Miles Morales: Spider-Man #4 Review

by Charles Martin on March 20, 2019

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #4 Review
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Javier Garrón
Colourist: David Curiel
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

After a fast, audacious first arc, it's time to ratchet the stakes down and stick Miles into a simple school shenanigan. Let there be no doubt, if you were wondering from the solicits: This is very much Ferris Bueller's Miles Morales' Day Off.

Judge has the bright idea of cutting classes so that he, Miles, and Barbara can catch the last day of the "Brief History of Brooklyn Hip-Hop" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. 

It's not entirely the generic "what's something youths would do?" plotting it might look like: This trip serves as a solid introduction to the (hopefully-to-be-seen-again) point that Barbara's a rapper herself.

Vice-Principal Lyle Dutcher steps into the nemesis role, over-sharpening his conviction that that Miles Morales is a bad'un despite vast evidence to the contrary.  

Yes, there are, of course, some Spidey-problems along the way, too, but the mustachioed administrator gets the lion's share of antagonist characterization.

In fact, it's arguably a little too much, as most of Dutcher's suspicions and criticisms are cartoonishly overblown. (And the focus on him shorts Judge, Barbara, and even Miles on attention a little.) But I ended up loving his anti-star turn thanks to one simple, brilliant bit of dialogue:

"Spider-Man could teach a bad apple like Miles Morales a thing or two."

And Zang! Suddenly Mr. Dutcher mounts the stage as this ensemble's answer to J. Jonah Jameson, and I become a committed fan of his ridiculous Miles hatred.

If the plotting of Miles and friends' illicit day off is a trifle simple, it's brought to vibrant life by some superb artwork. Javier Garrón proves himself just as capable of illustrating contemporary Brooklyn life as more Marvel-icious superhero antics with Captains America and Rhinos and child-enslaving villains and whatnot.

He does a particularly inventive job of compressing an extended "students vs. VP" chase sequence into one unique double spread. It blends clever design work with both realistic and stylized character portrayals. It's a remarkably efficient way to tell the story, and it's delightfully funny, too.

David Curiel's colours make a big contribution to the richness of the visuals. They lend shape to characters and spaces with careful attention paid to the lighting conditions of every scene. The selective use of colour and shadow during a power cut at the museum is especially sharp - it conveys darkness well while still delivering an impressive amount of visual information.

Though it might seem like Saladin Ahmed's script is pushing its protagonist rather far into the background, his actions are the metronome that paces the plot - and that pace is superb. And Mr. Dutcher's silly quest does actually deliver a lot of meaningful info on Miles, cleverly reflected through the prisms of teachers and other faculty members who know him better than he might think.

I'd appreciate just a touch more insight into Barbara, though! I'm in no rush to get an answer to the "does she or doesn't she know the secret identity?" question, but this issue's teases were pretty insubstantial.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #4 delivers the sort of quirky, "marches to a different drummer" one-off that's all too rare in modern Marvel comics. It's not a Very Special Issue, a chapter in an Epic Saga, or a tormented character study. It's a flavourful, scene-setting romp that breathes more life than ever before into Miles's school and its students. This is the sort of texture and charm that are vital to building a long-running series. Here's hoping that's exactly what this volume turns into!

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Snap, I didn't even say a word about the debut of Frost Pharaoh! Guess you'll have to read the comic!