Spider-Man Annual #1
Writers: Bryan Edward Hill (“Youngblood”), Emily Ryan Lerner (“Right of Way”)
Artists: Nelson Blake II, Alitha E. Martinez, Mark Bagley, and Roberto Poggi (“Youngblood”); Alberto Alburquerque (“Right of Way”)
Colorist: Carlos Lopez
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Kris Anka
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Review by Nico Sprezzatura
Since his introduction in 2011, Miles Morales —the (Ultimate) Spider-Man— has emerged as one of the Marvel Universe’s most popular newer characters. While he’s nowhere near as ubiquitous as Peter Parker, that seems to be changing soon, with Miles starring in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse later this year. Despite his impending stardom with non-readers, however, Miles doesn’t actually have a solo comic of his own at the moment. This week’s Spider-Man Annual #1 seems to rectify that by delivering a brand-new Miles story.
Some background first. After nearly two decades of work for the company, Brian Michael Bendis —co-creator of Miles— left Marvel Comics earlier this year. He was still writing the ongoing Spider-Man comic (featuring Miles) at the time, leaving his publication fate unclear. Would Marvel keep the series going without Bendis, who’d been writing him almost exclusively for over half a decade? Or would they cancel it altogether?
Bendis’ time with the webslinger ended this past May, and Marvel has yet to announce a writer to officially succeed him. While it’s highly likely that we’ll see a new Miles Morales comic announced in the lead-up to Into the Spider-Verse, for now, we’ve got Spider-Man Annual #1. Does it satisfy the Miles Morales itch some of his biggest fans might have? I’d say it mostly does.
This issue is largely told in flashback, zooming back to the earliest days of Miles’ career as Spider-Man, before he even had an official costume. There are some interesting nods and parallels to Peter Parker’s own origin story here —a prototype suit reminiscent of Peter’s in the MCU, a similar moment of negligence that led to an innocent person’s death— that seemingly aim to give Miles a definitive new beginning in the mainstream Marvel Universe.
(If you’re not familiar, Miles originally existed in the Ultimate universe, then Secret Wars happened, so now he’s in the prime Marvel Universe, but there are inconsistencies and errors regarding the jump between realities… it’s a whole thing you don’t have to worry about right now.)
There’ve been rumors that Miles will relaunch with a new codename (Kid Arachnid and SPY-D have been popular guesses), which some speculated would be revealed in this issue, but neither of those prove to be the case here. I’m guessing either of those could turn out to be true, but we probably won’t know until Marvel makes an official announcement about the new Miles Morales creative team. (Bendis has already confirmed that Miles will get a new series soon, so there’s no need to worry there. It’s not a matter of if, but when.)
Because Miles is in a weird transitional state right now, the Spider-Man Annual #1 doesn’t really advance his greater arc beyond where it’s generally been for the past few years. And that’s fine! This issue leans heavily on its characterization, and Bryan Edward Hill nails a perfect voice for Miles that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.
Miles is enough of a tricky case to crack; how do you make him sound different enough from Peter, but unique enough to justify him being his own entity? Because of his upbringing, Miles doesn’t think, act, or sound like Peter, and one of his biggest character flaws is his sense of doubt. Hill seems to get this pretty well, and Miles overcoming his imposter complex is a major thrust of this issue. If Spider-Man Annual #1 leads to a Hill-written Miles series, then I’m not complaining.
The art in this issue is also quite strong, with its past and present-day scenes split by Nelson Blake II & Alitha E. Martinez and Mark Bagley & Roberto Poggi, respectively. The present-day stuff by Bagley and Poggi is good —Bagley is a longtime Ultimate Spider-Man mainstay, even before Miles came around— but Blake II and Martinez are a fantastic team for the flashbacks.
Their style is reminiscent of Sara Pichelli, who created Miles with Bendis, giving a familiar vibe that keeps consistent with the character’s original vision. Blake II and Martinez especially provide a good sense of scale, specifically Miles’ stature. He’s tiny! That’s something I feel goes overlooked whenever I see Miles in another book. Whereas Peter was a youngster when he started, Miles was literally a kid, so I appreciate them recognizing as much.
Spider-Man Annual #1 comes with a bonus, Ganke-centric backup story, and it’s pleasantly entertaining, if not an absolute must-read. Ganke is a character who doesn’t get enough of a spotlight, despite being the sidekick of a major character in the Marvel universe, so watching him lead a story is fun.
(Additional shoutout to colorist Carlos Lopez and letterer Cory Petit, who colored and lettered all three artist teams in this issue, keeping a cohesive palette and type design throughout. Not an easy feat!)
The Verdict: Buy it.
It may not reinvent the Spider-Wheel, but Spider-Man Annual #1 is a good distillation of the Miles Morales character ahead of his big-screen debut.