Andy’s Read Pile: Spidermen II

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IMG_4653Well, Hello to everyone out there in Internetsville! Andy Larson, the Host of the 655th most popular alternative to not doing your real job during your work day aka reading or listening to something on the Ghosts of the Stratosphere.

On last week’s read pile, I talked about all this month I was going to dedicate by weekly comic book reviews to those great Star Wars related books that Marvel’s been putting out recently. Well, it turns out that was a bold faced lie. See I’m glad in our relationship we’ve forged over the past couple of months, I can be honest enough to tell you straight to your face that I was untrue. Fills me with a warm sense of security that we can get through anything you and I just simply because I can bullshit for the most part with impunity. As long as I deliver the goods in terms of something both informative and humorous, it doesn’t matter how many half truths I fill your brains with.

But I do have a good reason to showcase a different series on this week’s pile, and that is the fact that the new Spider-Man animated movie debuted last week and to celebrate it we are doing all Spider-Man related posts this week, including a review of said movie on tomorrow’s podcast so make sure you tune in for that one. In any case though, since the movie is about Spider-Men teaming up I thought I’d tackle a recent story in which a similar thing happened, 2017’s Spider-Men II series by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Sara Pichelli.

A proposed sequel of sorts to an earlier story just called “Spider-men” which occurred before the massive Marvel event “Secret Wars 2015” brought many of the Marvel Ultimate universe characters over into the main continuity of the 616 including Miles Morales’ Spider-man. In the original tale, a dimensional breach being exploited by Mysterio brings our Peter Parker to Miles’ Ultimate universe for an epic team up of sorts.

In this story, Pete and Miles have been teaming up for a while, and thus its not really about fulfilling a fan “What If…?” wet dream of having the two Spideys meet, but something completely different as we shall see in the synopsis.


Synopsis:

After a giant robot head crash lands near Miles’ school, the two Spider-men, Peter & Miles, decide to investigate where it came from. It turns out it came through the same dimensional portal that Peter used previously to travel to Miles’ home Ultimates universe and that the portal is being operated by the Taskmaster who is attempting to complete a job for some unknown crime boss.

Upon fighting the Taskmaster, Miles’ discovers that the mercenary is working for someone also called Miles Morales. Obsessed about finding out who the native Miles from the 616 universe actually is, the Spider-men try a variety of different methods to ascertain his identity including hiring Jessica Jones.

But in the end, the Miles from the 616 is just a former associate and friend of the Kingpin who lost his wife tragically and has been trying to find a portal to another dimension where she’s still alive. The Spider-men never do find that out though as they are thwarted by Taskmaster and the 616 Miles does manage to leave the traditional Marvel Universe for another one where he can once again be with his lost love.


Things I Liked:

As always let me start by heaping praise on the artist Sarah Pichelli. I’ve recently become of a fan of Sarah’s art based on her current work on the recent Fantastic Four series with Dan Slott, and she does another bang up . Her art is a perfect mix of photo realism with just enough artistic flair to make for some very interesting compositions. I particularly like her way of shading, it’s almost like a cross hatch kind of thing. Sorry, I’m trying to find the right words to describe it, but in the end, it’s wonderful.

In terms of the story, I was actually a really huge fan of Bendis’ tale about the 616 Miles Morales and this touching friendship he has with the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, of all people. Sincerely, it’s not often that you can read a book about villains and actually care about them as normal decent folks with real emotional connections.

It almost plays out like a love story, with a “meet cute” moment after Wilson does a tour in solitary for biting a rival underworld thugs’ nose off and Miles openly tells him he got bribed money by that same hood to kill him while they are cellmates. This open honesty is particularly appealing to the Kingpin, as well as it’s during his formation period before he was the king of crime and instead just a very effective enforcer. This coupled with Miles coming to Wilson’s rescue when he’s about to be shanked in the shower by that same rival gangster, and Wilson getting Miles released from prison with him, puts them solidly on the BFF path.

From there they rise to power together, and despite all the bloodshed of gangland violence, you can see genuine love and affection for these two as brothers in arms, which again is incredibly relatable and believable.  There’s even a scene in which the Kingpin acts as Miles’ wingman when he’s trying to score points on a first date with a very special woman who later becomes Miles’ wife. I mean let that sink in. Kingpin as a wingman! And he does a tremendous job with it!

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I mean, I do know that Bendis has a knack for writing snappy dialogue and these exchanges between Kingpin and Miles are some of the best. It’s like something straight out of a smart, hip, trendy gangster film that makes audiences and critics alike gush and throw Oscars at it. Very well done indeed, Mr. Bendis. Bravo!


Things I Didn’t Like:

Pretty much everything else.

I don’t know if it’s the way Bendis writes Peter Parker or what, but it was unbearable at times. Everything he said was neither clever or charming, and was in fact as awkward you can get. It was like listening to someone that was trying too hard with everything they said, trying desperately to impress all of us with witty quips that just weren’t there.

And with no person was that more evident that during his rapport with Miles Morales. Like these two had absolutely zero chemistry as Petey switched back in forth between that tragically unhip dad trying to hang with his high school son to a more condescending high school guidance counselor filled with supposedly “great advice” which is more told that shown, making it seem worthless in terms of its application in real life.

However, Miles is no better. He comes across as a somewhat self centered wishy washy guy who took most of his cues from Peter instead of coming up with his own plans. Now I’ll admit some of that isn’t his fault given how overbearing Peter is written throughout. It’s like Pete put on his know-it-all pants with a know-it-all socks and underwear, but still Miles doesn’t really help the situation by just letting Mr. Parker run all over him.

But the characterization isn’t in fact the worst part of the story. It’s actually the fact that the entire inclusion of both of the Spider-men is ABSOLUTELY UNNECESSARY!

Seriously, this story is not about either of them…ALL AT! I mean the only connection it has to the Spider-men is the fact that Bendis decided to write a story about a guy that just happens…and I mean just happens…to share the same name as Miles Morales.

That’s it.

And the fact that the Spider-man Miles gets obsessed with meeting this other random guy named Miles and thus pushing the duo further into the business of fighting the Taskmaster and all that is pretty contrived from a plot perspective. I mean what if Miles was named “John Smith”, does that mean he needs to meet everyone named “John Smith”?!? That’s how ridiculous this premise is!

Alternate Universes or not, long story short, this is just about two dudes named Miles. Who cares?!? Why are the Spider-men involved in this other than it’s a selling point for the book? It’s like a glorified extended cameo. This story could have been just as easily told and probably better I might add without the Spider-men even being in it.

I mean there’s even a cover of one of the issue where the one Miles is attacking the Spider-man Miles.

 

That doesn’t happen anywhere in the book! These dudes don’t even meet each other let alone fight! I’m sorry but for those of you that think Bendis is the greatest writer ever, I gotta disagree. He’s a good writer I’ll give you that, but I’m also calling bull sh*t on this book as a Spider-men story, and his lame shoehorning of the Spider-men into this book is also bullsh*t.


Fun Facts:

Did you know the Ultimates universe had been destroyed in Secret Wars 2015 event?

I guess Bendis didn’t or more likely he really didn’t care because he completely brought it back at the end of this series. It exists again, and I’m not sure what to make of that.

You see the Ultimates universe was the original birthplace of the Miles character, and it was one of the universes destroyed completely by the Beyonders in the precursor to the Secret Wars event. And it’s destruction is actually an important plot point going forward as it’s not a universe that got resurrected by Reed Richards and his family when he sets the multiverse straight. That’s why Miles exists in the 616. He gave Molecule Man a burger and as a result Molecule Man made sure Miles and all his loved ones got “relocated” for the lack of a better term at the end of Secret Wars.

It was a huge deal. It  was also a major reason Miles just accepted the fact that his home was in the 616 universe now, because the alternative was nothing. There was no home universe to return to.

However, Bendis turns that on its head by revealing that the universe our jail bird Miles flees to find his true love again is actually the Ultimates universe. HUH???

Yup, it’s all there. And heck even Bendis’s Peter Parker from Ultimate Spider man  is there being the webhead just as Bendis left him. So I gotta say again…HUH???

That’s just not something you do I guess unless you are Brian Michael Bendis. Yup, you make Scarlet Witch the most hated member of the Avengers and you resurrect whole universes just for the hell of it. Maybe because you were pissed it was destroyed in the first place and it was your baby? Dunno. Whatever…you are leaving for DC why not wreck perfectly good continuity on your way out, I guess.

But the question then becomes, why is Miles sticking around in the 616 if he has a perfectly good home universe to return to? Before he was sort of stuck here, but now all he and all the rest of the Ultimates stuff can go back to their proper universe if they want to. Thanks Bendis, glad you decided to muck around with that.

 


Final Thoughts:

I’ll be honest. I haven’t read much Miles. It’s just one of those sections of comic books I just never got around to. That’s one of the major reasons I was excited to read this book and one of the reasons I was excited about seeing “Into the Spider-Verse” movie. For those that listen to our podcast or read my comic blogs, I’m all about expanding my horizons.

And whereas the Spider-Verse movie was an absolute delight with solid chemistry between the two Spider-men and I’ll go into that more on tomorrow’s podcast when we do our official movie review (so subscribe today dummies!), this book was the complete opposite.

As I said, the Spider-men were absolutely not necessary to this story, and the fact that they were included was insulting to say the least. Plus they didn’t really work together with Bendis seemingly to want to spend more time from a meta-fictional standpoint creating this artificial strife between the two by trying to say the Marvel Universe is really only big enough for one Spider-man, and they really should be uncomfortable with each other. They seemed like they honestly hated each other at times, and it left me feeling as clammy as attending a dinner with a couple that’s obviously getting a divorce.

However, I’m torn, because there were wonderful parts of this series. There is a true and genuine BFF story in these pages, and it’s sad that it has nothing to do with the title characters. Instead we get this touching bromance between the Kingpin and the 616 Miles. And it’s written as beautiful and heartfelt as anything I’ve read about real friendship between guys, shower shanking scene and all. Not only that but as I said, anytime you can tell a story about a sociopathic villain of the caliber of Wilson Fisk and end up making you feel for the guy as a real person capable of having real friends, you sir, have succeeded as a writer.

It’s just too bad Bendis camouflaged this wonderful tale as a Spider-men story instead of just writing it for what it was. For that, I feel in some ways lied to, and ask my kids, if there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s a liar.

As a result, we are getting a split grade on this read pile. Hopefully, it will pretty apparent as to why when you see the grades below. Next time you want to tell a Kingpin story, Bendis, do us all a favor and just tell a goddamn Kingpin story.

Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B (As a Kingpin Crime Story)

Andy’s Read Pile Grade: F (As a Spider-man Story)

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Show 12.18.18: Spidey Claus is Coming to Town

On this week’s show: First, Andy Larson, Rob Stewart, Chad Smith give you a spoiler filled review of the new "Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse" movie! Is it everything the critics have been raving about? Tune in to find out! Second, The gang tackles a Read pile review of the end of Brian Michael Bendis' run on Miles Morales Spider-man. Did it go out with a bang or should we just stick to the movie version?
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