Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Who are you when you’re Spider-Man?

Spider-Men #4Losing your identity is terrifying. Hearing the story about the Wired writer who lost his digital life through an Apple and Amazon security flaw had me changing my passwords instantly, and I don’t even have an AppleID. It’s weird how much of ourselves we offer to people, and yet that sense of self is probably one of the most precious things we have. When confused or uncertain, not having a clear idea of who we are can make simple decisions, such as what you wear, or more complicated ones, like whether to take a better job, crippling. Gaining a sense of identity is a crucial step in being a teenager and that uncertain feeling can last all the way until adulthood. Maybe that’s the reason we take solace in superhero stories; the reassurance of an alter ego, the mystery of deceiving appearances, the sense of satisfaction in doing the right thing and the defeat in wondering if it really was right to begin with.

Spider-Men watches Peter Parker struggle through identity issues in a much more literal sense. Sent to the alternate “Ultimate” universe, he’s instantly confronted with who he was (a teenage superhero rather than the man he is now), who he is (a grateful New Yorker knows the man behind the Spider-Man mask right off the bat), and who he could be (a dead man). It’s rough, but we take it in the gut alongside Peter Parker, thanks to the skillful writing of Brian Michael Bendis and the incredible art stylings of Sara Pichelli, both of whom really bring the story into your brain and let it soak in all the emotional juices. But what will happen next? Issue 4 came out this week, and we only have one issue left before Peter Parker is sent back to his own universe, hopefully a little wiser and better off for his stay, but what will he leave in his wake? I’m going to talk about that and some bullet points about Spider-Men #4.

WARNING: Yep, I’m going to talk about Spider-Men #4 below, so grab your copy and read along!


Did you read it? Spider-Men #4 was heartbreaking, as we find Peter Parker standing out in front of alter-self’s house to the shock and anger of Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. If you have ever What If?’d your own life, if you’ve ever had a loved one pass away and wanted just a little more time to say goodbye, or if you’ve acted on a selfish emotional impulse and then felt terribly guilty about your impact on other people, well, have we got a story for you! I actually cringed through some pages as Aunt May was confronted with a nephew she never watched grow up, that died just a few feet away from her home, that death barely even a year old. I’m just saying that “slapping the taste out of Peter’s mouth and then fainting” could have easily been “has a heart attack and dies” with all due reason. In a way, it’s a little heartless of Peter Parker to do this and, later on, he does say that if he’d even thought about it for two seconds, he might not have just shown up like that. In a way, it reminded me of the TV show Dead Like Me, where Georgia Lass sort of stalks her family after she’s died and watches them slowly fall apart.

From the outside, it might look like a heartless thing to do because of how much other people are hurt in the act, but really it’s a very emotional thing to do. After all, losing your identity is terrifying. When your resolve in who you are is shaken, people might lean on the familiar or take solace in the differences between yourself and everyone else. It’s that compare and contrast that makes us feel more real, that we are unique and our own person. Peter Parker got to literally see what could have been and, in the end, it was inspirational for everyone he loved. Aunt May had some peace in knowing she made the right choices, Gwen Stacy wanted to write a book about her experiences and Peter knew that no matter how dire this universe might seem, his family was safe and they loved him.

This is truly a Peter Parker story, which is why I worry for Miles Morales. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about him much and that’s because, despite being “co-billed” on the cover, there’s not a lot going on with him. Not only is the narrative focus on Peter Parker, but everyone in the story’s focus is as well; all the other characters in the book are going through this great catharsis in dealing with Ultimate Peter’s death and getting some personal time to clear away guilt and regrets while Miles simply tags along for the ride.

If anyone could actually benefit from a sense of who he is, it’s Miles Morales. While still young, he’s carrying the identity of someone much more popular and who died a hero’s death that the world took time to grieve for. The constant comparisons are going to dog his every step and, now faced with the most successful Spider-Man of all time, I’m not sure hanging out in his shadow is going to do the character or his book any good. Miles is not even free of the Great Peter Effect apparent in Spider-Men as he’s mostly there for wonder’s sake, a kid getting to meet a childhood hero and live the dream of working with the guy who inspired you. It’s a difficult balance, and I see why Bendis chose to follow Peter’s story rather than Miles’s, but I can’t help but wonder how many who pick up this mini-series are here for the new story of a new Spider-Man or simply enjoying the time Peter’s here and will also return home once the story is over. Spider-Men comes from the perspective of the guy we already know, not the new kid who we should really take the time to get to know.

A crossover between the Ultimate and 616 universe has be bandied about since the Ultimate comics really took off. The idea back then was for an older Peter to meet his younger self, still at the cusp of being a bona fide superhero. Readers were eager to see an older Peter to revisit the good old days of his youth while his younger self could marvel at the man he might become. It would be the sort of ‘What If?’ moment every one lingers on for a moment or two, looking back or forward at what could have been. In the wake of Ultimate Peter Parker’s death, we’re getting our wish to take a peek into the Ultimate universe and can watch as Peter Parker learns about himself and indulges in a little bit of emotional curiosity at what might have been. We just rarely think about what it does to other people or what will happen once we’re gone. A little heartless? Sure, but it’s an emotional judgment that we can’t help but make while Miles Morales gets left behind for now.

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15 Comments

Unless the next issue is longer, it seems like it might be a bit tough to cram the rest of the Story into the 5th and final book. This story still has the Mysterio thread and so far seems a bit lacking in the Miles\Peter dynamic which will get some face time, and then there is still the story thread with Mary Jane.

I didn’t think I was going to like Spider-Men but I am finding it to be one of the best Spider-Man stories ever. I teared up over these pages. Good job to Bendis and the gang. I still have very mixed emotions over Miles Morales and what they did to Ultimate Peter Parker. I am very grateful that Dan Slott came along and turned ASM around and made it a great read. It is a good time to be a Spidey fan and I have been for 38 years. Go Spidey, Go!

@Warren

It is a great read, I really wish the timing had worked out so Kitty and the X-gang could see him. This is what I’ve looked forward too the most and it’s just so brief, I wish these issues were longer

I would love it if they did a sequel to this where Peter Parker and Miles Morales team up (“shattered dimensions” style) with Miguel O’Hara (Spider-Man 2099) and Mayday Parker (Spider-Girl).

I may try this out once it hits trade. The general concept sounds interesting, and I like the creators involved, but the way Peter was killed off in the Ultimate universe left a bad taste in my mouth as a reader, because it seemed so contrived and editorially driven. I’ll wait and see what people have to say about this series once it’s finished…

Haven’t read it, but…seems like he and Gwen would have a lot to say to each other, too, right?

This issue, this damn issue, put a tear in my eye. Apparently Bendis still can put on a hell of a show when he wants to.

Ultimate sucks and this issue was garbage. It would have been great if fanfiction writers hadn’t already done crap like this many times before. It’s just another sign that Marvel is running out of ideas with Ultimate. They can’t seem to put any comic in the top 20 anymore without killing someone or doing a crossover gimmick. Just let this stupid series die already like Marvel 2099! I’m all for Miles showing up in 616, but he’s the single most boring character to emerge in Ultimate since Geldoff. Face it, Marvel. You killed Ultimate the moment you let Jeph Loeb write it.

Tell us how you really feel Jack.

I agree that the Ultimates line has really lost it’s luster over the years, but for you to sound so cynical and abrasive over comics you don’t read (and if you do read them at the moment my question is: why? since you’re so down on them…), it’s really silly. If you don’t like it don’t read it. That easy. I don’t like guys named Jack, but you don’t see me bashing them senselessly on the internet do you?

Can’t help but feel that if Aunt May had died in 616 and Peter and MJ had stayed together this would have had even more impact.

I’m sorry to say buy Miles Morales is a dud – I have no empathy for him & just find him plain boring; which is a shame as I really liked Ultimate Spider-man.
I agree after Loeb’s turd-fest, otherwise known as the Ultimates, the ultimate universe has lost a lot of it’s shine. Millar’s return had an interesting start, Red Skull as Capt. America’s, was decent but then all that vampire crap was just plain tedious & boring – it was clear Millar was completing a contract & his heart wasn’t in it.
Hickman’s Ultimates is definitely an improvement but it’s weird seeing Reed Richards as a villain.
What is the point of the Ultimate universe?
Is it to re-do 616universe stories with a twist – if so that’s not a good enough reason to have it.
Or is it to do mature weird stuff 616 can’t do? – if so – when was the last time they did this?
The whole Ultimatum event was garbage and lacked focus – & they killed Wolverine for no good reason.

I have followed Ultimate avidly and really enjoyed the early years but now it’s going no where fast – get rid of it & focus on 616. All Marvel titles are suffering – DC isn’t better but it has the attention & the balls to try radical stuff.
Avengers vs X-men feels desperate and a Civil War re-run, although I must admit it is done very well with some real wow moments. Daredevil has been outstanding but that is tailing off now.

Maybe the Marvel NOW reshuffle will bring freshness – but I’m not holding my breath.
It’s ironic when the Marvel heroes are setting the film world on fire & gaining mainstream respectability the comic versions are suffering like never before.

When Quesada became chief editor he brought in a lot of talent to refresh the lines – what the hell has Alonso done? It seems he’s managing the decline of a once great comic publisher.
RIP Marvel.

It is trully one of the best Peter Parker stories around. This is the kind of story or soap opera that we miss and enjoyed back in the days of earlier issues of Spider-Man. Tele-novela or mini-series at it’s best.

Lastly, all the great ones leave their mark. I don’t care what other people say but Bendis has done it here. Just like Dematties and Bagley,when they did Spider-Man/ Batman crossover, Just like David and Leonardi when they did Spider-Man meets Spider-Man 2099 and now this from Bendis and Pichelli. Trully a DEFINITIVE work of art.

My only wish is and hoping that Pichelli would do more 616 Spider-Man. So she could leave her mark and be in the echelon of the greats Spider-man Artists.

It will always be an interesting story to the majority of people, when the main hero dies and gets replace by a new one. It’s what I call progressive revelation. This happens all the time now. They do it in all Manga/Anime as well. It really has become a Blueprint or a pattern to follow suit.

But whats interesting is how they handle Miles and what’s going to be his trials and tribulations? This is something that has failed Spider-Man 2099 as a comic. There wasn’t really a significant factor. Hoping Bendis can pull it off.

Jack is right about the Ultimate universe. It’s broken and directionless and needs to die. I don’t have a single problem with a black/hispanic/anyotherraceeither Spider-Man, but I do have a problem with throwing Peter (and, before that, the whole UNIVERSE) under a non-sensical bus.

I want to like this story, and I’d like to have a milieu in which to place a well-written Miles Morales so that I could read about him without the festering corpse of a universe that used to have such promise surrounding and suffocating him and me.

I used to read a lot of Spider-man. But after all that insultingly bad Other, Sins Past, Unmasking stuff that was literally the worst I’d ever read, I haven’t seen that old Spider-man in the comic I read back in the 90s and 80s. Where is he?

Spider-man was reduced to a cartoon after that and they never apoligized for not giving fans they stuff they were promised. Why isn’t he dead? Why did they do no secret identity story if they didn’t have a plot to go with it? Why? WHy? Why? Is he magic and have stingers? No? The why?

This realy doesn’t interest me at all. I only say that because I miss the old guy. No, I don’t mean the Ultimate Spider-man. But atleast he didn’t die by some generic-looking villian.

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