Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor
Once upon a time there was an independent comic book writer who was putting out some very good, noir inspired books. After years of work, he was quickly gaining a ton of buzz as a name to watch, and one of the major publishers gave him a shot. While that success was a long time coming, it gave this writer time to really hone his craft. Success was there not slow in coming, as his first major assignment was the launch of a new imprint. This imprint was a home run both commercially and creatively, though it played a lot off of existing characters and readers expectations of situations. This book would go on to be the longest run of any creative team on any comic at said big imprint.
After the success of this big, new imprint, this writer got a-hold onto the main franchise of the major company. He proceeded to make that his bread and butter, his top seller, and get away from the intense, personal stories that made him an original critical darling. Fans, in droves, turned on him, and even a relaunch of that original imprint couldn’t bring back the buzz around that creator, and though his sales numbers were hard to beat, his quality, often, was not.
That has no changed. The writer, of course, is Brian Michael Bendis and he has, with Ultimate Spider Man’s relaunch and new character under the mask Miles Morales, rediscovered the skill that made him such a critical darling. This book so far has all the writing nuance and ability that made Bendis’ Powers, Daredevil and Jinx must-reads. But it’s better than those. Bendis has, since then, become a father, and this story about a grade-school aged student has a heart and tenderness to it that are both undeniable and wonderfully done.
This issue features young Miles running away after his father and uncle’s argument that closed the issue prior. His run offers him a chance to discover new powers and weirdness. True to his age, he runs straight to the home of his brainy best friend and they try and figure out what’s going on. This scene is wonderful, for while his friend has some cliché elements – builds models, thinks powers are the coolest – the mechanics of their conversation sound just like real kids. Miles is discovered finally by his father, who gives him a talk about the past shared by both father and uncle. This could easily have been another cliché scene, or worse, been overly preachy, but anyone who spends enough time around children will recognize the tone and the explanation given. It’s one the understanding parent, guardian, or teacher the one more likely to explain, will almost always go into when there are serious matters afoot.
Miles reactions to everything make the issue. Not only are his words tone perfect, but the art of Sara Pichelli absolutely nails his facial expressions at every turn, from fear to shock to confusion, every bit is evident on Pichelli’s face. She also does a great job showing his powers – sticking to walls, becoming invisible, bio electric stings, and agility – so that we know what they are well before we’re told. The powers in and of themselves are a nice twist on what Spider-Man usually can do, and watching the confusion of Miles as they pop up is incredibly entertaining. I never thought I’d be sad to see Chris Samnee on a book, and he’s coming to this title with #6, but as good as he is, I’m unsure he’s up to matching the sheer expression in Pichelli’s art.
The teen superhero genre has been done to death over the years, but this isn’t that. This is a kid superhero story. Miles is, at this point, still in grade school. He’s a really good, likable kid, in a very strange situation that both the art and writing manage to humanize and make entirely both relatable and understandable to the reader. This book has not only likeable, believable characters, but a real emotional core that feels true. Bendis is a father, and that clearly informed this. Pichelli, although a newcomer, is a brilliant with human expression and human behavior. Rarely has an origin story been so compelling without major events or a faster pace. This is two masters at their peak. Rating? 10/10.
Tags: Brian Michael Bendis, Miles Morales, Sara Pichelli, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man