In Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1, the torch is passed nicely to writer Saladin Ahmed aka the first person not named Brian Michael Bendis to pen the solo adventures of Miles Morales, the Afro-Latino teenager who is also bit by a genetically modified spider and survives the wreckage of the Ultimate Universe to become Spider-Man in the main Marvel Universe. In couple pages with big panels from artists Javier Garron and David Curiel, Ahmed summarizes the recent adventures of Miles because he knows this might be someone’s first comic book. It’s an old school trick that along with the narration allows the book to breathe between frenetic action sequences, nascent conspiracy plotlines, and romantic subplots.
Miles Morales Spider-Man #1 truly is a great hybrid of old school and modern comic book storytelling techniques even if Garron’s art isn’t terrible, but nothing to write home about and Curiel’s color palette is just drab and “there” for lack of a better word. Nothing really pops except the black in Miles’ costumes and some energy weapons, and color is used for representation, like skin tones, apartment buildings, and occasionally shadow.
Garron’s art doesn’t detract from Ahmed’s writing, and he gets some solid licks in like a fierce mano a mano fight between Miles and Rhino where Rhino busts his webs or that his depictions of hair actually have texture. However, his faces and body movement lack the clean expressiveness of his predecessors on the title like Sara Pichelli, Dave Marquez, and most recently, the highly underrated Oscar Bazaldua. With big smiles and relaxed poses, he can show characters having a good time like Miles watching online videos with his roommates Judge and Ganke.
However, with the exception of some amazing under-the-mask facial acting in a panel where Miles watches a young child get food at a homeless shelter, the big emotional scenes fall flat whether its his mother Rio’s concern for him after his costume gets all bloody or his budding feelings for his classmate Barbara. Ahmed’s dialogue is fairly flirty and adorkable, but there is no chemistry awkward or otherwise in Javier Garron’s artwork.
Generic art aside, Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 thanks to Saladin Ahmed’s sharp writing of Miles Morales. He explores the difficulty of being a student and a superhero, which is par for the course in a Spider-Man story, but also spends a page dwelling on how exhausted he is after fighting crime. It’s hard to sleep after punching, kicking, and venom stinging. Ahmed also digs into Miles’ Latino heritage as he speaks in Spanish with his mom, potential girlfriend Barbara, and Barbara’s cousin Eduardo.
Miles also shares a poignant moment with his mother when she reads in the newspaper about Latino immigrants being separated from their children, and how she would cope if that was her and Miles when he was younger. This real world connection flows into the bigger plot and leads Miles to ponder if his calling as a superhero includes bring social justice and change to his community as well as stopping muggers and armed truck robbers plus the odd supervillain. Ahmed nails this feeling with the line “…I’ve never been more sure about my power. But I’ve never been more confused about my responsibility”, and it flows into the moral ambiguity of the story’s final act.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 might not have flashy visuals, but Saladin Ahmed crafts a wonderful journey for Miles Morales as he deals with moral ambiguity and social injustice to go with the usual teen superhero soap opera elements of punching bad guys and romance. It’s also nice to see a hero be open about their secret identity around their family and get support from them, and so this comic evokes shades of the fantastic work John Rogers, Keith Giffen, and Rafael Albuquerque did with Jaime Reyes on Blue Beetle.
Story: Saladin Ahmed Art: Javier Garron
Colors: David Curiel Letters: Cory Petit
Story: 8.8 Art 7.5 Overall: 8.2 Verdict: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review