Multiverse Of Few Possibilities: Reviewing ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man Vol 8: Empire Of The Spider’
by Scott Redmond
‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ goes far too deep into the multiverse for an alternate future story before bringing it all to an end with a more hopeful story centered around Miles’s spot in the Marvel Universe. It’s not enough to make up for almost a year of stories that pulled from some of the worst aspects of how Marvel views Miles, but it’s at least a solid way to bring an end to a title that started with such a bright promise.
The Multiverse. What was once a novel thing to see featured within genre fiction, has instead become far too commonplace. Just the words are often exhausting because too many publishers and studios, for both television and film, have bet the farm on creating their own multiverses with either established beloved characters or new fully realized creations.
One character that suffers the most from a constant multiversal attachment is Miles Morales, who can’t seem to escape this storytelling anchor.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man as a series was fine, albeit often aggressively mediocre, but more often than not it was tiring because the same types of story beats were being repeated over and over. It’s not just here though. Miles is a character perpetually trapped to play out stories that are about the Multiverse, Uncle Aaron, or somehow being updated copies of stories Peter Parker has already had. When the big hit film for the character (as much as I love it) sets in stone that stuff like the Spider-Verse is his whole gig it doesn’t entirely bode well for the character’s media future. This is where we continue to stand in the comics.
As a massive fan of Miles Morales (seeing a major hero that is biracial like me over a decade ago was a huge moment), it’s been painful to watch as the character has been distilled down to just these concepts over and over and over again.
Saladin Ahmed is a fine writer, he’s done some really great stories including earlier in this series, but it’s hard not to feel like right now Miles Morales as a character is not being done justice. Being stuck as the Spider-Man that is always dealing with the multiverse and basically all his school/family/friend/supporting cast stuff being cast aside is an anchor around the character. It’s like all the actual Spider-Man-like stories are being saved for Peter at this point and Miles is just off to the side doing the other stuff.
We’re thrown into an alternate future where the evil clone Selim (Miles spelled backward…sigh) killed Miles during their own Clone Saga story, and took over just Brooklyn. It feels too small because Selim manages to lock off Brooklyn in some dimensional pocket and the only people fighting back that Miles comes across are people, he knows like his little sister grown up and his best friend who is far older. The characters and overall direction are fine, but it just feels overly cookie-cutter and predictable. It hits every dystopian alternate reality trope out there and overall, it just plays things safe and stays in the lanes that have been seemingly established for the character.
There are a number of issues in the middle that just seemingly do nothing and go nowhere as they pad out the very small overall threat, which is pretty much dealt with in a small fight in the second to last issue, with a sacrifice that emotionally lands with a dull thud.
Even when poking at the flaws of the plotlines and how the multiverse anchor has been dragging Miles and his book down, I would not and have not questioned the ability and care that Ahmed has as a writer. This final issue in the run returns the book to a status wherein, I feel, we were getting the best that Ahmed brought to the table. Honestly, just returning Miles’s captions as his journal (and the self-poke about it being a long time because of a forever Multiverse arc was good) where he’s working through stuff is a great thing to see.
Even with the highlights that came as the series wrapped everything up, the road there was a very bumpy one that should not be taken again. That’s a bad road that you find another route to take upon your return, or hop on a flight to get back to where you came from.
In just these six issues we get a varying mix of artists that were called into action. Christopher Allen, Alberto Foche, Oren Junior, Jose Marzan Jr., Brian Reber, David Curiel, Carmen Carnero, Paris Alleyne, Ig Guara, Paco Medina, Walden Wong, Alitha E. Martinez, Natcha Bustos, Travis Lanham, and Cory Petit all handle portions of these six issues with most of the artists handling the celebratory final issue of the run.
On the surface, there are some cool things such as this very futuristic-looking version of Brooklyn that happens to be under fascist control. It’s bright and colorful but also has a lot of weight to it and the right amount of darkness befitting the overall story tone. That doesn’t last very long though as many of the issues take place in very bland gray spaces that allow for a bit of color here or there but not a ton other than the characters themselves.
At the same time, there are some areas where the shifting art leaves many of the characters not coming off correctly. Mainly in facial expressions/emotional moments where it’s not entirely clear what they should be feeling, masks or no masks. There are moments where Shift suddenly is shrunk down and is just an exact copy of Miles in appearance for some unexplained reason despite being his usual hulking self a panel or two before. Sure, he’s a shifter but it almost comes off like it was easier just to draw two ‘normal’ Miles.
Carnero, Alleyne, Guara, Medina, Wong, Martinez, Bustos, and Allen all chip in to bring their artistic styles to the various montages that are tied to the different tarot cards (which are incorporated into each of the panels/pages) of the final story. There are a lot of differences between the art styles that are very noticeable but there is nothing fully glaringly different, allowing them to fit together pretty well. It helps that each style is handling a different setting/focus which makes the bevy of artists a smoother exchange.
Curiel does a superb job at providing the colors for this cavalcade of artists, bringing a lot of brightness but also weight that shifts to fit each of the different styles on display. Some of the pages feel lighter, brighter, and flowy while others are darker with shadows and heavier weight. There are flashes of bright colors, especially around the superhero sort of things, while maintaining a sort of more realistic color palette for the normal characters or aspects. Mostly it’s cooler tones with some harsher ones for the more dire moments of the book. Without the more futuristic or dystopian elements really on display for most of the issue the colors are more in a sort of normal range one could say.
Petit and Lanham handle the lettering quite well. There are numerous very talking-heavy issues in this run, meaning they have a lot to bring to the page. Volume and tone are inherently clear across the pages. Small changes are done to make the fonts and bubbles fit well across the varying art styles, and just more work to infuse the dialogue with all the personality and energy of the characters.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man Vol 8: Empire Of The Spider is now available from Marvel Comics.