The biggest question coming out of 2012’s Spider-Men miniseries was “Who is Miles Morales’ counterpart in the Marvel 616 universe?” Thankfully, the answer is finally delivered in the first issue of Spider-Men II, but not before delivering more universe-hopping drama.
Before we get to that, we should start at the beginning, as writer Brian Michael Bendis chooses to open the issue a week in the future. This proves to be a perfect way to begin the tale, since it allows the reader to immediately be introduced to the titular Spider-Men, Peter Parker and Miles Morales, after the action has already begun. Artists Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor pull the reader back to reveal the heroes in a precarious situation surrounded by an inferno on an airplane runway, which immediately gets the mind working to figure out how they wound up in this situation.
One has to wonder what craziness our Spider-Men found themselves entangled in, where the result leaves them tied together and without their masks. Were their masks removed voluntarily? Are their secret identities blown? The only clue we’re given as to who is behind this is a mystery figure (the classic Marvel Universe’s Miles Morales?) in a hood escaping on a plane. For some reason, Peter blames this whole disaster on his decision to not stop Miles from being Spider-Man. Since these first few pages take place a week in the future, Bendis plans to tease exactly why Peter perceives this as Miles’ fault.
The team of Bendis, Pichelli and Ponsor are no strangers to Peter and Miles, having orchestrated their first team-up five years ago. The chemistry between the three is on display here, as a fight between Peter and the giant armored Armadillo highlights Pichelli and Ponsor’s ability to orchestrate Spider-Man’s agility as he flips around and kicks his foe. All this occurs while Bendis packs in enough internal dialogue as the page allows, because if there’s one thing Bendis’ Spider-Man excels in, it’s having a one-sided conversation with himself.
Pichelli handles displaying emotion as well, which can be difficult with heroes who wear a mask for a living. You can feel the frustration on Armadillo’s face when he rips webbing from his face. The eyes on Spider-Man’s mask also get used, shrinking and opening wide depending on his feelings. Whichever member of the team came up with the sound effects for each “THWIP,” “RIIIIPPPP,” and “SMACCKK” deserves kudos as well.
Not to be outdone, the Miles Morales side of the story offers a much quieter moment with the introduction of a new potential love interest for Miles, classmate Barbara Rodriguez. Miles proves he has the relationship skills of adult Peter Parker by being too busy as Spider-Man to realize he’s been in Barbara’s presence many times. Speaking of being busy, Bendis cleverly toys with this concept by having Miles’ classmates come up with a weekly gossip rumor about where he runs off to after he sneaks out of the dorms.
Since multiversal travel was the origin of our heroes’ first union, it makes sense to use it as the catalyst for the sequel, right down to the exact location. However, instead of bringing Mysterio back as an antagonist, we get another villain, who could be the Ultimate Universe version of the character, given the design of his outfit. The only peculiar thing about this reveal is it’s Peter who explains to Miles who the individual is. Shouldn’t Miles already know who he is?
Finally, we end with the big reveal of that other Miles Morales. It’s not much, but at least we see his face and are given a clue to where he lives.
Overall, Spider-Men II #1 is a solid starting point for a story that fans have been waiting years for. Best of all, we didn’t have to wait multiple issues before discovering the identity of the classic Marvel Universe’s Miles Morales.