There are no creative voices more deeply ingrained in Marvel Comics than Brian Michael Bendis. There are creative visions I’ve enjoyed more (Jonathan Hickman’s run from 2008 to 2015), but none are more responsible for my deep love for all things Marvel Comics since the year 2000.
When I started getting into comics, the architecture of Bendis’ work on titles like New Avengers was my guide. I still remember where I was (local library outside my office waiting for rush hour traffic to die down) when I read the revelation that Electro didn’t act alone in “Breakout.” I missed a train to work because I couldn’t put House of M down. When it comes to getting into the modern Marvel Universe, you can’t do it without the work of Brian Michael Bendis.
The craziest twist on that truth is it doesn’t even include his more isolated Ultimate Universe work on Ultimate Spider-Man. I love Alias, AKA Jessica Jones and Daredevil, but Bendis’ work with Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man will always be my favorite work. USM completely reinvigorated a post-Clone Saga Spidey for the 2000’s, and then, when it seemed to have finally reached a decades-in-the-making conclusion, exploded with new life behind the creation of Miles Morales.
When the character launched in the wake of The Death of Spider-Man, Miles received mainstream press for his diversity. The Bendis and Sara Pichelli character design wasn’t just a “Black Spider-Man,” it offered one of the only African-American and Latin-American characters in the entire Marvel roster.
Of course, much like Ms. Marvel, the attention around diversity is an important opening observation that fails to tell the whole story: Miles is an amazing Spider-Man. Somehow, despite the impending literal collapse of the Ultimate Universe, Bendis and company managed to craft a Miles Morales Spider-Man comic that felt as essential as those halcyon days of Ultimate Spider-Man #1.
If you haven’t read the Ultimate Spider-Man run and consider yourself a fan of the character, or don’t know much about Miles Morales, I strongly encourage you to check out the essential comics reading lists below for guides and entry points to the character. It’s almost taken for granted now, but Miles became absolutely essential so quickly that even the destruction of his entire universe during Secret Wars couldn’t slow the character down. Marvel simply made room for two Spider-Men.
Admittedly, Bendis peaked on Miles’ Spider-Man some time ago. A book like Spider-Man is very much locked into the Bendis-verse that he’s spent years creating across multiple titles (and across multiple universes). Major characters in Miles’ solo ongoing include Goldballs (X-Men creation), the Bombshells (long running players in Ultimate Spider-Man), and of course, Gahnke and friends.
In truth, I haven’t felt engaged or engrossed in Miles comics since the first run concluded. My first reaction to the news that Bendis would be leaving Marvel for DC was excitement that another creator would get to take over writing Miles Morales. It feels dismissive of the past to say this, especially when Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man legacy extends back to the year 2000, and he deserves all the credit in the world (alongside Pichelli) for the creation.
Nonetheless, it’s time for a change. Turn Miles over to a new creative team and let them inherit this amazing legacy.
Spider-Man #234 does set the stage for some rich material moving forward. On a more of-the-moment craft level, Bendis is also using Marvel Legacy to deliver extremely effective cliffhangers. As generally disinterested as I was in the majority of Spider-Man #234, the final page tease was truly surprising and connects to Miles’ legacy in genuinely meaningful ways.
So no, it’s not a great issue by itself unless you’ve been eagerly following every step of Miles career to date. Still, Spider-Man is an important component of the Marvel lineup and one due for the same kind of re-invigoration that inspired it in the first place.
ESSENTIAL COMICS READING