What happens when you take one of Marvel’s brightest young heroes and place them in the hands of a talented novelist? You get MILES MORALES: A SPIDER-MAN NOVEL. Award-winning YA author Jason Reynolds was hired by Marvel to write a novel about iconic Afro-Latino superhero, Miles Morales. Continuing off Miles’ story in the world of comic books, MILES MORALES: A SPIDER-MAN NOVEL delves more deeply into this Spider-Man’s personal life, both masked and unmasked.

Extension of a Built Universe

MILES MORALES: A SPIDER-MAN NOVEL continues off of an intermediate point in Miles’ story, in which he’s already established his superhero status. He’s still processing the death of, and complicated feelings towards, his Uncle Aaron Davis, who had originally given Miles his powers and tried to exploit them.

In this novel, Miles is a scholarship student at an exclusive New York charter school, visiting his parents on the weekends while living the average life of a teenager. However, Miles’ other identity as Spider-Man has been less than stable. He experiences a series of complications with his Spidey senses, especially in the presence of his cute classmate, causing him to doubt his abilities and resolution to be Spider-Man.

 

Miles Morales: A Spider-Man Novel
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

On top of all of that, Miles continues to have recurring nightmares about his uncle, shaken by the notion that he, himself, will repeat the sins of his family’s past. As the dreams become more common in Miles’ life, the boundaries between truth and fiction begin to dissolve, bringing up the question: who is Miles Morales? Miles’ life reflects a tangled web caught between secrets and truths that only Miles can untangle and decipher for himself.

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Ficto-Realism of Evil

While a large majority of Miles’ conflicts are internal within the novel, there are external evils that make the reader pause at their emotional nearness to the real world. One of Miles’ primary antagonists in the book comes from a mundane source — his own school — in the form of his history professor, Mr. Chamberlain, aka the worst history teacher in New York. Mr. Chamberlain is, unfortunately, the kind of evil nearly anyone can recognize: a dull know-it-all who speaks ignorance as though it were truth. Needless to say, Miles and the other students of color at his school are extremely uncomfortable with this teacher; but unfortunately, they fear the repercussions of challenging the school system and risking their scholarships.

MILES MORALES: A SPIDER-MAN NOVEL is unafraid to go into hard truths, addressing the modern-day prison system, struggling urban neighborhoods, and a precarious educational system that sets up high standards with low margin for error for scholarship students and/or people from marginalized backgrounds. Life is never easy for anyone, yet individuals like Miles should not have to go through extra hurdles to obtain a decent education. In one telling scene in the book, an adult character reflects on the reality of the education system he grew up in. “School is like a tree we get to hide in,” he says. “And at the bottom of it is a bunch of dogs. Them dogs are bad decisions. So when people shake us out that tree for no reason, it becomes a lot easier to get bit” (pg. 207).

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A Hero’s Heart

In comics, we admire superheroes for their awesome powers and their ability to handle incredible adventures. Yet in my opinion, what really draws the reader to the superhero is the recognition of their own humanity reflected back on the page. Yes, Miles Morales is one of the latest incarnations of Spider-Man. Yes, he can crawl on walls and fight opponents twice his size. And the book highlights this, but it also highlights all his other identities, like student, friend, and son.

The book celebrates the entirety of not just Spider-Man, but Miles Morales, a young man of Afro-Latino descent. Whether it’s playing basketball with his friends, or eating chicharrón de pollo or dancing to Celia Cruz with his family; Miles lives a fully culturally integrated life, one that enriches his experiences and provides a beautiful reflection to those who come from the same background as him.

Miles Morales: A Spider-Man Novel
Ultimate Spider-Man #28. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

MILES MORALES: A SPIDER-MAN NOVEL Conclusion

I believe it should be noted that Jason Reynolds is not a regular writer within the Marvel Universe. In previous interviews, Reynolds had admitted that he is not, in his own words, a “huge comics reader.” Despite all that, Reynolds has reached into the body of this strange comic book world to reveal the full heart of Miles Morales.

I admit I am not usually a fan of tie-in novels, playing off already established characters and settings. Yet reading MILES MORALES: A SPIDER-MAN NOVEL, I was captivated by its multifaceted characterization, rich crafting of prose, fluent diversity, and captivating plot twists. Reynolds’ book acts as an organic extension of the MARVEL universe, and in doing so contributes to Miles Morales’ ever-expanding story. For fans of Young Adult fiction or fans of Miles Morales or both, this book is a worthy and excellent title to add to your library.

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