott and on other Marvel titles like the Exiles relaunch. Over the course of several different books, Ahmed has showcased an ability to humanize overtly inhuman characters, while weaving a sharp sense of humor into engaging plotlines. Garrón garnered attention with wonderfully vibrant character design and a fluid art style, most recently in Mark Waid’s Ant-Man & The Wasp mini-series.
Yeah, but is it Bendis & Pichelli?
Short answer, no, but we are only one issue in. And this creative team is being asked to not only follow up years of well-developed stories and characters, but they’re also being asked to summarize a good portion of said backstory as befits a first-issue entry point for a new audience. They do an admirable job of catching the reader up, and even have enough time to initiate a mystery of a child abduction ring with undertones of insidious anti-immigration sentiment. Oooh, topical and dastardly!
Shorter answer, no, and they don’t have to be.
I’ve been revisiting Stan Lee’s legacy these last few weeks (for obvious reasons), and it struck me that, despite understanding the game, fully cognizant of this pop culture machine that he helped piece together, he still took it personally, in a few cases, when he had to pass the torch.
Mark Millar once recounted a conversation he had with Stan in which Mark was asked why he “couldn’t get his own toys,” and “why did he have to play with [Stan’s]?” (I’m paraphrasing, because I can’t find the exact quote and this is a blog and I can do that.) Stan asked the question in mild jest, kidding on the square as they say. But there’s something to it. Some of these characters really mean something to the people who first brought them to life.
Despite not creating the Silver Surfer, Stan adopted the sentinel of the spaceways as his own. And when Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers kicked off a new volume of the Surfer’s solo series in ’87, Stan said, in an interview, “this is not at all a criticism of Steve or of Marshall, it’s just that it’s one book that I would have liked to have always done myself.” Stan said that he would have found the time to write that book if asked.
When Bendis said goodbye to Miles in Spider-Man #240, he did it in the most personal way imaginable, paralleling the writer’s own brush with death in a hospital room recovering from a serious MRSA infection. Of course these guys mean something to their creators.
But I’m with Mark Millar on this one. We respect what the creators provide, but if it didn’t feel like the sandbox belonged to all of us… then we probably wouldn’t care as much. Stan Lee (and Spider-Man) have shown us that any one of us can be a hero. What they’ve also shown us is that any one of us can add to that heroic legacy. And that’s part of the allure; whether in a video game, a daydream, or getting to write a freaking Spidey comic, we all crave that engagement.
Thank you, Bendis & Pichelli.
Now, go get ’em Ahmed & Garrón. Prove that cover blurb right.