With Great Power Comes Great Heart: Reviewing ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ #1
by Scott Redmond
‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ kicks off a whole new volume with a picture & pitch-perfect debut issue that captures the character, his world, and so many much-needed emotional beats that bring so much depth. A truly new and old reader-friendly series, one that could get anyone hooked on Miles Morales if they aren’t already fans of the character. One of the best first issues of 2022.
Miles Morales is back swinging through the streets of Brooklyn as the young Spider-Man launches a whole new solo series. With all the multiversal shenanigans behind him, it’s time for the webhead to deal with threats much closer to home that might just push him to his very limits and beyond.
It hasn’t been that long since the previous volume of Miles Morales: Spider-Man wrapped up, just barely two months, but much has changed for the character. New series writer Cody Ziglar, who isn’t new to the spider-realm (Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Punk), has a clear vision for what he wants to accomplish with this character and what the voice of Miles should be like. It’s honestly very refreshing to have a Black writer handling Miles Morales full-time for the first time. Miles is biracial and it would be just as great to have Puerto Rican/Latinx or even Afro-Latinx writers tackling the character, especially since the majority of the people handling the character have been white in his decade of existence.
One of the first things that stood out was how real and authentic Miles sounds, not just as a young character but as a young man of color living in a big city. On so many levels there was a realness or sense of authenticity to this story that I haven’t felt as much when it comes to Miles. From his banter with Scorpion to the tough but fair lecture from Mr. Akpolo to Miles’s honest emotional conversation with his parents. There was so much heart and truth and just honesty in these pages.
Really that moment between Miles and his parents hit me so hard, and I loved it. To see a story have a young man of color break down and speak openly and honestly, even to the point of tears, with his parents in a healthy way that wasn’t for laughs or mockery is beyond fantastic. So much of young lives are spent telling young men especially not to show such emotions, to mock them, call them weak, or outcast them for that. Seeing a changing sentiment that pushes for the idea that men have emotions and should express them in healthy open ways makes me so damn happy.
I could gush about this issue all day long because I loved everything about it. Next to all the great emotional real stuff, there was the fantastic aforementioned use of mid-tier Spider-Man villain Scorpion but also a powerful and important second battle with Bumbler (right out of Ziglar’s first Miles story back in Miles Morales: Spider-Man #25). In the best Spider-Man tradition, and most hero stories ever, we’re also introduced to the new villain in the end (who we saw at the start and didn’t know they are the new villain) who has specific ties to Miles Morales and seeks vengeance against him. Their reasons even tie back to the lecture from Mr. Akpolo, going full circle here!
Also, no lie, when we get the moment of Miles talking to himself and trying to encourage himself like Peter would and utters one of the greatest inspirational catchphrases of comic books I felt like jumping up and pumping my fist in the air.
Visually every aspect of this issue is stellar as well, and it’s clear why artist Federico Vicentiti was named one of the new class of Marvel’s ‘Stormbreakers’. His artwork hits that perfect mix of smooth and rough with angular lines, full of depth and weight. All of the spaces feel properly sized and full of life, just like a lived-in space like New York City should be on the page. That goes double for all of the people because those emotional moments I mentioned before hit as much as they do because Vicentitni is able to bring them to full spectacular life every single time. Just a glance at each person tells you how they are feeling, and when a moment like Miles crying happens it just hits the viewer hard as it should.
All of the action flows so well too with that same smooth sharpness going on, some of the scenes just go hard because he employs a somewhat tilted point of view to many of the panels which adds so much to a moment. We see early on Miles swinging in and grabbing a civilian in danger (actually the villain we meet) where the view is titled and fits perfectly with the idea that we’re swinging alongside them as they are angled upward. I love everything about Vicentiti’s paneling, panels of various shapes and sizes and angles slashing across the page fitting whatever motion that page needs even overlapping one another or throwing a border/negative space in to enhance things.
No two pages are exactly alike, carrying their own energy. All of it easily leads our eyes to where they need to go next.
Bryan Valenza is a colorist I have not encountered before but I’m already in love with the colors at play here. Just like Vicentiti’s art is in the middle of smooth and rough, Valenza hits the right mix of vivid bright popping colors and more muted toned-down colors. All the background elements of some of the scenes are more toned-down mimicking reality sorts of colors while the heroes and villains and big bombastic action sets are full of big powerful striking colors. It makes sure that Miles’s black and red costume or the big giant Scorpion suit are things that stand out from the buildings around them and more mundane elements of the world.
Either version of the colors is very slick and full of plenty of shadows and dark spaces that bring depth and make portions stand out even more. Another aspect that stands out is how accurate the colors for the times of day are standing out here. Feeling so accurate for morning or midday or sunset, a few of the scenes just become breathtaking because the sky colors and lighting are so spot on.
We feel the emotional weight and character moments of this story because we can see them, but also because we can effectively hear them. This comes from the always fabulous lettering work of Cory Petit that we find in this issue. All the personality of these different characters is evident in their words, just small things are done that help to make it stand out more and we can just hear that voice that we’ve actually never heard before. Changes to the font, whether in quality or size, help with that matter as well as help make sure that volume and tone are apparent. I bring that up all the time in reviews but that is because I feel it is very very important, as it makes sure that we the reader know 100% how the words should sound in our head rather than having to guess.
I love how the caption boxes and bubbles are structured here, flowing in a way that is easy to read and follow but also sometimes bridging the gap between panels or sliding over things to avoid taking over any of the big art moments. Oh and those SFX, I just want to hug them and smile so big as I take them in. Big, bold, loud, colorful, and always right in the thick of things.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 is now available from Marvel Comics.