Review: Spider-Man #240
Trade paperback copies of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man from the local public library were what got me into comics, and the first Marvel comic I ever subscribed to was Ultimate Comics Spider-Man featuring Miles Morales. So, it’s safe to say that I was rooting for Spider-Man #240 to be a fantastic ending to Bendis’ 18 years on Spider-Man and seven years writing Miles. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case even though Oscar Bazaldua is one of Marvel’s best up and coming artists and can fill a page or double page spread with action and emotion beats. Speaking of emotion, Bendis’ farewell letter at the end is more moving than anything except Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor’s final page. I’m surprised I’m saying this about a Bendis comic, but Spider-Man could have used one more issue with the return of Uncle Aaron/Helicarrier theft storyline ending in Spider-Man #240, and the next issue acting as a proper send off for Bendis’ work with Miles Morales and Spider-Man instead of this rush job/bottle episode.
After a cliched present-to-flashback sequence, Spider-Man #240 has a pretty nice fight sequence between the Champions, the new Sinister Six, and the Latverian army. Bendis and Bazaldua even make the stakes personal with both Miles and his uncle Aaron tumbling off the Helicarrier with a black and gold color palette from Laura Martin in an almost silent double page spread. But, then, it all cuts to black, and we’re back in the hospital. There’s a lot of fades to blacks and hospital scenes like Bendis was simultaneously streaming the ER and Sopranos finale while scripting his own finale. To go with this, there’s a lot of telling and not showing and a bunch of abrupt cuts in the storyline like Bendis was trying to set up a quick subplot or two at the end and didn’t resolve it.
For example, Miles is in the hospital after his battle with the Latverians because there is something up with his genetic code, but we never find out what it is even after a shoehorned Tony Stark cameo. Bendis also seems to be setting up a new path for Miles and his new writer with a connection to espionage, but cuts before the “reveal” of the Marvel Universe big shot, who wants his help. Less egregiously, he resolves a Ganke subplot with expository dialogue and hand waves the ending of the issue’s opening battle with an off panel Avengers appearance. Dialogue is still one of Bendis’ strengths, and he has a lot of fun with the banter between the Champions members (And Goldballs!) without resorting to awkward “millennial speak” like Mark Waid, but seeing Miles’ mom Rio interact with Captain America would have been way cooler than just a word balloon.
Also, Bendis and Bazaldua drop the ball when it comes to the interactions between Miles and his Uncle Aaron in Spider-Man #240, which was the through line of this final arc as Miles tries to help his uncle use his technological skill for good and not crime. Aaron disappears during the final battle and then reappears at Miles’ hospital bed in a darkly lit scene from colorist Martin. Bendis’ writing for Aaron is simple; his time with Miles over the past few days has helped him think about doing good. But then there are some really awkward visuals like a close-up of Miles utterly freaking out when Aaron touches his hand before yet another fade to black. Intentional or not, there is a dreamy quality to the hospital scenes, and it is like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again” where Buffy think she has hallucinated the past six years of her life. Thankfully, Bendis doesn’t go for “It was all a dream” cop out ending, but the hospital setting limits the type of interactions Miles can have and hamstrings the whole ending.
However, Spider-Man #240 isn’t all bad, and there is one series of scenes that made me smile. Brian Michael Bendis and Oscar Bazaldua spend a decent amount of time closing the curtain on the main constant in Bendis’ run writing Miles Morales: the friendship between Miles and Ganke. (There’s a reason that they’re the sole stars of the final Pichelli and Ponsor drawn page.) After weird medical testing talk, it’s refreshing to just listen to them talk about girls, video games, and how crazy their lives have been. After fighting supervillains and Latverians, Miles just wants to hang out and be a regular teenager. Bazaldua also includes a nice sight gag of Spider-Man (The Peter Parker one) lounging in a web hammock outside the hospital room in a great nod to Miles’ origin as taking on the dead Spider-Man’s legacy in the Ultimate Universe as well as Bendis’ 11 years of writing Peter in Ultimate Spider-Man.
Some cool flight blocking from Oscar Bazaldua, smart color shifts from Laura Martin, and every time Ganke shows up, Spider-Man #240 is an unceremonious end to Brian Michael Bendis’ time writing Miles Morales. There were some good ideas in this storyline, like the return of his “Uncle Ben figure,” Aaron Davis, but it’s squandered with start and stop subplots, and can we seriously stop with the fading to black panels. Bendis stuck the landing with Jessica Jones and Defenders as farewells to his other big Marvel creation and his work on street level and team books, but sadly strikes out in his final issue of the book that got him in the door and made him a star back in 2000.
Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Oscar Bazaldua Colors: Laura Martin with Matt Milla and Peter Pantazis Final Page Art: Sara Pichelli with Justin Ponsor
Story: 5 Art: 8 Overall: 5.5 Recommendation: Pass
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review