MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2 by Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón
While less story progression is seen in this issue, MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2 succeeds at building its protagonist's emotional arc. It also gives some impressive depth to the Rhino beyond "Ivan Drago in an animal suit."
77 %
Solid Follow-up

Following SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE’s Golden Globe win, I’d say audiences are in the mood for more Miles Morales. Luckily, MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2 keeps his breakout status alive and kicking, even in the wake of Brian Michael Bendis’ departure. From the Ultimate universe to the 616 world, and all across the multiverse, Miles has proven a worthy successor for Peter Parker. By comparison, MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN furthers the character’s journey into his own brand of hero, rather than a 616 spider-companion.

An Unusual Alliance

As the second chapter in this soft reboot, MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2 favors character dynamics over plot progression. It follows the past issue’s aftermath where Miles learns, quite painfully, the whereabouts of friend Barbara’s younger cousin Eduardo. Turns out he, along with a bunch of other kidnapped children, have been brainwashed and decked out into super-suits, turning them into some shady figure’s innocent-looking errand boys. However, Spider-Man finds an ally in the unlikeliest of villains: the Rhino. With his deceased wife’s niece Oksana missing, the two join forces to uncover the mystery behind these disappearances.

MILES MORALES: Spider-Man #2
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

It’s the Rhino scenes where this issue really shines, adding more to the villain beyond a generic dumb brute archetype. At first, Aleksei teases Miles for not being the “real” Spider-Man, treating him more like a kid than an adversary. Yet as they get closer to the culprit, writer Saladin Ahmed reveals the personal stakes of Rhino’s involvement. He might be a villain, but Rhino also views himself as Oksana’s unofficial guardian, protecting her in honor of his former love. He also was a Mall Santa at one point, which is quite adorable when you think about it.

By comparison, the story accompanying these interactions isn’t so much a chapter as it is build-up. We have two conversations between Miles and Rhino, a couple scenes dedicated to Miles’ personal life and a final battle. That’s MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2’s premise in a single sentence. It’s by no means bad or uninteresting, but the conflict’s scale is narrowed down to two characters’ perceptions rather than its impact on the larger Marvel universe.

Great Responsibility

This interplay helps further Miles’ ongoing arc as a hero grappling with the value of responsibility. Unlike Peter, Miles doesn’t hide his superhero identity from his parents or childhood friend Ganke. But that doesn’t mean the burdens of a secret identity don’t affect him, as seen when he comforts Barbara over her cousin’s disappearance. Despite pledging to make things right, Miles’ words are misinterpreted as a well-intentioned, yet reckless, attempt to cheer her up. Like every Spider-Man in the multiverse, having powers doesn’t automatically guarantee that Miles can make everything better.

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This balance of personal drama and large-scale kidnapping make up the essence of a good Spider-Man story. More importantly, it creates a good introduction for newcomers to Miles Morales post-SPIDER-VERSE. He’s not the Miles from the big screen, but there are elements of that characterization in MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN. This Miles was bitten by a radioactive spider a long time ago and, as SPIDER-GEDDON showed, faced adversaries worthy of a seasoned Marvel veteran. But he’s still a teenager in the process of learning responsibility, and that’s good motive for a Spider-Man storyline.

It helps that MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2 is another visually pleasing entry in this new series. The character models, admittedly, use flatter palettes that rarely exaggerate their facial movements, safe for the occasional close-up shot. At times, it does look like artist Javier Garrón is holding back. However, I appreciate how Garrón compiles various artwork “shots” to create a somewhat cinematic flair or at least something on par with high-budget television. Rhino’s artwork is the most unique, going with a portly, but still muscular, physique that draws attention to the character’s age. Luckily, this art style is still fluid enough to make its third act fight scene feel intense.

Miles Morales: A Leap of Faith

If you liked INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, read the first issue of MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN, then this one. If you’ve already picked up issue #1, keep going with #2. Despite the slow progression, the depth provided for Miles and Rhino is much appreciated in retaining audience investment. Given the reveal of this arc’s villain, as well as the final page reveal of a new ally, you can bet Miles’ journey is not over yet. This will make one hell of a high school journal entry.

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