SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Spider-Men II #5 by Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, Mark Bagley, Elisabetta D’Amico, John Dell, Justin Ponsor and Cory Petit, on sale now.
Brian Michael Bendis is leaving Marvel next year, but the writer is going out with a bang. This week brings the conclusion to Spider-Men II which sees the final face-off between the webbed heroes and the Miles Morales of Earth-616, all while our Miles grapples with the power and responsibility of being Spider-Man.
The issue also expanded on Prime Miles’ plans and in doing so, Bendis left a going away present for his long-time fans that doubles as one of the biggest surprises of 2017.
Spider-Men II has been a lot less bombastic than its predecessor, but by dialing back the fights, it’s allowed the characters to take the lead and examine the different perspectives of Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and even the Prime Miles. In his solo ongoing, Miles has been going through a crisis of conscience for a while, grappling with what it means to be Spider-Man, and whether he wants to continue to operate under that name. The responsibility of being a young black man and role model to others has been a constant thought on his mind since his ethnicity was revealed to the public way back at the start of the run. His mother’s discovery of his secret life — as well as his father’s secret life as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. — has placed even more pressure on him to consider whether this is what he truly wants.
It certainly doesn’t help that, while Peter Parker is a great mentor for Miles, he’s also an example of how being Spider-Man from your teens into your adult-life can take over everything. While Peter wants Miles to know that he’s happy and proud that there’s a Spider-Man like him out there, Miles is wrestling whether he wants to devote his life to the mask and the webs for the next ten, twenty, however many years. As one of the few people who remembers the Ultimate Universe as it existed before Secret Wars, Miles most likely still has memories of his mother’s death at the hands of Venom. And with the amount of people that now knows he’s Spider-Man — his mom, dad, Ganke, Fabio and Lana, to name a few — plus a new girlfriend on the horizon, he’s really struggling with the choice to continue being Spider-Man every day.
Before he can make a choice, Miles still has Taskmaster and the other Miles Morales to deal with. Bendis and Pichelli have been piecing together the villainous Morales’ plan over the last four issues, and here it’s unveiled fully. Thanks to an idea planted in his head by The Kingpin, Morales has used his considerable wealth and influence to gain access to a parallel dimension. Having sent The Taskmaster there ahead of time to scout it out, he was able to confirm that this other world contains a version of his wife, who passed away several years earlier. Unfortunately, the Spider-Men aren’t able to get any of these answers as they’re too busy tussling with the Taskmaster and escaping the wreckage created by the interdimensional portal, but as they contemplate the general confusion the adventure has left them with, we see where the other Miles Morales has gone: The Ultimate Universe!
Thought destroyed in the final incursion prior to Secret Wars, the Ultimate Universe collided with Earth-616, killing everyone on both planets. When Molecule Man remade the world as part of the Prime Marvel Universe, it was pretty much what we knew Earth-616 to be, with a few changes, such as Miles Morales and his supporting cast shifting dimensions, and characters like Old Man Logan falling through the cracks. We saw in the final pages of Secret Wars — and recently in Marvel Legacy #1 — that The Future Foundation has been travelling the Multiverse, recreating the destroyed worlds, but this is the first confirmation that we’ve got of the Ultimate Universe once again existing.
As the Prime Miles heads to meet the Ultimate version of his wife — and the two do hit off quite well — a fight breaks out on the street outside between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man. In a sequence drawn by Mark Bagley, Brian Michael Bendis’ collaborator on Ultimate Spider-Man for over one-hundred issues, we see that Peter Parker, the Ultimate Spider-Man, is alive and kicking butt alongside the Ultimates, which include his clone Jessica Drew, Captain America, Thor, Human Torch, Giant Man, The Hulk and an ultimate incarnation of another Bendis creation, Ironheart. Bagley even gives Spider-Woman a knowing look and a smirk to the reader as if to say, “Did you miss us?” before both heroes head off home.
Marvel may not have immediate plans for the Ultimate Universe, but it’s comforting to know that it’s out there again. Readers invested a lot of time and love into the alternate reality, as did many creators shot to superstardom by the Ultimate Universe, Bendis included. Ultimate Spider-Man served as one of the biggest jumping on points for an entire generation of superhero fans, and it’s comforting to know that those heroes are still out there in the multiverse and they’re still growing, changing and evolving in the unique ways on the Ultimate Universe provided.
As for Miles Morales, he’s left with a big question mark on his future as — at least for now — Spider-Man isn’t a part of it. As he says to Ganke, he’s going to learn how to be his own man. Miles has grown a lot over the past few years; he was thirteen when we met him but he’s now around sixteen/seventeen now, and those three or four years make all the difference for a young man. Whether this means he’s retiring from superheroics, taking a break from being Spider-Man or possibly coming up with his own name and identity free from the legacy of Spider-Man, well, that’s to be seen. While this isn’t Bendis’ farewell to Miles — he’s still writing Spider-Man into 2018 — it’s certainly a loving tribute to him and to all the fans of the world and characters Bendis has given his life to for nearly twenty years.