The title of this trade paperback may give away the villain, but even knowing that going into it, it’s still a fun time. Collecting Saladin Ahmed’s Miles Morales: Spider-Man #16-21, this collection has a lot going on, from clones to S.H.I.E.L.D. attacks and even crocodile attacks with a baby strapped to Miles’ chest. It’s a story that continues to show Miles as a big brother, but also navigate a complicated world where Ultimate universe characters still seem to plague him.
The art is split between three pencilers, opening with Cory Smith and Carmen Carnero drawing #17-19, and Marcelo Ferreira closing the book out art in #19-21. All three bring that highly detailed superhero style we’ve come to expect from Marvel Comics. The book has a darker tone thanks to the ink work by Victor Olazaba, Carnero, JP Mayer, Wayne Faucher, and Ferreira, which goes a long way in making Miles stand out as a hopeful beacon for the story. A reoccurring element that is used well in the book is close-ups, with character faces filling the frame with key reaction shots. It helps zero in on the humanity of the characters.
Opening with Miles Morales and his family hanging out in the baby room, Ahmed reminds us this is a book about family. Miles is in charge of taking care of his sister and he’s quickly suiting up to investigate the screams of an innocent civilian. It’s a cute way to show how complicated a baby webbed to your chest can get. Outside of this, Prowler gets entwined with Ultimatum’s plotting, which sets up the main conflict that Miles will go through throughout the book. It’s a good setup issue since it offers a lighter side quest before the main plot kicks in.
Following this, Ahmed explores Miles’ big brother nature as he helps a kid who was bullied. It’s a nice reminder Miles doesn’t just punch out bad guys, but also serves as a good role model and big brother to those in need. It’s also a cool way to connect the character to the streets helping anyone in need. By showing Spider-Man tackle a minor problem with all his energy and confidence, Ahmed and Carnero show us the heroism in Miles goes as deep as his bones.
This trade also connects with the C.R.A.D.L.E. response to teen heroes which ended up being a small event that touched a few different books. There’s a confrontation that plays against expectations connected to Outlawed. It also serves as a means to show a side of Miles that makes him different from most. It also sets up some retribution for later when Miles’ cockiness will likely get the better of him. Props to Miles for calling them fascists. I’m sure that’ll get a cheer out of most readers.
This collection does well to show us how Miles is a different kind of hero. He’s a man of the people, a brother, and a caring hero who will help anyone. Ahmed uses clones to toy with readers (and get us very nervous for what clones could imply), but offers satisfying reasons behind them. This is a book that plays with your expectations of Spider-Man and the Spider-Man mythos. That makes a chunk of the book interesting, exciting, and fun for longtime readers.
This book also comes with a heavy dose of Captain America and it’s interesting to see how Ahmed integrates the character. He is also a hero for the people, though he is much more seasoned and far less emotional than the younger Miles Morales. You get the sense that Miles is on a track that could lead him to become a hero for justice like Cap, but he has a long way to go. Cap plays into the last half of the book, which also integrates Ultimatum, an older version of Miles Morales. Along with a Goblin attack, this book has a heavy connection to the Ultimate universe and will likely be far more enjoyable to those who loved those stories. Those unfamiliar will go with it, of course, but the long history this book connects back to definitely adds richness to the confrontations.
One might surmise how short-lived Outlawed was that its blip in this book was shoehorned into the narrative. It doesn’t quite jive with the family story or the Ultimatum stuff. It makes caring about the plot hanging over Miles being an illegal hero confusing. The inclusion of Captain America seems to resolve the C.R.A.D.L.E. conflict practically before it can start, further making it seem pointless to this narrative.
This is a good collection and a nice reminder of Miles Morales’ strengths and uniqueness from other superheroes. This book balances action, heroism, and family in a way that proves this is a complex hero with a complex approach to heroism. When it comes to Miles Morales, would we have it any other way?
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