The Marvel Rundown has arrived! The House of Ideas has put an emphasis on the road not taken over the past year, with stories like Heroes Reborn remixing the characters beneath the masks… and What If…? Miles Morales continues that idea, but centered specifically on the Brooklyn teenager. 

The main review has spoilers so scroll on down to the Rapid Rundown if you’d like to avoid them!

What If…? Miles Morales #1

Writer: Cody Ziglar
Artist: Paco Medina
Inkers: Walden Wong; Victor Olazaba; Sean Parsons
Color Artist: Chris Sotomayor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Sara Pichelli & Alejandro Sánchez

What If…? Miles Morales is the next multi-issue What If…? arc from Marvel Comics! It was preceded by another Spider-Themed story: What If…? Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow by Chip Zdarsky, Pasqual Ferry, Matt Hollingsworth, Joe Caramagna, and Phil Noto. In both cases, we get the familiar Marvel Comics What If…? premise, but instead of the story being (more or less) contained in a single issue, it takes place over several (Spider’s Shadow even expanded mid-run to include an extra issue).

Like Spider’s Shadow, this story takes place over several issues, so don’t expect any resolution in this chapter. Fortunately, we are promised the return of Ziglar and Medina in a final fifth issue, underscoring the fact that What If…? Miles Morales #1 is very much an in complete story. In the meantime, we’ll get to meet more parallel Mileses from across the Multiverse thanks to various creative teams.

When it comes to What If…? stories, they can fall into several categories. The first, and the one that best fits Spider’s Shadow in spite of its relatively happy ending, is the “horrific” type. Freed from continuity, the creators are allowed to take mortifying ideas to their logical conclusion without having to worry about the larger consequences to the Marvel Universe.

The next is the “comedic” type. These often come emblazoned with a warning that it’s “assistant editor’s month,” or the like. Maybe Aunt May becomes the Silver Surfer, or some other absurd premise. The real potential of this type of What If…? lies in its ability to lower your defenses with laughter and then hit you with some serious pathos. While lighthearted storytelling is often unfairly maligned, I do hope that one of the future entries on the multi-issue What If…? roster falls into this category.

And the final type is the category in which What If…? Miles Morales #1 squarely belongs: the remix! This type takes some familiar Marvel Comics characters and situations and blends them with some other familiar Marvel Comics characters and situations, creating a new story that pulls in elements from both. As is obvious from the cover, this issue takes Miles and mixes his origin story with Captain America’s.

The reason this issue works so well is a near-comprehensive knowledge of Miles… and especially, his supporting cast. It’s extremely entertaining to see familiar Miles-adjacent characters appear in the various roles that fill out Cap’s archetypical story… 

So much so that I’m loathe to mention too many of them here, spoiler review or not. Suffice to say that the character that is cast into the role of this issue’s primary antagonist’s henchmen made me giggle with delight when they were revealed. Another excellent choice is made for the character who serves as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in this timeline. 

And it isn’t just through character cameos that the issue demonstrates a deep appreciation for the origin story of Miles: I particularly enjoyed the fact that the container holding the super-soldier serum that is stolen by Uncle Aaron and serves as the catalyst for the story bears a more than passing resemblance to a can of spray paint.

It’s no surprise that Ziglar knows his stuff: there’s a reason that he’s not just working on multiple Marvel Comics titles right now (including the upcoming Spider- Punk), he’s also working on the Disney+ She-Hulk adaptation (where his extensive knowledge of Earth-616 continuity will surely come in handy) and on Hulu’s Futurama revival (now with 40% more John DiMaggio). 

Visually, this issue excels by presenting character designs that would believable (and exciting) for an ongoing series. I especially enjoyed The Falcon’s costume, which is a variation on the Sam Wilson: Captain America suit, as well as the costume for the secondary antagonist who is left standing and ready to further badger the Mileses of the Multiverse at the conclusion of the issue.

While Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gave audiences the chance to see Miles swing along other characters who were also Spider-Man, What If…? Miles Morales is giving the character a chance to appear alongside Mileses who are other heroes, with Miles Wolverine by John Ridley and Farid Karami coming up next. Now that’s a crisis I can get behind. 


Rapid Rundown!

  • Black Panther #4
    • Writer John Ridley has been working a slow burn on this current run as T’Challa seeks to discover the group of assassins that have systematically attacked his Sleeper Agents around the world. Catching a breath on the planet formerly known as Mars, Arakko, now the Mutant capital of the solar system, T’Challa makes some slight amends with Storm on Arakko while still being the manipulative S.o.B. we’ve come to love. To complement the story, artists Juann Cabal and Ibrahim Moustafa, craft a book that is cinematic, slick, and bold in its depiction of action and the tech that exists in their world. Having been passed the baton from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run, Ridley’s subplot of Wakandian fledgling democracy is an intriguing storyline that has some legs and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. – GC3
  • Star Wars #21
    • This series, despite being touted as explaining how Luke became a Jedi Master, has recently felt more like a rebel story which I… am starting to appreciate more and more. I love Luke Skywalker, but the emotional build-up around the rebels and specifically around the Dameron family is something I didn’t expect to connect to. Shara Bey is still stuck on the Tarkin’s Will, and Kes Dameron feels incredibly helpless, anchored by diplomacy and reigned in despite his raging desire to save his wife. It’s certainly unlike any kind of Star Wars story I’ve ever seen, and that’s accounting for the fact that balancing needing to save your loved ones versus serving the greater good is a tale as old as this franchise. It’s a nice-looking issue, with Marco Castiello and Ramon Rosanas proving why traditional art is much better than whatever they were up to for more of the last volume of the series. I’d recommend this issue as a solid jumping-on point for anyone who has been caught up in the Star Wars high, what with The Book of Boba Fett having recently concluded and with Obi-Wan on the way. —HW
    • X-Men #9
      • In the latest issue of the flagship X-Men book, Gerry Duggan gives us a lot of setup for the wider ‘X-Line,’ but not a lot of payoff for the series itself. As with some of the more recent issues of this book, most of the subplots have been pushed to the side in favor of a one-and-done that doesn’t have much momentum for the actual series. The sole members of the usual cast that appear are Rogue and Sunfire, though it feels like they’re only here in service of the plot, not because this is their book. I’d honestly rather this had been a one-shot, since the only real connection to the plot of this series is a quick appearance by Dr. Stasis and M.O.D.O.K. This isn’t a bad issue though — C.F. Villa does a great job filling in for Pepe Larraz, adding his own energy to the issue that’s wonderfully complimented by the exceptional colors of Marte Gracia. There’s also a wonderful scene that (I think) gives us the first interaction between Gambit and Destiny since her resurrection and it is absolutely the best part of this issue. That being said, I’m still hoping X-Men finds its focus again, as I’m starting to lose track of what this series is — CB

Next week: Captain Carter #1 and Devil’s Reign #5 arrive.