Spider-Man Annual #1 // Review
Spider-Man Annual #1 is written by Bryan Edward Hill and penciled by Nelson Blake II, with help from Alitha E. Martinez and Mark Bagley. Colors are provided by Roberto Poggi and Carlos Lopez. This annual marks the first issue of Miles Morales in the post-Bendis era. Bendis has always been stingy with the character, but the true significance is that this is the first time Miles has been written or illustrated by a people of his own color. Does having a POC voice the character change anything? Does it make his voice more authentic? Or the character more relatable to his audience? Does it give him more agency?
Bryan Edward Hill, of The Wild Storm: Michael Cray, spinoff of The Wild Storm, and Detective Comics delivers with all the pressure and (probably) excitement that comes with being able to write Miles Morales.
The issue opens up with Miles brawling with Morbius the Vampire. After throwing out a few quips and getting his butt kicked a bit, he starts to reflect on his choice in becoming a hero, including some discouraging words from his Uncle Aaron, aka the Prowler, about putting himself first and the fate of playing the hero. Aaron also explains how the world is broken and unfair, that, though Miles goes to a good school, he’ll never have the opportunities, advantages, or privileges of his classmates. The world will treat him differently because of his color and where he is from. This mindset is perhaps why Prowler chose the villain route.
Still in Flashback mode, Miles befriends one the wealthier classmates in his school, and question his place. A blind date, quick costume homage, a Skrull invasion, and a “Gwen Stacy” moment later, Miles decides that his fears and disadvantages shouldn’t stand in the way of him doing the right thing. (Sounds familiar, I know.) Back in the present day, he handles Morbius with the strength of his convictions, great resolve, and more quips.
“With Great Power comes Great Responsibility,” but with Social Stratification and Racial Disparity come a great incentive to take care of yourself. The first Spider-Man, Peter Parker, has always had sort of an underdog status, consistently getting dealt a bad hand but still always trying to do the right thing. Hill shows readers that Miles may be even more of an underdog, and his decision to be a hero may be even more difficult.
Nelson Blake II, previously of Luke Cage, shines throughout this issue. To put it bluntly, with the exception of Brian Stelfreeze, no one can draw people of color better. Miles line-up stays crispy throughout and Uncle Aaron’s goatee and part look sharp AF! Blake even delivers accuracy down to the laces in Miles’ Timbs. Blake’s work wouldn't leave such a potent effect without Carlos Lopez’s vivid colors. Bagley drawing the fully costumed Miles was a great touch, amazing as always, and brings back nostalgia to the early 1610 Spider-Man days when he drew Ultimate Peter.
With all due respect to Bendis’ tremendous work on the character, his character, this kind of insight could only come from someone who has lived with the same obstacles. Hill and Nelson knock this annual out of the park, and should be the #1 candidates to take over the character.