Spider-Man #5: Bendis gives Miles new power … because god-like Miles

Miles SM3

Brian Michael Bendis wants “Spider-Man” readers to know that Miles Morales, one day, will be the most powerful superhero in the Marvel universe. How do I know this? Because the kid can take down anyone with a single touch, turn himself invisible, regenerate limbs, he’s (allegedly) immortal, and now he can randomly project giant bursts of energy.

It’s dumb, lazy, and just screams, “My Spider-Man will be the best Spider-Man ever and you will respect him!”

Spider-Man #5 exemplifies everything that is wrong and everything that is right with the title. On one hand Mr. Bendis excels at planting seeds for future conflict, but on the other his efforts are negated because there is no conflict with an immortal being with an endless string of powers.

The situation is so embarrassing that Marvel Wikia lists Miles’ one weakness as … inexperience.

Translation: Miles Morales is Marvel’s Big Dog — and and you, dear reader, just don’t know it yet.

Miles Morales powers

Here is what Bendis said in a recent interview with CBR about criticism about Miles’ powers:

I already got an e-mail tonight from somebody in England who gets their comics a day early b****ing to me, and I was given this a little bit in the last volume too, that some people don’t like when Miles wins a fight with his venom blast. They think it’s bulls**t.

That’s like saying you’re mad because Thor won a fight with his hammer. I don’t understand that criticism. He has a tool and he used it. It’s not like the readers didn’t know he could do it. We’ve known since the character’s first appearance. So I’m calling bullshit on people calling bulls**t on this particular thing. It’s a very weird criticism.

Note to Brian Michael Bendis: The validity of your argument is not positively correlated with the number of times you say “bulls**t” and “b***h.”

If Miles Morales only needs to touch an opponent to beat him (e.g., the demon Blackheart, Hammerhead), then he becomes boring.

If there are no chains that can hold Miles Morales because he might decide to become a levitating burst of god-like energy, then it is kind of lame.

When the message is: “You cannot defeat Miles Morales — you can only hope to contain him!” then the book becomes a snooze-fest. That is not “bulls**t.” That is the truth.

Here is what you need to know about Spider-Man #5:

  • Miles Morales is held in a warehouse by Black Cat, Hammerhead and his crew. He uses a Venom Blast on one of the goons and Hammerhead before projecting an “energy burst” to escape.
  • Miles’ annoying grandma decides to hire a private investigator, Jessica Jones, to figure out what the teenager does when he is not in school.
  • “Goldballs” takes Ganke up on the offer to live with he and Miles.
  • Black Cat tells Miles not to interfere with her “business.” She threatens to “ruin” his life if he crosses her.
  • Maria Hill meets with Miles’ father. There is an agreement made to look after the boy and she says, “Welcome back to S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Am I interested in seeing what happens when Jessica Jones tails Miles? Sure.

Does it pique my interest to know that Miles’ father is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent? Sure. I think it’s weird for a husband to have giant secrets from his wife and son, but for entertainment purposes I suppose it works.

Miles Morales Grandma SM

The problem Spider-Man has, however, is that it appears to be trying too hard to establish Miles Morales as “the” Spider-Man. Unfortunately, just adding power after power after power to the kid actually ends up doing him a disservice.

When it becomes apparent that a writer is desperate to have his pet creation immediately enter the upper echelons of Marvel greatness, it becomes a turnoff for readers. This reviewer may be jumping off the book soon if the trend continues for much longer.

Daredevil #8: ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ starts strong, teases Spider-Man team-up

Matt Murdock

It is fitting that Daredevil #8 takes place inside a Macau casino because readers must be wondering how long Charles Soule’s creative hot streak is going to last. “Blind Man’s Bluff” kicks off a new tale for Matt Murdock, and as far as stage-setters go the writer churns out another solid performance.

Is Mr. Soule just a lucky guy, or is his good fortune on the book positively correlated with his preparation and work ethic? This reviewer is inclined to go with the latter option.

Here is what you need to know about Daredevil #8 before we move on:

  • Matt Murdock has traveled to Macau for a winner-take-all poker tournament. He plays Texas Hold ‘Em because its rules are best suited for … a blind man with enhanced senses.
  • Daredevil is looking for an item that Black Cat sent to China.
  • A mysterious woman named Adhira latches onto Matt after he dominates his competitors.
  • The final round of the tournament features a telepath named Apex who is employed by the casino to make sure it never loses money. Matt’s telepathic defenses are pushed to the limits, but he ultimately holds out and wins a check for $10 million — made out to the alias Laurent Levasseur. (Note: He can’t cash the check.)
  • The casino gives Matt a complimentary stay in its best suite to keep him in town. Adhira also appears and asks to talk about his poker skills. He reminds her that he has a “friend” to meet, and the last page ends with Spider-Man telling Daredevil, “Took you long enough.”

One of the best things about Mr. Soule’s work on The Man Without Fear is that everything he does feels natural. Whether Matt Murdock is in a courtroom, battling ninjas, on a date with a beautiful woman, or in a high-stakes gambling tournament … everything feels right.

Ask yourself the following questions:

The answer (for many readers) is “No.”

With Daredevil, however, fans get stories that respect the character’s past while clearly charting a path forward. It says something about the quality of the title that Daredevil #8’s worst element is Goran Sudžuka’s artwork, which even isn’t bad; he just didn’t perform at Matteo Buffagni’s level with this particular issue.

“Why do I do this? Why do I always have to roll the dice?” Matt Murdock says at one point. “I’m always chasing. Trying to make up my losses. Betting everything I have to get back in the game. My identity, Kirsten, Foggy, my happiness…my life. On some level, I now it’s foolish. A compulsion. But if I don’t play…”

Readers take note: Charles Soule put more introspection into a single page of Daredevil than The Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott has done in years with Peter Parker — a hero who was resurrected from the dead after a megalomaniac took over his body.

The point is this: If you have been unhappy with ASM for years but are still buying it out of sheer love for the character, then you owe it to yourself to purchase a book that consistently performs. There is no reason to give Marvel Comics money for dreck like Hydra-Cap (and an author who says all Republicans are “evil”), when someone like Mr. Soule is firing on all cylinders with Daredevil.

With that said, I will end this review with two points:

  1. I am not in Mr. Soule’s payroll, even if it seems like it at the moment.
  2. I look forward to seeing what the writer does with Spider-Man. That will be a true test of his creative prowess. If he hits a home run with the wall crawler, then I may have to announce a Charles Soule prize for one of the many Douglas Ernst C.R.O.N.I.E.S. (Comics Reconnaissance Operator, Negotiator, Intelligence Expert, and Soldier) around the globe.

Daredevil Spider-Man

Spider-Man #4: Bendis reveals Morales’ secret identity — to ‘Goldballs’

Miles Ganke

Superheroes tend to place a high value on their secret identities, and Miles Morales is no exception to the rule. Unfortunately, the fourth issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man shows the hero losing it due to a decision by his best friend Ganke. He spills the beans to ex-X-Man “Goldballs” of all people. (Yes, Goldballs.)

Like the surface-to-air missiles that target Miles after Ganke’s betrayal, this issues misses the mark.

Before we move on, here is what you need to know:

  • Miles and Ganke argue in the school lunch room whether it’s harder to be a black teen in America or an overweight asian (groan).
  • Ganke wants Miles to talk to the new kid, Fabio Medina (aka: Goldballs), because they both have superpowers.
  • When Fabio accidentally launches one of his “goldballs” into Ganke’s food, the three young men start talking and Ganke inexplicably reveals his friend’s secret identity.
  • Miles storms off and while web-slinging through the city he is targeted by four heat-seeking missiles.
  • Spider-Man is knocked to the ground due to the concussive blast of one of the missiles. Hammerhead steps out of a vehicle and says it’s time to call Black Cat and collect his bounty.

Miles Morales 3

The decision to explore a best friend’s betrayal in a book involving high-school kids is appropriate, but it seems quite a stretch for someone like Ganke to suddenly reveal Miles’ secret identity. A writer should spend a lot of time setting the stage for game-changers, but readers sadly did not get it this time. As a result, half the issue didn’t ring true.

Making matters worse is the fact that Miles says, “I have actually never been this mad at anyone about anything,” but we never see his anger. He web-slings around the city for a few moments and then his spider-sense alerts him to incoming missiles.

Try this out: Think of the angriest you’ve ever been in your life. What did you do? How did you react? Did you just say, “I’ve never been this mad” and then walk around, or did you punch, kick, yell or scream?

A few years ago an old Army buddy of mine said, “Do you remember that time that you got so mad at [insert name of horrible squad leader here] that you burst into our room, slammed the door, screamed, flipped your entire bed, and then took off for the motor pool?” 

I do remember that — and that isn’t the most angry I have ever been.

People do not think clearly when they are livid. Given that, it seems like a no-brainer for Miles’ to have been so upset that he didn’t notice his own spider-sense going off until it was nearly too late. Maybe he could have even kicked a garbage can as he exited the school and sent it flying 100 yards down the road. Something — anything — would be better than just telling readers that Miles is angry.

After the heat-seeking missiles magically miss Miles while in “cammo mode,” he decides to lure them to parts of the city where detonations will pose the least amount of risk to the civilian population.

Miles Parker Industries

Miles chooses to destroy a Parker Industries sign, which is funny given that Arachno-Rockets” (See ASM #9) filled with liquid hydrogen are stored inside the building.

We’ll just say that it was by the grace of God that Miles didn’t kill scores of people…

Spider Rocket

Our hero’s luck runs out and he is seemingly incapacitated at Hammerhead’s feet. Besides wondering how a has-been underworld thug like Hammerhead got his hands on some SAMs and then deployed them in the middle of New York City, readers must now ask the following question: Is Spider-Man worth it? The jury is still out for this blogger.

  • If you like Marvel’s new take on Black Cat (I don’t), then Spider-Man #4 is for you.
  • If you like Hammerhead (I don’t), then Spider-Man #4 is for you.
  • If you like Goldballs (Huh?  Why, Marvel?), then I guess Spider-Man #4 is for you.
  • If you like best friends who act irrationally, then Spider-Man #4 is for you.

Spider-Man certainly has potential, but as of right now it still feels as though Bendis’ search for Miles identity within the 616 Universe is coming through in the title.

How big is his stable of characters to pick from? If Bendis is forced to use Goldballs and Hammerhead this early in his run, then it doesn’t bode well for the future. Perhaps he is limited one what villains he can use because Dan Slott needs them for The Amazing Spider-Man. Whatever the case, Bendis needs to settle into a groove soon our readers will move on.

Dan Slott’s emasculated Spider-Man: Peter Parker is an embarrassment in his own book

Silk saves Spider ManMarvel Comics allowed writer Dan Slott to essentially kill off Peter Parker for over a year. While everyone’s favorite wall crawler was in limbo, a megalomaniac prone to “Nazi-like torture” experiments on his victims was in control of Peter’s body. Fans knew that one day the real hero would return, and some of them actually thought that his time away would give Dan Slott an opportunity to conceive of fresh new ideas for the title. They were wrong.

Six issues into The Amazing Spider-Man, it may as well be called The Emasculated Spider-Man or The Superficial Spider-Man. It is painful to see Spider-Man become a supporting  character in his own book, and that pain is exacerbated by Peter’s lack of character development.

Silk slaps Spider ManTake the new character Silk, for example. She shows up and it is immediately established that she is faster than Peter, she has webbing skills he doesn’t possess, her spider-sense is more acute and her command and control in the heat of battle matches or surpasses his — despite being locked up in a cell for 13 years. (Credibility points if you’re also annoyed at a character without a resume who lands an internship at a major cable news network.)

Is Silk a supporting character, or is Dan Slott using The Amazing Spider-Man as a vehicle to propel his creations onto bigger and better things? Why should fans who plunk down $4.00 to enjoy The Amazing Spider-Man be made to feel as if they’re reading The Sensational Silk? They shouldn’t.

Black Cat Spider ManPerhaps the most bizarre aspect of Dan Slott’s work is his penchant for making characters behave in incongruous ways with their established personality when the means serve his ends. While I am no Black Cat historian, I can’t help but think that her transformation into a bloodless killer has been handled with the finesse one would see if the Rhino waltzed down a supermodel runway. It’s jarring, it makes readers scratch their head when they’re supposed to be immersed in the book, and it reeks of a writer who is either a.) sloppy, b.) taking creative shortcuts because he thinks he can get away with it, c.) indifferent to what fans of that mistreated character think, or d.) all of the above.

Silk saves Spider Man ElectroReaders might be able to deal with Spider-Man repeatedly getting saved by a brand new hero in his own book if, as Peter Parker, there were sufficient character development. One would think that the six months after Peter Parker essentially returned from the dead would warrant considerable time for soul-searching introspection between action sequences. Instead, Peter Parker goes about his life as if nothing of much significance has happened; he has an “I sorta-kinda died — moving on,” mentality. Meanwhile, Silk comes to his aid, Black Cat embarrasses him, and Anna Maria Marconi runs his company. The Emasculated Spider-Man bumbles around on the battlefield and in his personal life, and at the end of the day fans are left hoping the upcoming Spider-Verse — where the original Spider-Man will likely take a bigger back seat in his own book — offers something more.

If you thought The Amazing Spider-Man would improve with its relaunch, then you were wrong. At this rate, the next time six months of strong Spider-Man stories take place will be when Dan Slott finally passes the torch to a new creative team.

Update: Alpha Game was kind enough to read and share my post. Head on over there if you get a chance and return the kindness.

"Goo-goo. Gaa-gaa. I'm Dan Slott's Peter Parker and I need the women in my life to save me and heal my wounds ... and run my company while I'm making a fool out of myself in battle."
“Goo-goo. Gaa-gaa. I’m Dan Slott’s Peter Parker and I need the women in my life to save me and heal my wounds after I make a fool of myself in battle. And then I need them to run my company because I’m an incompetent hero in my own book.”