Later this month, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will formally introduce comic book movie fans to Miles Morales, one of the newest heroes to call himself Spider-Man. Unlike Peter Parker, Miles' history only goes back seven years, but he's had a meteoric rise in popularity. Miles has already appeared in two Spider-Man animated series and the recently released Marvel's Spider-Man PS4 game. But Into the Spider-Verse will provide a much grander stage to explain why there are now multiple Spider-Men.
Way back in 2000, writer Brian Michael Bendis was one of the driving forces behind Marvel's Ultimate line of comics. Bendis and artist Mark Bagley re-envisioned Peter Parker as a teenager living in the 21st century, as they modernized his characters and mythology. When Ultimate Spider-Man's story had run its course, Marvel killed him off. In his place, Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli introduced Miles as the new Ultimate Spider-Man.
Miles was significantly younger than Peter, and he also had dual heritage with an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother. It would be extremely reductive to say Miles' subsequent popularity was solely because of his ethnicity, but the character's diversity did a lot to endear him to a new generation of fans. Miles was a positive example of representation, but he wouldn’t have caught fire if Bendis and his collaborators hadn't made him so relatable — a breath of fresh air, with his own set of powers, adversaries, and a unique supporting cast. His adventures weren't simply retreads of the classic Spider-Man stories. Instead, Miles stood out and earned his fan following.
When the Ultimate Comics line was finally shuttered, Marvel went out of its way to integrate Miles into its primary universe. That's why there are now two Spider-Men running around in Marvel's NYC, with Peter mentoring Miles' heroic journey. Miles has even gone on to join the Avengers and co-found the modern incarnation of the Champions. But he's not done yet.
Ahead of Into the Spider-Verse's release on December 14, we're looking back the seven greatest Miles Morales Spider-Man stories. These are the tales that defined Miles and made him into the hero he is today.
"All-New Ultimate Spider-Man"
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1-5
Bendis and Pichelli’s first storyline established Miles origin story and made several key distinctions between the new Spider-Man and his predecessor. In a departure from Peter, both of Miles' parents were alive, and they faced even more dire problems in the modern world. Miles didn’t even set out to become a hero, but he was ultimately inspired by Peter’s death to keep his legacy alive.
Miles didn’t have the easiest time convincing Peter’s friends and colleagues that he was worthy of the legacy. But he managed to pull it off, and created a new legend in the process.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #6-12
For the second storyline, Bendis was joined by artist David Marquez. The Ultimate incarnation of Prowler was Aaron Davis, Miles’ uncle. One of Aaron’s successful heists inadvertently brought Miles into contact with an experimental spider that bit him. However, Aaron didn’t share Miles’ inclination to use his skills for good; instead, he attempted to blackmail Miles into becoming his personal enforcer.
The conflict between Miles and Aaron was riveting as Aaron threatened to tear Miles’ family apart by exposing his secret. The ending was also memorable as it forced Miles to question whether he was more like his uncle than he wanted to admit.
Bendis and Pichelli re-teamed for a special five-issue miniseries that introduced Miles to the original Peter Parker from Marvel’s primary universe. "Spider-Men" gave Peter and Miles their first adventure together and set the stage for the bond they still share today. After some initial conflict between them, they came together fairly quickly. Having the adult Peter Parker’s blessing also helped Miles emerge from the shadow of his world’s Spider-Man. From now on, everyone is just going to have to deal with having two Spider-Men around full time.
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #16.1, 19-22
Although the "Venom War" story was memorable for its first-ever Miles vs. Venom tale, Bendis and Picchelli’s mini-epic is best remembered for the way it gave Miles his first real loss. The fate of Miles’ mother shook him to his core. This was his “Death of Gwen Stacy” moment. Potentially, this could have even been the end of Miles’ superhero days, as he violently rejected his Spider-Man persona... but it seems that tragedy is inherent for all Spider-Men, and Miles was no exception.
“Spider-Man No More”
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #23-28
Bendis and Marquez established that Miles intended to quit being Spider-Man forever and he managed to stay out of the hero game for over a year. Miles’ father also abandoned him after learning about his secret identity and it forced Miles to mature more rapidly. It’s actually a Spider-Man tradition for the title hero to give up his calling before returning with a renewed sense of purpose. This story even gave Miles a few new allies before they formed their own superhero team.
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1-7
In the next relaunch, Bendis and Marquez gave fans another chance to see Peter and Miles share the stage... except this time, it was seemingly the Peter Parker from Miles’ world, who had somehow returned from the dead. Truthfully, this story was more about putting Peter’s ghosts to rest and giving his supporting cast a happier ending than they got before, but we can’t say it wasn’t thrilling to see both Spider-Men in action against Ultimate Green Goblin.
For Bendis' final Miles Morales story, he was joined by artist Oscar Bazaldua for a tale that mirrored Bendis’ own brush with death. Miles became deathly ill, but his family, friends, and even his uncle rallied around him as he clung to life and slowly recovered. It’s a rare Spider-Man tale in which the hero barely even makes it out of bed, but it was so heartfelt that the resulting emotional scenes truly resonated.
The very best part was Miles’ conversation with his best friend, Ganke Lee, and the way he kept his promise to Ganke on the final page of the series.