Spider-Men #2: Forced Fighting

Peter Parker's meeting with Miles Morales goes off the rails when Pete freaks out at everybody knowing his name.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Spider-Men #2

In Brian Michael Bendis' Spider-Men #1, Peter Parker hum-de-dummed along until he happened upon Mysterio monkeying around with some dimensional shenanigans, and he wound up zapped into the Ultimate Comics universe, where his teenage self died and some new kid is wearing a new version of his costume. And everybody knows his secret identity. In Spider-Men #2, that freaks him out enough to attack the kid unprovoked.

So right off the bat, their in-story meeting feels as forced as this crossover does in general.

Sure, it's a rite of passage when two high profile superheroes first meet, they fight over a misunderstanding, but you'd think that Parker was fairly well-established enough not to let an eerie sense of weirdness make him kick a kid in the gut out of nowhere – especially a kid who's sheepishly fawning over him and not posing any sort of threat. Sure, Peter admits he's off his game and feeling fluish, and later apologizes to Miles Morales – the 13-year-old who has taken up the mantle his native Parker vacated once he croaked – but it's still a schmuck move.

However, we do get a display of what makes Miles different – he marvels at the idea of webshooters, suggesting he doesn't have them, while he can turn invisible and use a little spider-bite venom sting that knocks Peter out long enough to turn in to Nick Fury. Nicholas L. Fury. Not the guy he knows. More like this guy, but not quite. So that throws him, too. Fortunately, Bendis restrains himself from having Peter comment on the fact that the only two people he's met in this reality are black versions of people he knows.

What Bendis doesn't restrain himself from is the blatant Please Read Ultimate Comics Again sell-job this is, by having Peter Parker note on two different occasions that the Ultimate unvierse is cooler than the 616. He thinks Miles' costume is cooler than his, and after talking with Nicholas L. Fury for 30 seconds, claims he's much cooler than Ol' White Nick. The first part, sure. The second part feels either like 'cool' is going to become the next 'urban,' or Bendis longs for the heyday of the Ultimate universe, when it was the hip new thing, thanks in no small part to his original efforts on Ultimate Spider-Man.

Of course, I'm still somewhat biased here, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I was a fan of Ultimate Spider-Man and most of the Ultimates stuff at the beginning, and I really liked how Bendis slowly unfolded Peter Parker's new world of superhumanity (and disliked how Mark Millar's Ultimate X-Men kinda shat on that by opening its first issue with GIANT PURPLE DEATH ROBOTS). My interest was starting to wane, though, after Gwen Stacy/Carnage, and when Jeph Loeb nose-dived The Ultimates 3 into hell with one god-awful issue, I broke up with the Ultimate universe and never really looked back.

That said, I like the idea of Miles Morales, and he makes a much better showing of himself in Spider-Men #2 than Peter Parker does, which I think also ties into Bendis' shilling of Ultimate Comics. I'm as yet undecided about the apparent revelation that our beloved fishbowl-sporting Mysterio has also been doubling as Ultimate Mysterio this whole time. On one hand, I like the idea of Mysterio getting the profile boost that comes with making himself an interdimensional threat, but Bendis' Mysterio seems to be regressing a bit, away from the smooth operator that Dan Slott has shon us in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. It looks like Spider-Men #3 is going to give us a lot more of Mysterio's angle, and we can also probably expect a State of the Ultimate Universe address from Miles soon, too.

I'm not sure I trust Bendis with the handling of my beloved Quentin Beck, especially now that I can't just write off his interpretation as Ultimate Mysterio and shrug it off. As he's shown by chumping out MODOK and the Intelligencia twice to his Avengers squads, and making it seem like he made Squirrel Girl a badass on a dare, it doesn't particularly seem like Bendis is quite on the same wavelength as dorks like me are, who like the weird guys with funny heads like Mysterio, MODOK, and the Bi-Beast, or the folks with strange powers like Squirrel Girl, who tend to be laughed about. We love these characters because they are weird and have very imaginate elements to them that makes them very different, unique and fun, but we also love it when these characters get to be awesome. When Dan Slott used the Intelligencia as fodder for the Sinister Six, he did it in such a way that respected the threat they were, and not as if they were a confederacy of clueless goofballs. It's a fine line, sure, and we all like to laugh at silly things, but when characters can have that oddball feel AND be shown to be competent and badass as well, that's nerdvana right there.

Anyway, that's enough of me being whiny and precious. Spider-Men #2, despite my nitpicks and concerns, is a generally cute little story that does its job of making me want to know more about Miles Morales. Sara Pichelli's art is pretty great, as something about the way she draws our Spidey, with the smaller mask eyes and a very adult look as compared to cuddly li'l Miles and his big mask eyes, is nifty. It's a really nice book to look at, although I'm becoming less of a fan of Jim Cheung's faces on the cover art the more I see of them.

The next issue will likely be the make-or-break for me, but if you're not one to agree with anything I've said above about my reactions to Spider-Men, then go right ahead and pick this up. Bendis has long been a polarizing writer when he's handling big-time superhero shenanigans. Your mileage may vary, as they say.