A Future Stolen: Reviewing ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ #3
by Scott Redmond
Things get very personal as ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ #3 brings the title character face to face with his brand new foe who has a pretty big beef to settle with him. Truly this is one of the best Miles Morales stories around, celebrating and understanding the character and his world in powerful ways. Miles Morales fans are eating well.
Dynamics that are great between heroes and villains often have some sort of connecting factor, building that dramatic tension. Sometimes it can take the form of them just having opposing methods/morals/ideas that cause them to crash into one another, while other times it’s something more personal.
Miles Morales has been swinging around the Marvel Universe (both 616 and Ultimate versions) for well over a decade now. In that time though it’s been very hard to point at really any signature foes that have been built for him other than the reuse of Uncle Aaron/Prowler/Iron-Spider or the return of the actual 616 Miles Morales/Ultimatum. Many of the foes he’s fought are multiversal or are rogues of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. Cody Ziglar saw this opening, took that personally, and has begun the good work with Miles Morales’ own rogues.
Every villain needs their origin story and that’s what we get here with Rabble. Ziglar used the best formula which sees the first issues of a storyline set up the situation for the hero and the threat they face, before pulling back the curtain in the middle ahead of the hell breaking loose final act. What really works with Rabble’s origin is that it’s in many ways similar to Miles’s own story, including their already revealed connection in regard to being in the lottery for Brooklyn Visions Academy, where nothing about it began as inherently sinister or villainous.
She didn’t grow up and want to lash out at the world or have some inherent desire to see the world conquered or the like. No, her vendetta is very much personal with Miles Morales. Raneem Rashad has a gift that connects her to machines, and her future was something she pinned on Brooklyn Visions only to be beaten out for that spot in the lottery space that Miles won. A spot that we’ve seen recently (and through his career as Spider-Man) that has come into question because he’s not putting his all or full attention on it, because of all that superhero stuff he’s also got going on.
This is a big superhero/villain story, but Ziglar also simply peppers in some social commentary which is always part of the formula for many of the best comics. Raneem is 100% correct that pitting young people against each other with their future balanced on the outcome of a lottery is a pretty damn messed up thing to do. The collective we have convinced ourselves that such things are ‘fair’ and ‘even’ since it’s random, but it’s far from true. Those that don’t win are still left out in the cold, their gifts or desires for learning perhaps not getting nurtured or cultivated as they could and should be. As they watch from the outside, seeing those that perhaps are not taking their good fortune as seriously as they should be.
Ziglar captures these voices, those that we know and those that we don’t, so well and creates character depth without even having to try hard. One can feel the passion that the writer has for these characters and their world, and it matches the passion many of us readers have as it crafts a story that many of us have wanted to read for years.
With each issue, the magic that Federico Vicentini and Bryan Valenza are casting just gets better and better. There is a powerful flowing kinetic feeling on every page, capturing the energy and depth of the world and making these images feel so alive. Just look at the opening page of flashbacks of Raneem’s origin story. These six pages are full of five to six often thin rectangular panels, yet there is so much happening in these panels that tell us a ton about the characters and their lives.
Sure, the captions are telling us things, but if you took those captions away this montage of images would completely tell that same story. One would instantly pick up on the same beats that Raneem is telling us through the captions, understanding the journey of this family because it’s one that we’ve seen similar elements of in fiction and in reality all around us, some even living that life themselves. Much like the larger panels that showcase city elements or showcase action, there is great depth and space even in these small panels that create a contained world around these characters as we flash through their lives. Tons going on but it never feels overwhelming or even oppressive in any way.
This energy carries through all the pages where we get panels that are wider/thinner or bigger/smaller with wide shots and closeups all of them giving us a depth of the world or perfect capturing of emotions upon the faces of characters to inform the scene. Vicentini makes some great choices to step away from standard paneling styles to give us ones that slide over each other and take on odd shapes or need to be read in a zig-zag sort of pattern, which all helps keep that kinetic energy flowing and engages the reader in an awesome way.
In those flashbacks I mentioned a few paragraphs back, they instantly stand out from the rest because Valenza pulls back from the color palette that is in use during the rest of the issue. While those pages are weighty with tons of popping colors, especially when it has to do with superhero/villain elements, the flashbacks are colorful but faded. All the color is somewhat sucked out save hazy shades creating that sort of memory sort of aspect that we can visually understand. Right away mentally one can check off that it’s not part of the present day, as if they are looking at an old family video or something in order to understand the character’s life span.
Oh, also I need to point to the pages near the end when Miles and Misty defeat Scorpion/before Miles meets Rabble, where the sun is setting and the lighting on the characters is done fantastically. There are changes that are easily visible to the color aspects of the world, matching the direction and waning power of the light that is shining down, and it creates some stunning visuals as the issue moves forward.
With the flashback pages and Rabble explaining herself to Starling, and then of course any page with the quipping talkative Spider-Man, there is a lot of lettering in the form of caption and dialogue. Cory Petit makes it all flow smoothly, dropping bubbles and captions in places that enhance everything around them as they make sure to never overwhelm the art or the person reading them. There is a rhythm to their placement, that often helps guide our eyes from panel to panel by following the dialogue bubbles as eyes naturally move from the words right to the speaker and the action on the page.
Petit is one of those that always goes hard with the lettering, not just putting the words on the page and letting it be. No, there is power and emotion that is easy to pick up on at any given time. Suddenly someone’s dialogue will increase by a multitude of font sizes with a stronger bold element applied to it in order to let us know they’re getting loud, or it’ll shrink as they are whispering or muttering or just talking to themselves after getting knocked around by say a Scorpion themed villain.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #3 is now available physically & digitally from Marvel Comics.