Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli reunite to kick off a new series featuring Miles Morales, the character they co-created, in “Spider-Man” #1. Having survived the “Secret Wars” relaunch and now firmly entrenched in the Main Marvel Universe, one of Miles’ first battles takes place alongside some of this world’s more familiar heroes, or — more accurately — after much of that battle has been fought. That’s where Bendis and Pichelli begin their story, with Miles facing a demonic villain who has laid waste to both the city and its heroes. While things don’t turn out to be quite as dire as they look, Miles faces plenty challenges of a different kind in his opening chapter.
Pichelli and colorist Justin Ponsor immediately grab readers’ attention with a series of horizontal panels on the opening page, which gravitate from bright sunny skies down to darkened streets strewn with rubble. Letterer Cory Petit contributes to this dark mood by transitioning from standard black-on-white captions to white-on-black word balloons for the issue’s villain. Pichelli follows up with a despairingly detailed spread that introduces a battle-worn Miles facing off against a decidedly imposing bad guy. Spidey — having traversed the old multiverse and survived the creation of a new one — doesn’t appear at all out of place facing an extra-dimensional villain in Pichelli’s striking introduction.
Bendis’ story then flashes back to how Spider-Man ended up face-to-face with a villain seemingly out of his league in order to introduce the world of Miles Morales. Bendis plays up Miles’ personal version of that ol’ Peter Parker luck as well as his heroic and selfless nature; Miles runs afoul of his date, his parents and his teacher, who are all quick to label him as selfish or a slacker, while Miles stoically tolerates it all in the name of being a hero. There’s barely a hint of frustration or resentment on Miles’ part; he rushes into battle, doing what he feels is right despite the inevitable consequences, and Bendis elevates the character by not showing much of his discontent.
The individuals around Miles present more problems for him than the issue’s villain ever could, but — to counter that conflict — Bendis immediately establishes (or re-establishes) the importance of Miles’ best friend Ganke. Ganke is a refreshing counterbalance to the rest of the supporting cast seen thus far, giving Miles some much needed support and allowing Bendis to make Ganke immediately likeable. Through Ganke, Bendis delivers the issue’s funniest and most telling line of dialogue, which sums up Miles’ heroic nature as well as the problems his secret causes him.
Bendis uses a large amount of exposition early on to establish Miles’ dynamic with Ganke and his other supporting cast members, and this is where Bendis’ skill as a writer works best. He introduces Miles in an approachable and accessible manner, informative for those unfamiliar with the character but still remarkably fresh for those who have followed his story all along. Pichelli collaborates with a couple of panels rendered in completely different, fantasy-like settings, which not only reveal a little about Miles’ self-image but also supply some comic relief — not that Bendis’ story needs it. Bendis keeps it light despite the chilling opening and ultimate confrontation, but the diversions successfully and smoothly swing the mood of the issue from one extreme to the other and back again.
“Spider-Man” #1 is an excellent start to a new series, a worthy introduction to a Spidey readers might not be as familiar with and a wonderful continuation for those who are.