Peter Parker has perished, after a battle to the death with Green Goblin in Ultimate Spider-man #160. Who will take up the mantle of Spider-man, and how?
Sometime in the undetermined past: Norman Osborn is in a lab with a Doctor Markus, relating the mythological tale of Arachne the weaver. Norman also admits that it was he who created Spider-man, via a genetically-modified spider, and that he has a sample of Spider-man's blood which Norman wants Dr. Markus to reverse engineer. He also tells the doctor that if any of the information Norman's just told him leaves the lab, he will beat the doctor to death with his bare hands. A gen-modded spider, number 42, prominently escapes its box, unseen by Markus.
Flash foward: a front page Bugle headline by Frederick Foswell outs Osborn as the Green Goblin.
Flash forward two: a costumed figure is breaking into the rundown Osborn labs. It's Prowler. He opens a safe and empties its contents: cash and jewels. Unseen, the number 42 spider from earlier crawls into Prowler's bag.
Brooklyn: Miles Morales and his parents are on their way to a Charter School lottery, the Brooklyn Visions Academy. Miles' mother informs him that there are only 40-some spots in the school and at least 700 applicants from the neighborhood. She says the results are not a reflection on him, to which Miles responds "I know".
Lottery balls are being drawn with numbers on them. Only one left, and Miles still hasn't been called. His father mutters that it's a waste of a day. The number is drawn--42. It's Miles'. His parents embrace him at the announcement, saying he has a chance. All Miles sees are the faces of the kids remaining, who didn't get picked.
The scene shifts again. Miles is in an apartment lobby, going to see his Uncle Aaron. Miles tells him of getting into the charter school. Aaron calls it Miles' chance to get out of the cesspool. He tells Miles to make the world the he wants it to be, not the way it is.
The spider crawls out of Aaron's bag while he's in the other room getting Miles a drink. It crawls on Miles' hand as he sits on the couch. It bites him, and Aaron comes out to see Miles passed out on the floor, frothing at the mouth.
Miles' father is there when he regains consciousness, asking Miles' uncle Aaron what he did. Miles' dad and Aaron argue for awhile, as Miles slips away. His father looks for him out in the streets. Miles is hiding from him at first, but finds that he can turn invisible. To be continued.
Full disclosure: besides the final 'death' issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-man, I've never read or followed the series.
Miles Morales, the young kid who is primed to become the next Spider-man, has caused a real-life media sensation for one unfortunate reason: he's half-Mexican and half-black. I've heard people call this a gimmick, I've read that Marvel is bowing to pressure to be more politically correct (is this really an issue to people? It's a good story and that's enough for me). But all that aside, Brian Michael Bendis writes Morales and his family as likable and believable. It's hard to get a read on Morales' character. The fact that he worries about the other children who didn't get in the charter school is a basic but admirable character trait.
I like the groundwork laid here, but there's simply not much else to mention or write about. Bendis writes Osborn as a menacing creep in his few but effective scenes. If Miles' Uncle Aaron is really the one under the Ultimate Prowler mask, that should make for some interesting tension in the future, when Morales actually suits up.
Finally, the artwork by Sara Pichelli is crisp and appealing. There's nothing showy or overblown about her style, and she injects enough variety in the different faces and styles of people in Miles' neighborhood that it creates a realistic feel. The costume itself is also a great design, but aside from Kaare Andrews' eye-popping cover, we don't see it inside.
There's really not much to go on here; from what I understand, this is just how Bendis' first arc on the Peter Parker Ultimate Spider-man played out--that we won't see Miles in costume until after the first arc.
It's a solid first issue, however, as these things go. Bendis handles the Miles character as well as his family and their interactions very well. So readers are in for a slow-building arc that emphasizes character over action, which is going to have to be good enough for now. Four-point-five webs for starters.
With all the emphasis placed on the number 42 this issue, I wonder if Bendis is a Douglas Adams fan?