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So… like many books on the stands right now, this book does not have a clear villain or plot-driven story. However, unlike many books on the stands, Ultimate Spider-Man is successfully forging its own path, creating a new character and captivating its readers in the process. How did Miles Morales come to be bitten by a radioactive spider? It doesn’t matter. The source of power is seldom pertinent. The psychological framework of the person wielding the power is what’s interesting, and Bendis is creating something down to Earth, identifiable and re-invigorating.
Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man, is an inner city kid who has been given a set of powers unlike he’s ever imagined. Instead of getting tossed into a far-fetched reality lesson heavily dependent on chance and coincidence, Bendis is drawing upon a setting and a set of characters where survival is dependent upon responsibility. As Miles’ father explains, social responsibility is the difference between maturity and juvenile-criminality. We’ve all seen movies like “Boyz N The Hood”, we’ve seen the responsible black father/mother figure fighting for decency from their child in what can often be an indecent culture and, over the years, we’ve watched it become a cliché. However, seeing that father figure raise the ultimate figure of responsibility makes for such a believable origin story in terms of the new Spider-Man’s moral compass it manages relatable and easily conceivable without having to periodically explain why Spidey chooses to do what he does.
Beyond that, the new power set Miles has been given helps further distance himself from the Peter Parker-Spider-Man, a route that should have been taken from the beginning of the Ultimate Spider-Man conception more than ten years ago. His camouflage-reflex and “venom strike” (which appears far more like an electric shock, because how would a venom strike make plastic blocks pop in the air) is not only indicative of someone who stopped and thought, “What else do arachnids have to offer?” but opens the door for Miles to fight villains in new and exciting ways. If only he was actually fighting bad guys instead of continuing to deal with learning he has powers.
Though this issue is more wordy than the last, it continues to be a far cry from some of Bendis’s other work, Scarlet for example. Yet, it seems easily conceivable issue one and two could have been condensed so that we got Miles’ father’s criminal background story, Miles’ placement in the magnet school… all the things that are actually relevant to his character, and less of Bendis writing mouthy-Norman Osborn scenes (you killed Norman Osborn in Dark Avengers, not literally but… he’ll never be interesting again). We don’t need to know the origin of the radioactive spider. The spider is fictitious, a flimsy excuse to power-up our mild-mannered protagonist. But, sooner or later, one of these books absolutely, positively has to have something remotely resembling plot or conflict. Let’s stop printing books featuring would-be heroes who spend their time running around and stressing and get to stories where they’re actually combating some sort of evil or problem. There has been a surplus of books the major publishers are flooding the markets with intended to bring in new readers between DC’s New 52, Marvel’s Ultimate line reboot and its upcoming X-Men overhaul. It’s largely been a shameless pissing contest with the readers in the middle and, for the most part, in no way a reflection of any intention to tell memorable stories worth the money that’s being put down.
Miles Morales is shaping up to be very interesting, but so was FDR. The difference? FDR never fought Doctor Octopus in Times Square. I’m not reading a comic about a man with interesting personal struggles, I want a plot and I want it. Right. Now!