Telling you Spider-Man is my favorite superhero is like saying Dragonball Z is my favorite cartoon; it should prompt a resounding “duh-doy” at this point. He is also the one I have the most conflicted relationship with, especially in light of how… I’m struggling to find a delicate way to put this… whored out he has become. I have needed a palate cleanser, which is why I’ve avoided the web head since creating my Marvel Unlimited account. Lately, I finally found myself giving the character another chance – but not with Mr. Peter Parker. Instead, I’ve been exploring the high flying adventures of Miles Morales (or as the media have called him, “the Black Spider-Man”). This kind of “reskin” can be iffy, but happily, experiencing this character fresh for the first time has been nothing but a treat. Miles has proven to be his own unique character, irrespective of who wore the Spider-mantle previously.
I’ve enjoyed exploring Miles’ story, a new take on Peter Parker’s, but twisting threads that are simply untwistable in classic Spidey continuity. From the characters’ differing responses to discovering their great power and responsibility, their troubled relationships with their uncles and the effect of those relationships on their fate, there is a reverence for what it means to take up the standard of a popular hero, to rise above yourself and become worthy of the task.
A 13-year old selected for a prestigious charter school by luck of the draw, Miles Morales finds himself struggling to prove his abilities less to the bad guys, and more to the heroes and population that held the original Spider-Man in such high regard. My friend Debbi once wrote an article about why Spider-Man had to be black, or at the very least a minority, in order to embody his underdog persona. The extremely young and obviously brown Miles Morales adds an authenticity to this uphill battle as he struggles to be more than the “Black Spider-Man”, to simply be worthy of the moniker without the qualifier.
The update that struck me most was Miles’ home life versus Peter’s. Where Uncle Ben represented the promise of the man Spider-Man could be, Miles’ uncle is instead the man he’s terrified he’ll become, a fraught relationship that was a highlight of the series for me. But even with such clear similarities and echoes to the original Spider-Man, Miles’ turn as the wall-crawler still feels as surprising and as inspirational as Peter himself once was to me.
I’d rather not go into the specific events of the book, although Miles has been around for some time now, and we’re probably past the statute of limitations on spoilers. He has fully earned his place in the main Marvel line. I start every issue thinking Miles has to prove why he’s worthy of the legacy of Peter Parker, which has been fresh in my mind for the 25+ years I’ve known him. And yet, every time, Miles finds a way to rise to the occasion against all odds.
And really, what’s more Spider-Man than that?