After getting bitten by one of the same genetically altered spiders that bit Peter Parker, Miles Morales has discovered that he also possesses spider-powers. Now the young Miles tries to juggle school life at his prestigious Brooklyn charter school, the pressures of his parents, an Uncle that seems to be hiding some pretty dark secrets and coming to terms with his new life as the "new Spider-Man". After rescuing a woman from a mugging, Miles finds his new alter ego plastered all over the media, with the city trying to work out if this truly is a new Spidey or just Peter Parker returned from the dead.
Meanwhile, ol' Uncle Aaron, in his own other identity of The Prowler, has had some trouble with a Mexican gangster called The Scorpion, who he reneged on a deal with. Uncle Aaron, upon seeing this new Spider-Man in the press, however, starts to put the puzzle pieces together...
We begin in Paris where we find Aunt May and Gwen Stacy (we all still remember them, right?) living together, trying to find some semblance of normality following the traumatic death of Peter Parker not too long ago. They sit down to have a nice coffee and just "enjoy the day" when May suddenly sees the front of a newspaper declaring the return of Spider-Man back home in New York. Understandably quite upset, May grabs the paper off the passer-by and demands that she read it to her (really doing wonders for the stereotype of obnoxious tourists aren't you, May?). The woman confirms that it appears there is a "new" Spider-Man kicking around and May and Gwen share a very concerned exchange.
A short trip across the Atlantic and we find ourselves back in Brooklyn, where Miles is face to face with Uncle Aaron, who wants a chat. The kind of chat that was pretty expressly forbidden by Miles parents over and over again. Nonetheless, Miles goes over and sees what his Uncle has to say. It turns out Uncle Aaron has pretty handily put together that Miles is this new Spider-Man. He explains that he was the one (in his Prowler identity), that stole the genetically altered spider from Osborn Industries and therefore when Miles got bitten by it, it was pretty easy to put one and one together. Miles, clearly feeling intimidated by this Uncle who has been revealed to be quite the crook, stays quiet. Aaron begins saying they need to "make a plan" and how they're "gonna turn this all up on it's ear". They are interrupted, much to Miles' relief, by a teacher who demands Uncle Aaron off campus, him not being on the prestigious visitation list. With a tip of his sneaky, bad-guy fedora, Aaron slides away leaving Miles with a mountain of worry.
A scene change finds us in a New York Police Department, where Captain Quaid begins interrogating the so-called Kangaroo (we are definitely going to run out of animal names for villains soon...) who apparently used to be a "player, a leader of men, a kingpin on the rise". Even with black lipstick. And that haircut. This was, of course, all before he got resoundingly beaten up by the new Spider-Man back in Ultimate Spider-Man: Fallout. Captain Quaid, however, seems to be quite interested in this guy and asks that he tell him "everything he knows about this new Spider-Man"...
We skip now to the other side of the law, where a group of mobsters are playing cards in a Brooklyn hideout. It's never expressly stated that they are mobsters, but they're playing cards, smoking cigars, cloaked in shadows and one of them looks like Tony Soprano so I'm just going to presume they are. Anyhoo,there they are just minding their own business when The Scorpion (not the Peter Parker-clone with green tails Scorpion, but the tatooed hook-wielding Mexican drug runner Scorpion) rolls up out of nowhere with a couple of henchmen looking for The Prowler. After finding them most uncooperative, The Scorpion unleashes his claw/hook-on-a-chain weapon and leaves them all dead on the floor in a very bloody fashion. He then declares he "came here to settle a score...but now I see why God sent me here...you people need leadership." Looks like we have ourselves a new Kingpin.
Meanwhile, we return to Miles who is pensively going through the motions of his school day, not saying a word about Uncle Aaron and looking quite bummed out by it all. He finally escapes to the outside in his Spider-Man gear to clear his head. Musing over the fact that his own Uncle may start blackmailing him, Miles suddenly hears trouble nearby, in the almighty form of...The Ringer. I genuinely had to Google "Spider-Man Rings" to remember this guys name, such is his stature, because Bendis didn't do me the favor of mentioning it in issue. Anyhoo, Miles tries to stop him robbing what appears to be a bank when he is ensnared by some of the formidable rings and left without the use of his arms. Miles, in his own slightly clumsy rookie manner, still manages to kick the Ringer into submission and down he goes. The police are just about to...heh...ring Spider-Man up when Captain Quaid stops them. He needs to "talk to Spider-Man"...
After eight issues of what initially appeared to be quite a formulaic retreading of Peter Parker's origin, just with some new decorations, Bendis really gets going with his new cast of characters in this issue. The most interesting of these is the interaction between Uncle Aaron and Miles, and the hold that this clearly crooked guy has over our young protagonist. Aaron started out as what appeared to be a bit of a lovable-rogue type back in the first issue, but we are beginning to get a true sense of his character in his outright intimidation of his own nephew. It creates a very interesting dynamic by bringing Miles super-hero identity into his personal life, but with a different spin from the usual 'unmasking' routine. It positions him between a rock and a hard place; the conflicting desires to carry on being Spider-Man regardless, but knowing deep down that eventually he may have to confront his own Uncle. It'll be a treat seeing how Bendis carries this out in future issues and it's really these kind of character-driven plotlines that he excels at, so good things may be coming.
The rest of the issue loses a bit of it's drive after this initial scene with Bendis setting up the two concurrent plots of The Scorpion and Captain Quaid. It's too early in the day to get a definitive opinion on these, although The Scorpion at least does seem like the king of 'legitimate' danger that we have lacked thus far, with his very bloody removal of the mobsters serving in stark contrast with the relative youthful naivety of Miles.
This does, however, bring into focus a potential difficulty that has arisen thus far in this run, namely concerning the writing of Miles' age and maturity. As far as I can remember, Miles' age has not been explicitly revealed so far, but let's assume given that he's just starting high school he is somewhere around the 14-15 bracket. As someone that has been 15 within the last decade, I can say that my memory of that age is quite different to how Bendis is writing Miles. From what I recall, it's a generally 'immature' age, and rightly so. I may remember feeling all grown up at the time but really the reality is, in retrospect, quite differen. However, Bendis is writing Miles as this strange amalgamation between a quite "young" character (still very dependent on his parents, friends still playing with Legos etc.) and a pensive, thoughtful one that, to my mind, may be quite uncharacteristically mature for his years. Through the relationships between him and his supporting cast; Ganke, his parents and Uncle Aaron, Miles comes across as a very "young" character, even down to the way he is drawn. Yet, concurrently, Bendis writes him as possessing a maturity, especially with his actions as Spider-Man, that display a maturity, an emotional well-roundedness that strikes a strange chord with what age we are to believe. It was a problem with Peter Parker also, Bendis wrote him and MJ as twenty- somethings, not the 15/16-year olds they were supposed to be, but this is thrown into even sharper relief when it comes to Miles and his circumstances. It's not that a 'mature' kid is a bad thing, or wholly unrealistic in itself, but the suspension of disbelief is broken somewhat through Bendis' conflicting writing of Miles; one the one hand a young, unsure kid and on the other a fairly emotionally developed one that is actively facing up to his supposed responsibilities. Perhaps it's just Bendis' dialogue style, but it is a predicament in terms of the future tone of the book. And how comfortable are we going to be with this apparently young kid being completely trounced on, in a very violent way, when someone like the Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus turns up?
But anyhoo, for the here and now. For what he's worth, The Ringer provides good enough cannon fodder for Miles to continue getting experience in his role as Spider-Man. Although Bendis does have a bit of a habit forming in this book with seemingly trying to make it as 'relevant' as possible by including lots of technology and pop culture references, this time with the mentioning of YouTube and last issue with the placement of smartphones and tablets, that seem a little bit like a middle-aged man trying to be 'hip'. It shall be interesting reading back on these in ten years and seeing how much it has dated. But alas, it's a small complaint.
It's nice to see Aunt May again; after building up such a stellar cast in Peter's book it would be a big shame to simply throw them all away so it'll be interesting to see if we get more of May and Gwen or perhaps Mary Jane. The pangs of sadness are still there seeing these characters serving as a reminder as to how good Peter Parker's Spider-Man was, but they may as well stick in order to provide a sense of a consistent and overarching story.
And after a few issues off, it's nice seeing Sara Pichelli back on art duties. She has a very clean, crisp style that lends itslef very nicely to the book and her cinematic framing of the more quiet, dialogue driven scenes really add something to the impact of them. It's important, however, that we get some form of consistency in terms of the art from now on. 3 artists in 8 issues does not provide a consistent artistic tone for the title, especially when compared to the stalwart Mark Bagely in it's previous incarnation, and given the rabble of changes currently occurring in the Ultimate Spider-Verse, it's important for Miles to be allowed a proper artistic consistency.
It's the character predicaments thrown up between Miles and Uncle Aaron that really make this issue interesting, it's just a shame that it's intensity is lost somewhat after the opening pages. I trust that Bendis has plans for The Scorpion and Captain Quaid, but here too little time is dedicated to them for them to really contribute quite yet. Nice artwork and interesting subplots for the future mean we arrive at the respectable score of 3.5 webs. I'm holding out on more to see if Bendis can keep the verve going and go somewhere interesting in what he is building.