Saturday, May 30, 2015
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #12
Brian Michael Bendis is a giant. One of his lasting achievements will be the creation of Miles Morales, the black Spider-Man of Marvel's Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610, as opposed to the primary Marvel Universe featuring Earth-616). Begun in 2011, Marvel recently concluded Mile Morales' run as The Ultimate Spider-Man in issue #12. Bendis will move Mile Morales over to Ultimate End, a core chapter in the Secret Wars crossover event that is rumored to be the end of the Ultimate Universe.
It is hard to believe that Marvel will mothball a magnetic superhero like Miles Morales, one who was drawn up in the heady days of the post-2008 Obama landslide. The less wise and jaded among us were hopeful that "change you can believe in" was indeed coming our way. Boy, were we wrong.
One of the ways that Obama has been such a disappointment is in his administration's support for the continuing privatization of the American public education system. Miles Morales goes to one of these privatized Gates Foundationesque charter schools, Brooklyn Visions Academy. (For an excellent primer on this topic -- the destruction of the U.S. public education system -- check out the "Notes from the Editors" in the June issue of the Monthly Review.)
Having recently finished Cathy Wilkerson's Flying Close to the Sun, there is no doubt that '60s radicalism -- the civil rights and antiwar movements -- was fueled in large part by the excellent system of public and non-corporate private education in the post-WWII United States. Good education will create an unquenchable appetite for the truth, something incompatible with the inequality produced by capitalism.
Bendis' Miles Morales stories were always concise and clearly written, with matching artwork first by Sara Pichelli and then David Marquez which featured a style that was Hyperrealistic. The panels were airy, the colors solid -- everything in its place and ascertainable. But the overarching narrative was not. Peter Parker's death at the hands of the Green Goblin, the alter-ego of a corporate titan named Norman Osborn whose diabolical research was also responsible for the origin of Miles Morales' super-spider powers; Miles' criminal uncle Aaron, a.k.a., the Prowler; the conflicted, unclear role of the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.
If the original Steve Ditko high-school Spider-Man of the early-to-middle 1960s had a center, which was Peter Parker's Midtown High School in Queens with its baleful jocks and cruel girls led by Flash Thompson, a hallmark of Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man is the lack of a center. Miles Morales is a true Baudrillardian hero, a simulacra of the original Spider-Man. The world we inhabit today has no center, only infinite digital copies.
Below are nine scans from Mile Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #12. Miles, on the brink of vivisection, goes nova and demolishes Hydra and Doctor Doom. The last two scans show an impending collision with an Earth from an alternate universe (the main New Avengers narrative).