Miles (and most of the world) learn Peter Parker is back in Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez’s “Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man” #4. Some good action peppers a strange issue that is light on humor and doesn’t quite land its emotional beats.
There’s a lot of solid action in this issue but it’s coupled with some emotional moments that feel rushed and less humor than one has come to expect from Bendis — especially once Miles and Peter are in a scene together. It seems like those scenes should have a real spark to them, but this falls a bit flat, particularly as it related to Miles and Peter’s interactions with one another. There were a few gems between the two Spiders, but they felt few and far between.
Additionally, the scenes that were supposed to have an emotional punch didn’t quite land. It seemed ridiculous that Katie would immediately tell her sister Miles’ secret and it made her seem like a person unworthy of it. While this issue was obviously more about Peter’s return and how that affects Miles and to a lesser degree the other characters in the book, it did feel ridiculous that all the scenes with all the women had them in nearly comical tears. Tonally, none of it had the resonance I hoped for and perhaps expected for such a big moment. The return of Peter Parker should have real emotional weight, and this just didn’t stick the landing.
Marquez is a very talented artist and he’s generally a good fit for both Miles Morales and for a “Spider-Man” book in general, but this issue does unfortunately highlight some weaknesses too. There are a lot of female characters on the sidelines in this issue (Katie Bishop, Katie Bishop’s sister Misha, Gwen Stacy, Aunt May and Mary Jane) and all of them look the same. Gwen Stacy and Misha would be almost impossible to tell apart standing next to one another, and if you removed their hair, Gwen, Katie, Misha and Mary Jane would all be impossible to distinguish from one another. Meanwhile, Aunt May looks about 30 years old simply with prematurely grey hair and eyebrows. They’re lovingly — almost painstakingly — illustrated but seeing them all together in one issue highlighted how painfully similar they look and it became truly distracting. To make matters worse, Katie, Aunt May and Gwen all spend almost all of their panel time in tears — full-blown, borderline hysterical, make-up-running-their-faces tears.
Ignoring the problem with the female characters, the rest of the book looks pretty great. Marquez obviously has Miles down to a science and he handles Peter with equal ease. Green Goblin is appropriately terrifying and the storytelling, with a few minor exceptions, is easy to follow and strong. The action is good overall, though some of the fussier panel choices feel unnecessary and perhaps a bit dated. The colors by Justin Ponsor are quite wonderful. There’s a lot of fire in this issue and Ponsor handles not only the fire but also the general glow it creates around everything else, beautifully.
Ironically, though Bendis is a writer known for his deconstructed stories, this one felt rushed and packed too full. If Bendis had given himself and Marquez more pages to deal with the emotional ramifications and spent less time on, let’s face it, a mostly pointless Green Goblin fight, this book might have had some real gravitas, as it is it’s nearly forgettable the moment you put it down.