Miles Morales: Spider-Man (Book)
But lately, Miles's spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren't meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad's advice and focus on saving himself.
As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can't shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher's lectures on the historical "benefits" of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.
Miles Morales gets the spotlight in the latest young adult novel set in the Marvel Universe. Highlighting the new Spider-Man's continued troubles dealing with his life in school and being a superhero, the new book offers a poignant modern day story. Come inside to check out my full review!
When Miles Morales was initially introduced into the Marvel Comics, via the "Ultimate" series, it was one of my favorite comics in a long time. Spider-Man has always been my top superhero since I was a kid, and how they introduced the new wall-crawler (and his continued stories) was a lot of fun. Sadly, I had to stop reading the series after just a couple years and have missed out on a great deal of his recent adventures.
As such, despite generally NOT liking novels based on comic properties, I was eager to check out the new book from Jason Reynolds. Admittedly, I had to do some research, as the novel takes place after the Secret War shake up (which ended the Ultimate universe), and caused some confusion based on what I knew from the initial Miles Morales story. That said, if you go into the book knowing nothing about the comics or stories, you should be just fine, as Reynolds does a solid job of weaving parts of the origin story throughout the book.
As the book begins, Miles finds himself in trouble at the prestigious Visions Academy as his superhero persona is causing his attention at school to waver. Moreso, his Spider-Sense seems to be malfunctioning, causing a brief suspension from school, putting him on thin ice for the rest of the year.
Miles struggles with the idea that perhaps he's losing his powers, or that somehow the "bad blood" in his family is holding him back. Combine that with pervasive nightmares, and Miles decides that giving up the tights for a bit may be for the best. Things continue to get worse at school, however, and as events between school and home begin to increase Miles wonders if they aren't all connected to something more sinister.
When he uncovers a plot targeting his neighborhood, friends at school, and even himself he must act quickly to put an end to an ancient villain who wants to put kids of color "in their proper place." It's an interesting story that feels all to relevant, with important themes all around, not just about race, but morality in general.
Where this novel shines, is in how genuine everything feels. The interactions between Miles, his family, friends, and neighborhood feels authentic...Like exactly how people respond/react in this location (regardless of the supernatural aspects of the story). I felt the awkwardness and embarrassment as Miles tried to talk with his crush, Alicia. I cringed at the punishments he endured, and felt genuine anger at the situations he was faced with in regards to the enemy.
In a very visceral way, Reynolds attached me to Miles Morales on an emotional level in a very short span of time. It's this emotional connection that makes the book such a quick and easy read. This is important as the story is presented more like a slice of life than a more specific story arc.
This approach makes it an engaging read, but also forms one of the books downsides. The time between the ultimate conflict/villain is revealed and the ending comprises about 40-50 pages. While there are hints of something being wrong throughout the book, the cause of it isn't revealed until way late in story. By the time the threat comes into focus it's resolved almost as quickly, leaving me with a plethora of unanswered questions.
I don't want to dive too much into specifics here, as that will lead to a bunch of story spoilers. There were plenty of plot threads brought up earlier in the book that had little impact on the ultimate plot point. While they seem like long-game plot points that could pay off in future novels or comic stories, their inclusion here in this book, that doesn't fully delving into the main conflict, seems superfluous.
An Engaging Story that Just Misses the Landing
I had an absolute BLAST reading through this book, and I managed to knock it out in just a day. The characters were so engaging, I couldn't help but keep turning the pages, and the themes about right and wrong and what it means to be a hero are as poignant as ever. The ending, however, leaves so much unanswered and knocked out some of that earlier fun.
I still recommend picking it up. It's a solid Spider-Man story and fun to read. Reynolds does an excellent job of making these fictional characters feel alive in ways I wouldn't have imagined. While I wish the ending had been a little stronger, there's no denying that the journey is impressive.