Rousing Some Rabble: Reviewing ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ #4
by Scott Redmond
Miles Morales faces what might be one of his most defining moments as ‘Miles Morales: Spider-Man’ #4 pits him against his most personal foe ever, and what they might take from him could change things forever. Every single thing about this series is just working as the creative team’s clear love for the character and his world is clear on every page, giving us one of the best Miles’ focused series ever.
A lucky break is often a great thing in life. For Miles Morales though, it could mean losing everyone he loves. Things take an explosive turn as Miles’ personal new rogues gallery member turns up the heat as she seeks to punish him for the lucky lottery chance of education.
One of the things that I’ve long felt about Miles Morales is that he hasn’t been given enough within his world that is wholly his own. Many of his foes are generally just members of Peter Parker’s stable of villains, outside of the times his uncle Aaron pops up or he gets involved in multiversal stuff. He has his own supporting cast and place in the universe, but in well over a decade of existence his personal space outside of that is lacking a bit. Cody Ziglar launched this new series for the character and said, “Hold on, I got something for that.”
Rabble, real name Raneem Rashad, is a perfect foil for Miles. With all the tech and such she’s powerful in a way but also very down to Earth. That personal vendetta, in this case, is not entirely Miles’s fault, making this first arc so strong. In a way, she’s basically Miles’ Norman Osborn. A foe that has a connection to the hero beyond the hero/villain dynamic and provides a very physical but also an intellectual challenge to them, but also someone willing to get disastrously personal with their attacks.
Much of this issue has Miles getting absolutely beaten around as Raneem is fully prepared for him, since she’s been watching him for a long time building to this moment, and we get some fantastic action but a lot of great character moments as Miles fully embodies that Spider-Man never give up attitude, pushing through pain and anguish because his family and friends need him. Pairing him with Misty Knight is a stroke of genius because she’s a classic Marvel character but also a Black woman. Peter is a great mentor for Miles but there are things that he can’t say or do because he will not ever fully understand what Miles is going through because he’s a white man with life experiences that are far different.
Misty brings a different attitude to the party and can hit Miles with advice and ideas that are far different than what Peter might say, while also not taking any attitude or pushback from him. She’s strong, tough, smart, and an ultimate badass. Often the best villains are those that have a point to what they are saying about the world or the hero’s place in it, so we can see both what Raneem and Miles are saying and where they are coming from, but their means to do something about that issue are misguided. Raneem is quite correct that the unfairness of a lottery system to get the best education shot is terrible and that Miles has not appreciated it as much as he should but deciding that means he and his loved ones must die for pure luck of the draw is of course way off base.
Spider-Man, in whatever form might be taken with that whole Spider-Verse out there, is an energetic smooth active character always bouncing around physically while slinging webs and quips aplenty. When a creative team can really tap into that facet with their art that’s when things get magical. We very much are getting that with Federico Vicentini and Bryan Valenza as they spin webs of magic with each issue, things just hit a super high note in this issue.
As I mentioned there is a ton of action here as Rabble and Spider-Man throw down, and it just moves around the page in a way that I’m almost certain it’s about to leap right off and come to life before my eyes. One glance at these pages will tell you instantly why Vicentini was chosen as one of the members of Marvel’s 2023 class for their Stormbreakers program. Panels slice across the page just like Rabble’s weapons are doing to Miles’ chest during their fight, taking on dynamic and varied shapes that help to create that sense of movement while also getting us right up in the middle of the action rather than making us distant observers. Vicentini packs so much depth, detail, and visible emotion/body language into every panel that one can’t help but feel like they are at Spider-Man’s side as everything is going down.
Characters that wear full face masks would seem like the type that we can’t see or feel emotions from when in art form, but great artists like Vicentini take that as a challenge and make it work. There is no mistaking how these characters are feeling in the moment as we can see their body language alongside hearing their words, but my favorite has always been when Spider-Man’s mask eyes are able to change just like real eyes to help show exactly how the person behind the mask is feeling in that moment, as we can see the fury through the mask in one of the first big fight moments.
Also, when an artist incorporates white/negative space into their framing, and has panels sliding over panels, to create some very unique displays I get exceptionally giddy. I just love when comic books burst out of that sort of standard panel idea and get wild.
Another solid choice is the color palette that Valenza brings into play. While the heroes and villains are bright and flashy as they should be, many of the elements around them, such as the city architecture, are far more toned down in color. By that I mean it has an appearance of almost something of normalcy, whatever that might mean, as if it might be an actual image of the world as it appears to us at times, sticking to that whole world outside your window thing that Marvel has going for it. This allows the hero/costumed bits to be as fantastical as they are meant to be because they stand apart from the rest of the world as they should.
Those colors also shift to where in some panels they are bright backgrounds to surround the action when the city and other elements are pulled back from in a panel to allow our focus to be fully on the characters/moment. Valenza uses that dynamic of color varieties in order to also strike the right lighting balance here as the scenes do very much feel like an accurate portrayal of a city at dusk, with some of the sun there but also that ever-creeping darker aspect that is waiting to take over for the night.
Making sure that we feel the emotions of the characters is not only on the artwork that brings the story to life visually but the lettering as well. Cory Petit is masterful at making that all so clear, adding the right emphasis to certain bits of lettering when needed. We get solid baseline style dialogue font and bubble styles, saving things like increased font, colorful bubble borders, bigger bubbles, and more visual cues to really hammer home what a character is feeling. It makes the tone/volume so clear when we see Miles’s angry words surrounded by a bright red border or his softer moment of asking for Rabble to wait being smaller, and his speech balloon full of a painful exclamation being jagged as the pain he’s feeling.
The story would work just as well with all the font and bubbles staying the same through the whole issue, the voice stuff would not be as clear, but it could work. In order to make the story the best that it can be though this element is just as important as every other bit that makes the issue come to life. Comics are a collaborative effort and when the team is all hitting their parts correctly that’s when one gets that whole magic thing I mentioned earlier.
Hands down, this is the Miles series I’ve been waiting years for. As Agent Coulson would say about Tahiti, this series is a magical place.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #4 is now available from Marvel Comics.