Ultimate Catch Up is an offshoot of 52 Catch Up and is devoted to looking at issues from the newest volume of comics set in the Marvel Ultimate universe, examining what makes them worth reading (or not) and which places we hope they will go in time.
Months before Peter Parker was killed, Miles Morales was bitten by a genetically altered spider and developed spider-powers. In order to honor Peter, Miles dons a costume and becomes the new Spider-Man.
Previously on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man: Covering Issues #1-#7
Oscorp was responsible for the original accident that turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man, and Norman Osborn attempted to recreate that accident with the help of Dr. Markus. Months later, Osborn is arrested as the Green Goblin and his lab is broken into by a thief named Aaron Davis, known to the FBI as the Prowler. While robbing the place, the thief takes a small, red box and unknowingly picks up Markus’ test spider #42.
After learning that he’s been accepted into the Brooklyn Visionary Academy, 13-year-old Miles Morales goes to his uncle Aaron’s place to tell him the good news and to get away from his parents for a little while. While there, Miles is bitten by spider #42 and passes out. He wakes up to find Aaron has called his father, and, upon arriving, the brothers get into a heated argument regarding whether Miles should be allowed to be around Aaron. When Miles’ father refuses to listen to Miles, the boy runs outside and accidentally turns invisible.
Disturbed that he may be a mutant, Miles confides in his best friend Ganke, and the two boys begin to test Miles’ powers, learning he can crawl on walls, is faster and stronger, can go into a camouflage mode, and has a stunning ability Ganke dubs the Venom Strike. Miles puts his abilities to good use saving several people from a burning building, but the experience leaves him rattled and he refuses to do any more with his powers.
Months later, Ganke and Miles are attending the Visionary Academy when they hear that Spider-Man has been shot and killed. Miles feels guilty and takes several opportunities to talk to members of the Parker family, just asking the simple question of “Why was he Spider-Man?” Upon hearing the motto, “With great power comes great responsibility,” from Gwen Stacy, Miles decides he can’t hide anymore, so he puts on a Spider-Man Halloween costume and begins to try to make a difference. It’s not long before he runs into Spider-Woman of the Ultimates, who questions him, causing Miles to panic and knock himself out trying to escape.
General Nick Fury, commander of SHIELD, interrogates Miles, who gets an idea as to why Miles is trying to become the new Spider-Man. Meanwhile, the supervillain Electro breaks out of the medical ward, and Iron Man, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, and Miles help take him out. Miles’ performance impresses Fury enough that he gives him a new costume and “one chance” at proving he’s worthy of being the new Spider-Man.
Finally with a decent costume, Miles begins to practice, studying the moves of the original Peter Parker from the Spider-Man movie, taking on thugs, and even managing to get through a fight with the villain Red Omega, while juggling his school and family responsibilities.
In Mexico City, Aaron Davis betrays his client regarding the red box he got from Oscorp. Aaron manages to get away from his buyer but is arrested and held in Mexico for a time, where he sees the first photos of a new Spider-Man. When he returns to New York, he gets some information regarding the creation of the original Spider-Man, remembers Miles being bitten, eliminates his sources, and goes to confront his nephew.
Passing the Mantle: As much as Ultimate Peter Parker is missed, the opportunity that the Ultimate universe presents, where a new character can become Spider-Man, is exciting. Miles is similar to Peter in many ways: he’s intelligent and a bit of a wise-a$$, but he also comes from a very different background and, potentially, a lot of new stories that can be told with him. There was a lot of controversy over Miles being of African American and Puerto Rican decent, but I’m of the opinion that these differences should be celebrated. There aren’t enough non-white/straight/cisgender/male prominent characters in comics, and having Spider-Man, Marvel’s most iconic character, be a minority I find a promising start to introducing more diversity into comics.
Family: Both of my Miles’ parents are alive, well, and happily married, which is playing against the odds in the superhero community. Miles’ dad has a colorful past as a thief alongside his brother, Aaron Davis, and is afraid of superheroes, which has put a lot of stress on Miles.. Then, there’s his Uncle Aaron who continues to be a thief and a murderer but is someone Miles has looked up to in the past and is someone who obviously cares about his nephew’s well-being.
Ganke: Miles’ best friend and confidant. Ganke attends the Brooklyn Visionary Academy alongside Miles and is an incredibly lovable dork. Whether it’s his love of Legos or excitement for Miles becoming Spider-Man, Ganke is passionate about everything he does and is exactly the kind of person you’d want to have at your side, if you were to become a superhero.
Spider-Woman: As you can probably tell by now, it’s the cast of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man that really stands out, and including Jessica Drew is part of that. Jessica is a female clone of Peter Parker and possesses all of his memories up to a point. I’m a big Jessica fan for a myriad of reasons, but in UC:SM her role as a potential mentor for Miles is what has me most excited. Several times Miles has lamented about not being able to sit down and talk with Peter, but the thing is, through Jessica, he can.
Miles’ Motivation: No comic book character had a more powerful motivation than Peter with regards to Uncle Ben’s murder and the motto, “With great power comes great responsibility.” While the intention is for Peter to be Miles’ Uncle Ben, it just doesn’t ring as true and the words haven’t really sunk in for Miles.
Plot Fights: So far, the focus has been on Miles’ origin story, but this has left a few things lacking for fans of Ultimate Spider-Man. The action sequences have been rather short – a few pages at best – and really haven’t been all that interesting or dangerous, even when Miles is battling real heavyweights like Electro or Omega Red. I know I don’t need a fight every issue to be happy and would rather them occur less frequently and with more excitement and relevance, similar to Ultimate Spider-Man pre-Miles.
Becoming Spider-Man: Miles has just donned his new costume, and it’s going to be some time before we see him comfortable in his new role as Spider-Man. What other powers could he possess? Even Miles has wondered about the limits of his abilities in Issue #7. Along the same lines, the issue covers have shown Miles swinging on webs, but the question remains, where is Miles going to get webs from? Are they going to grow organically, will Jessica possibly pass on Peter’s old webshooters to Miles, or will Miles create them himself?
Double Life: As difficult as it seemed at times, Peter had an easy time sneaking in and out of his Aunt May’s house or his filled-to-capacity public school. Miles, on the other hand, is either with his parents, who only get to see him on the weekends, or at the Visionary Academy where he shares a room with Ganke and another boy named Judge. Given these conditions, Miles is going to have to get creative in order to slip away unnoticed, and he may have to confide in Judge in order to secure a single room for his superheroics.
Supporting Cast: Now that the origin story is moving on to the first real plot, it’s a wonder what characters are going to end up occupying Miles’ life. So far, Miles’ rogues gallery has featured previous Spider-Man villains, but, hopefully, he will have to face some original challenges, as well.
Prowler & the Mystery Box of Oscorp: Introduced in Issue #1, the little, red box from Oscorp is a mystery but one that everyone seems to want a piece of. Aaron’s double-identity as the thief the Prowler also provides an interesting opportunity. He could easily become Miles’ archnemesis, or he could be a potential ally.