Now that Spider-Man: Miles Morales is officially out in the wild across PS4 and PS5, what better time to dive into some of the best Miles Morales stories that you should absolutely read in comic-form.
In Insomniac's latest game, Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli’s character takes center stage, a role that was teased at the end of the first video game and further explored in The City that Never Sleeps downloadable content.
Now, Newsarama is digging into Miles Morales’ comic book origins to pinpoint the best Miles Morales storylines that this upcoming PS5 game will no doubt lean on (no spoilers here) - and stories that video game fans should get familiar with if they want to learn more about the new Spider-Man star.
The Death of Spider-Man
How did Miles Morales become Spider-Man in comic books? In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley launched a new, alternate Marvel universe - the Ultimate Universe - with Ultimate Spider-Man. While in Marvel Comics' core continuity Peter had grown into adulthood (and married life, even!), the Ultimate Universe's Pete/Spider-Man was high school aged, allowing his creators to tell modern versions of his adventures complete with updated versions of his classic villains and supporting cast.
Ultimate Spider-Man (and the Ultimate Marvel imprint it launched) was a major success, with earth-shattering events and multiple spin-off series that explored other Marvel franchises - including the Avengers, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. The Ultimate Universe had plenty of twist and turns, creating its own footprint separate from the main Marvel franchises, but one of the biggest twists was Peter Parker’s death in the appropriately titled 'Death of Spider-Man'.
Peter's death as Spider-Man was seemingly permanent, as were most other deaths in the Ultimate U (in contrast with the revolving door that most superhero comic book deaths had become). The death of Peter Parker led to Miles Morales taking over the Spider-Man mantle with his first appearance in the subsequent limited series, Ultimate Fallout.
The animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse film loosely adapted this tale for its own version of Miles Morales’ origin story with the death of their “perfect” Peter Parker - with a not-so-perfect Peter helping Miles learn the ropes.
With Miles Morales entering the scene as the new Spider-Man in the PlayStation universe, does this mean Peter Parker’s death is inevitable? Will the game put its own twist on this classic story?
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Volume 1
Following 'The Death of Spider-Man,' Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man title relaunched with a slightly different name - Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man - and a new star, Miles Morales. Writer Brian Bendis continued on here, joined by artist Sara Pichelli, to tell Miles's origin story and bring him into his own as Spider-Man - with the added struggle of taking over Peter Parker’s weighted mantle in the aftermath of his death.
This also revealed Miles' power set, which is considerably different from Peter Parker's. This includes his venom stings and invisibility—moves we’ve already seen in play with Insomniac's first Spider-Man game. That's just the tip of the iceberg for what's available to game developers for more versatile gameplay in the sequel.
Bendis and Pichelli's origin story in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Volume 1 not only explored Miles’ life as Spider-Man, but also introduced his supporting cast - including his father (who we would later learn was a SHIELD agent), his mother who always knew the right words to say, and Ganke (MIles's best friend who he confides to about his double life - a role filled by Ned Leeds in Marvel Studios and Sony's current Spider-Man film franchise).
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man - “Prowler”
Brian Bendis takes inspiration from the original Spider-Man/Peter Parker mythos by making Miles Morales’ uncle a key player in his origin story - but Miles's Uncle Aaron is the complete opposite of Peter's Uncle Ben.
Uncle Ben left Peter Parker with words of wisdom: “With great power must also come great responsibility.”
In Bendis’ version of the uncle/nephew dynamic, Uncle Aaron is the villain known as the Prowler. He tries to manipulate Miles to use his powers for the wrong reasons, which leads to a fight between the two - resulting in Uncle Aaron's tragic death.
In contrast to Uncle Ben's lesson about power and responsibility, Uncle Aaron's last words to Miles are that he too will inevitably turn to the dark side.
How’s that for a family pep talk?
Just like Peter, Miles would blame himself for his uncle’s fate - with the events also cementing that he shouldn’t tell his parents about his secret life as Spider-Man.
The death of Uncle Aaron is a pivotal moment in Miles Morales’s journey as a hero - a major twist in both comic books and the animated film Into the Spider-Verse. It’s the internal conflict that pushes Miles to truly understand the meaning of responsibility.
The twist may not come as a surprise because of the popularity of Into the Spider-Verse, but is a necessary moment that the game should at least reference.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man - “Venom War”
The 'Uncle Aaron moment' may be telegraphed at this point in audiences' awareness of MIles's origin - but a twist that many mainstream fans may not see coming is the death of Miles’ mother, Rio.
Uhh... spoilers? Again?
Since his uncle’s death, Miles had been struggling to tell his parents about his new role as Spider-Man. When Venom comes onto the scene, the villain targets Miles’s mother - leading to the reveal that she knew he was Spider-Man all along. But with her dying breath, Rio begs Miles not to tell his father about his dual identity.
This could play for a great twist in the game, all while building the character arcs for both Miles and his supporting characters. Venom is already a popular Spider-Man villain that should be able deliver some exciting action, but the personal connection with Miles’ mother shows that Venom is much more than just Peter Parker’s villain.
For the record, Miles' mom got a resurrection and a new lease on life when Miles migrated to the mainstream Marvel Universe in 2015/16's Secret Wars - but that's another story...
The difference between the Spider-Man PlayStation games and Miles’ original stories in comic books is that the primary, classic Peter Parker and Miles Morales are from the same world in the game. Not so, in the comics.
In Marvel’s current comic book continuity, the Ultimate Universe was destroyed following 2015/16's Secret Wars - and Miles Morales was one of several survivors who came to the primary universe, partially as a result of the events of Secret Wars. This gave Miles a new chance at life, and also the opportunity to team-up with the mainstream Marvel Universe version of his Ultimate predecessor, Peter Parker.
If the original game's downloadable content is a signal to where the story is going for the sequel, then hopefully there are plenty of Peter Parker and Miles Morales team ups for the future - not just as two civilians, but in full costume as Spider-Men, a tradition that started in their first Marvel Comics meeting.
Peter and Miles's first adventure together reunited another team (Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli) for a milestone crossover event – Spider-Men. Taking place before Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man run where technology was created to easily jump from different universes, it was mind-blowing for fans to watch two different Spider-Men work together.
Think of it like two James Bond actors from different eras teaming up in one movie, both playing James Bond.
The Spider-Men comic book series not only made stories like Spider-Verse (a later story that established a whole Multiverse of Spider-Men and lent its name and concept to the animated film) possible, but also established the mentor/mentee relationship that we see between Peter and Miles today in comic books and the original game.
Insomniac's Spider-Man: Miles Morales can use this story as both a lesson in character study, but also to widen the scope beyond one universe. With the popularity of Into the Spider-Verse, could we see the likes of Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man 2099, and others in this game?