Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Miles Morales catches up with the death of Spider-Man and puts on a costume. Plus, we get to see some of Peter’s friends back in the book, if only briefly.
Four issues in, it’s almost criminal how note-perfect an origin Bendis is writing. Even now, when given the truly difficult task of passing the Spider-Man baton from one character to the next without having them meet, Bendis manages to remind us all exactly why he’s been one of Marvel’s top writers for a decade. Having Peter Parker be Miles’ “Uncle Ben” is an inspired idea, and there’s a beautiful symmetry in having Gwen deliver the immortal line about power and responsibility to Miles, knowing how she fell foul of that lesson in the mainstream Marvel Universe.
It’s interesting that this issue is the first time Bendis uses an interior monologue for the character, which begins only when Miles puts on the costume. It’s as if prior to that point, he wasn’t really Spider-Man, and it’s only once he’s wearing the threads that some transformation completes, allowing us to see inside his head as we could with Peter Parker. He’s not a bystander anymore, he’s the hero.
Although much of the issue is given over to helping explain how Peter’s death catalyzes Miles’ decisions regarding his powers, there’s also the first indication of what his “status quo” will be. I hesitate to use the term with regards to an Ultimate title, since if there’s one thing we know from the previous 10 years, it’s that there’s no such thing as status quo in this line, but the setup is at least fresh and interesting. The new Spider-Man is “born” with a built-in confidante, although the roommate who isn’t in on it complicates that dynamic. There’s a great explanation for why the Daily Bugle will return to an antagonistic relationship with the character, too.
Pichelli’s artwork is, as ever, up there with the greats, delivering some of the best body language and facial expressions in the business. This is artwork with heart and clarity. Miles isn’t just sneering at the idea of wearing a Halloween Spider-Man costume; he holds it awkwardly in one hand, as if actively repelled by it. Detail like that deserves to be appreciated in the highest possible terms. What’s more, her interpretation of Mark Bagley’s original death and funeral scenes recalls his artwork without interrupting her style, and Pichelli’s Gwen, May, et. al. are fantastic, even if they do feel a little like a spiteful tease -- it’s unlikely we’ll see them very often in the future, if at all.
As with every issue thus far, the cliffhanger moment is one which makes you want to return next month, and it’ll be interesting to deal with Spider-Woman -- who, lest we forget, has all of Peter Parker’s memories. We can probably assume that she’ll give her blessing, if not take it further and become a mentor figure, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had, and I’m on tenterhooks waiting to read it. When a book is this good, it almost goes without saying.