Did you see Spider-Man Homecoming? We did and it was awesome. Marvel is delivering on that Spider-Man high this week with Spider-Men II #1 giving readers what they’ve wanted since Miles Morales came to the main Marvel Universe a couple years ago now. After the conclusion of the first Spider-Men mini-series writer Brian Michael Bendis has been teasing the idea of another Miles Morales in the Marvel Universe. It’s been about five years since that mini wrapped up and the publisher is finally delivering on the cliffhanger–let’s get some closure this week in The Marvel Rundown:
Spider-Men II #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Alexander Jones: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but Peter Parker and Miles Morales are teaming up…A.J. what did you think of the first issue of Spider-Men II?
AJ Frost: Hey! Well, I’ve been reading a lot of Bendis lately, so I actually had some high hopes for this team up. And the potential is there: new school and old school teaming up to create some mischief, have some witty repartee, and kick some bad guy touches! But this issue was underwhelming to say the least.
Jones: I am a huge Miles Morales fan and was really worried about this installment, but I didn’t think it was actively terrible this time around. Reading this issue actually gave me some hints of the early days of Morales’ book which is likely because the original creators Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli are back on the title.
Frost: I actually thought the characterization of Miles was good. I mean, he is an interesting dude and totally relatable (minus the superpowers). That part wasn’t the problem, in my opinion. The gripes I have with this issue is that is uninteresting in almost every way. Everything felt more like unconnected vignettes rather than an actual plot. I mean, it seems we start in medias res with Peter and Miles, then it goes to Miles’ academic, then fighting a monster for some reason (all while saying why Peter sucks), and then… inter-dimensional tomfoolery? It was disjointed, which isn’t a bad thing if the story is leading up to something, but I felt no catharsis, or even a mini-resolution.
Jones: A.J. that’s actually a great point. I actually double-checked the comic to make sure that everything was sound, but there are a couple of weird transition scenes. This issue does feel like a couple of disparate stories all stitched together in a really disjointed and awkward way. There is a transition between Peter and Miles daydreaming and fighting a villain but the pacing on that scene is seriously fawlty. The story starts off of the panel and Bendis doesn’t take the time to explain why this moment matters. When you cut that scene together with the one later on in the book where Miles and Peter seem to be on better terms I’m unsure of the direction of the overall story. It drives me insane that Peter and Miles’ relationship is established two different ways in the space of one issue.
Frost: And that was the thing that tripped me up a bit. I can see that obviously there’s going to be some tension, but for tension to work well, it needs context. And I think this issue lacks that context for it to be truly effective.
Jones: I think this issue’s single biggest flaw is when Bendis dives into the continuity. I kind of figure a lot of people are jumping into this fresh from Spider-Man: Homecoming that don’t know that Morales was part of the Ultimate Universe prior to Secret Wars. The giant bubble from Parker is a just way to scare off new readers. Even though this issue’s most significant surprise is that portal to a dead world, I didn’t think Bendis needed to make such an overt reference about it. Were you just lost because of the poor explanation?
Frost: Yeah, that could be it.
Jones: It still shouldn’t have been as confusing as it was. that scene where Parker bombs the reader with exposition really destroys me.
Frost: I don’t expect writers to show all their cards, but at least create logical jumps between scenes. I think there was a panel where Miles looks up to see Spider-Man, but it’s his iteration of Spider-Man! And there was one other major part of the issue that bothered me: Bendis’ fascination with the word “armadillo.” He seemed to be obsessed with it for some reason. Did that catch you off guard?
Jones: Oh my…I just zipped through and counted the uses. I saw the word written eight times in the dialogue boxes. Even for the purposes of humor, using that word eight times is quite excessive–another great catch AJ. Before going forward any further I want to dig deeper into the beautiful Sara Pichelli art, what did you think about it?
Frost: I thought it was great. The comic was very expressive and action packed. The opening scene of the comic is the strongest I think. It takes place at night, so there’s some interesting contrasts of color. And it’s BIG! There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of dialogue–it’s a real highlight!
Jones: I love David Marquez and other Marvel artists that have contributed to this character, but I don’t think I’ve given Pichelli quite enough credit for her expressive and dynamic figure work. The action feels fluid instead of really stiff and posed superhero figure work that other artists can fall into. Even though some of the backgrounds can be a little skim, I can tell each character apart and figures are never standing entirely still. I think this comic strikes an incredible balance between fluid figure work while having really clean and well-drawn characters.
Frost: Yeah! On that point, I thought the design of “Barbara” was a standout. What I thought was great about that design is that even though she’s drawn in such a way to be stereotypically “comic book attractive,” there’s an inner, mental strength present as well. I think that’s rare for a lot of mainstream design for female characters (especially those that are meant to be phenotypically diverse). It’s a really subtle piece of art, but one that I probably enjoyed the most. And it was during a quiet scene as well, which shows that Sara can balance between the action and the rests.
Jones: I think at times Miles’ legs look too long and he looks a little older than he should as well, but the more expressive poses make the whole thing worth it for me.
Frost: I think some mild exaggeration in the poses is okay. It is Spider-Man, after all! (And also, I didn’t notice that! Interesting!)
Jones: Yeah. To your point earlier AJ I think pacing has been the key problems with lots of Bendis titles lately. The first sequence in this comic doesn’t seem to tie into the rest of the story. Introducing the Spider-Men 1 elements in the end of the story makes this comic book feel disorderly.
Frost: I thought the ad for the Spiderman: Homecoming hoodie was more interesting.
Jones: Any last words to sum up this glorious reading experience?
Jones: I still think that Bendis is heading in the right direction here even if the pacing is messy. There’s something about Morales’ interactions with Gahnke that felt particularly novel to me. I like the teases at the Ultimate Universe and hope that Bendis makes something of this. However, the chatty Peter Parker and messy plot destroyed some of the momentum in the comic.
Frost: Even with Pichelli’s lovely art I think this comic book is a pass for me.
Jones: If there’s anything that salvages this one, it’s Pichelli’s beautiful art and the subtle school interaction that evokes Spider-Man: Homecoming. With the messy pacing and wordy dialogue, this is still not enough not enough to warrant a purchase. This is a pass from me as well.
Next week is the debut of Astonishing X-Men, get our first impressions next week on The Marvel Rundown!