As reported yesterday Marvel confirmed what had long been suspected: Miles Morales will be getting a new solo series set within the main, possibly only, post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe. That Miles survives Secret Wars had been established already by his appearance in the recent Free Comic Book Day Avengers teaser. Given the immense popularity of both Miles and his co-creator Brian Michael Bendis, it was assumed that Bendis would continue writing Miles’ adventures post Secret Wars. That Bendis will be reuniting with Miles other co-creator, artist Sara Pichelli was less expected. The teaming suggests that Marvel wants to give a “Back to square one” vibe to the reluanch. After all, just because Miles is still around, does not say anything about the large supporting cast the quickly developed around him. How many of these characters will make the cut? Will any? Personally I cannot imagine a Miles book without Ganke in it.
For now though, the more intriguing question is what this all means for Peter Parker. Marvel is trumpeting the importance of this news by insisting that Miles will not be Spider-Man Jr. According to Bendis, “[Marvel’s] message has to be it’s not Spider-Man with an asterisk, it’s the real Spider-Man for kids of color, for adults of color and everybody else.” This would imply that Miles Morales is the Spider-Man going forward. Yet, Marvel’s teaser images from earlier in the month depicted both heroes. It is hard to believe that Marvel thinks that there will be no asterisk next to Miles’ name if Peter Parker is still web-slinging on a regular basis. Yes, there was that period of time when there were two Batmans running around, but did anyone think for a moment that Dick was equal, let alone greater, in stature to Bruce?
Legacy heroes have a rich tradition in superhero comics, especially over at Marvel’s Distinguished Competition. However, lately Marvel has been dipping their toes deeper into those waters. One example of this would be the evolving relationship between Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. While Kate takes her inspiration, and some training from Clint, she is very much her own person. No one is going to confuse one with the other. At the same time, though, I rarely ever hear a fellow fan call Kate Hawkeye. I know I never do. Yes there was that whole Hawkguy/Hawkeye thing, but for the most part, she’s simply Kate Bishop, Young Avenger. More successful has been Kamala Khan’s crafting of her own identity as Ms. Marvel. In this case there are times when speaking with older fans I have to qualify my statements to make sure that when I say “Ms. Marvel” they are not hearing “Carol Danvers.”
So there is precedent here, though, I think that there is an important note to be made. Carol Danvers had already assumed a new costumed identity, as Captain Marvel, prior to Kamala’s emergence. The Ms. Marvel mantle was free for the taking. Due to Clint’s period of being dead/operating as Ronin/lost in the Scarlet Witch’s closet, it is a bit trickier to line up when the Hawkeye label was or was not up for grabs. Regardless, these examples demonstrate that Marvel has been developing a stronger interest in the tradition of legacy heroes.
Which is one possibility for how things with Peter will play out post-Secret Wars. (The easiest solution, of course, is to just kill him off, but I do not think that is going to happen. Why include any other Spider-Man in the promo image then?). A popular theory has it that Peter Parker will serve as Miles’ mentor. Peter could offer guidance as well as access to the resources of Parker Industries. Think of all the cool Spider-gadgets they could develop together. Bendis already established a comradery between them in Spider-Men, which will probably strengthen now that Jonathan Hickman has reunited them in Secret Wars. Under this model, Peter could be mostly a behind the scenes guy, only suiting-up occasionally when the situation grows particularly dire (which being the Marvel Universe is pretty much once every six months).
Another advantage of this set-up is that it eliminates one of, if not, the arguments editorial has against the Peter/MJ marriage. Recently, Tom Brevoort has been insisting via his tumblr that Spider-Man, as a character, is all about youth. Marry him off, give him a kid of his own, and it is no longer about being “young” and therefore no longer truly Spider-Man. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, Miles can now fulfill those requirements. Marvel clearly wants Miles to be center stage as a character that high school students today can relate to more easily than Peter Parker. The immense popularity of Kamala Khan demonstrates that this is not a foolish assumption.
So, let Miles be the hero constantly dodging danger, while trying to make it to class without embarrassing himself in front of the new cute girl in algebra. Peter can have the personal happiness of marriage that he earned long ago. Whenever purists complain about the Jane Foster Thor or Sam Wilson Cap, editorial replies: “characters change, they evolve, live with it.” Well, does not the same apply to Peter as well? Or is he doomed to be stuck in the same loop of disastrous personal choices for eternity? (Even Daredevil finally got a healthy relationship).
Of course, we only have the vaguest idea how the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe will function. My colleague Patrick has a theory that strict continuity will be tossed out the window. Instead, part of the shape of Battleworld will be maintained, in that different eras will co-exist alongside each other. So, in one series you can read the “new” adventures of Iron Man written by Bendis, while in another you can revisit the “lost” exploits of the Michellinie/Layton years (considered by many Old Shellhead’s high-water mark). If so, why not two series with different Spider-Men in separate eras? It should be noted that Miles’ new book will simply be called Spider-Man. That leaves plenty of other titles, including Amazing, up for grabs.
Even if the above theory does not pan out, there is precedent for how to manage this situation: create an out of continuity series, similar to DC’s former Legends of the Dark Knight. Back at the beginning of Brand New Day, I made the argument that this would be a way to satisfy both camps. If you want to read about a young, awkward Peter Parker, buy one title; if you preferred the more adult, married Peter, buy the other. If you see the appeal of both, buy both. No need to drag Mephisto into any of it (unless you do a team-up with Son of Satan or something like that).
Only a little tinkering is needed to adopt this idea to the current situation. Miles gets to be the main Spider-Man; adult Peter gets to mentor him while running Parker Industries and (fingers crossed) enjoying married life with MJ. Then, in Legends of a Web-Head (working title), fans can read new stories set during Peter’s younger days. Both sides win. Incidentally, under this model, Marvel gets a Peter Parker Spider-Man series that will presumably be closer to the next movie iteration of the character (since the general belief states that cinematic Peter will be returning to high school).
Naturally, much of this speculation. I could be wandering far off track from whatever it is that Marvel has planned next. I have not even broached the question of what happens to current Spidey scribe Dan Slott under any of these potential new arrangements. Perhaps, after many years, his time with the character is coming to an end? Well, as we have learned from Secret Wars, everything does end.
Except Bendis writing Miles Morales. That appears to be a universal constant.