Miles Morales has been delighting comic book Spider-Man fans for years now, and with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hitting theaters this week, we thought it would be a good time to go over what makes him such a joyful character.
Miles Morales is the character who best embodies the spirit of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. Back in 2000, Marvel was struggling. It had just cleared bankruptcy and the market had collapsed. To boost sales, Marvel created an alternate Earth with a new premise: what if the Marvel Universe had been created in the year 2000, instead of 1963?
And while it was a critical and sales blockbuster, reinvigorating the company and paving the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from a creative standpoint, it wasn’t all that successful. For all the hype about new! and different!, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe was, for a long time, mostly just Peter Parker doing Spider-Man stuff; the X-Men doing X-Men stuff; and Captain America being a giant dildo.
It wasn’t until over a decade later in 2011 that the Ultimate Universe really lived up to its promise. Brian Michael Bendis, the man who had been writing Ultimate Spider-Man, up and killed Spidey, giving him a beautiful send off in the “Death of Peter Parker.” At the same time, a young teenager in Brooklyn was exposed to a spider genetically engineered by Oscorp to recreate Spider-Man. Miles Morales had many similar traits to Peter – he’s razor sharp, and has a strong sense of duty. But he was always a distinct character, right down to how he interacted with Peter and his legacy. Miles’ first appearance was in Peter’s costume. He was criticized pretty heavily for the poor taste he displayed wearing the iconic red-and-blue Spidey suit so soon after his death, and is eventually given the new black and red outfit by Jessica Drew and SHIELD.
His new costume wasn’t the only major difference. Miles’ parents were both still alive, and his uncle was the supervillain Prowler, and he immediately confided his new powers and identity in his best friend, Ganke (who more or less became Peter’s best friend Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming). He’s also mainstreamed into the larger superhero community much faster than Peter ever was, which was a blessing and a curse. Captain America’s training certainly seemed to help him for a minute, but old Peter villains kept surfacing and after Venom killed his mother, he walked away from superheroing for a year. Then things got weird.
By this point, Miles was about the only popular character left in the Ultimate Universe. So Marvel methodically moved to shutter that Earth, but when they did so, they made sure to migrate Miles to the main 616 Marvel Universe. In the utterly incredible Secret Wars crossover, Miles’ kindness and teenagerness won him the favor of Molecule Man, so when Molecule Man’s energy was used to recreate the multiverse with a merged Ultimate and mainstream Marvel Universes, Miles arrived to find his mother returned to life.
Miles was accepted into the mainstream Marvel continuity by his fellow heroes immediately, quickly becoming a member of the new team of Avengers right away. After Civil War II he leaves that team and helps form a new Champions made up of various teenage heroes.
Miles Morales Spider-Man Comics Reading Order
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Vol. 1 – Who Is Miles Morales?
Miles made his first appearance in Ultimate Fallout, but that’s not really essential reading. Fortunately, the first arc of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man flashed back to how he acquired his powers. This is Miles Morales 101, and you should just keep going with the series if you like the first volume.
This is Miles’ first foray into team comics, and it’s surprisingly good. Written by COPRA’s Michel Fiffe, it’s a fun, ground level team that gets interrupted by Galactus and the death of the Ultimate U. That said, the second collection has art from Prophet‘s Giannis Milonogiannis, so it’s so pretty to look at.
Spider-Men and Spider-Men 2
Not to be confused with Spiders-Man (who is obviously a man made of multiple spiders), this duology explores Miles and Peter’s relationship. The original Spider-Men is one of the best Spidey comics ever written – it has Peter chasing Mysterio (soon to be seen on the big screen in Spider-Man: Far From Home) into an unknown portal and ending up in the Ultimate Universe. We get to see how Peter’s family reacts to seeing what he might have become (including an absolutely heartbreaking scene with Mary Jane), and we see Peter pass the torch to Miles. It ends with Peter looking up 616 Miles, which serves as the launching point for the sequel. The sequel does as much for Miles’ character development as the first did for Peter, and both are great reads.
While the original comic book Spider-Verse tale isn’t really a Miles story, it’s definitely a spiritual inspiration for the movie. The assorted Spider-people of the multiverse are being hunted, and they all have a big team up and it’s awesome. This is as much a Dr. Octopus story as anything else, but Miles plays a good role in it.
I haven’t talked about this in a while but did you know that Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and Secret Wars were so good? It’s also where Miles joins the mainstream universe.
All-New Avengers & Champions
One of Miles’ best friends upon joining regular continuity is Kamala Khan, and they get so many great moments in each of these books.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man
The first issue of Miles’ post-Bendis life hits just as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse enters theaters, and if the creative team’s track record is anything to go by, it should be excellent. Saladin Ahmed wrote one of the best comics of the year in Black Bolt and Javier Garron is in line to be a quintessential Spider-Man artist. We have some more info on it right here.
It’s not a comic, but the Playstation game from 2018 managed to justify Miles’ existence alongside Peter in a totally different, but nearly perfect way. He’s a great character in an incredible game.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse opens December 15th!