Spider-Man: Homecoming got many fans excited for the future of Peter Parker in the MCU. And comic book readers were especially thrilled with Donald Glover as Aaron Davis and the mention of his nephew- Miles Morales. While we wait for the animated Sony movie of this newer version of Spider-Man, you can check out the Miles Morales Young Adult novel telling an original story from author Jason Reynolds.
With Miles Morales: A Spider-Man Novel, Reynolds takes us on a journey through Miles’s neighborhood. There’s no Peter, there’s no Mary Jane. There is instead a return to the comic book characters created by writer Brian Michael Bendis.
A HISTORY OF MILES MORALES
Miles Morales made his Marvel Comics debut in 2011 when he took up the Spider-Man mantle. Miles is an Afro-Latino teenager teenager living in Brooklyn. Bitten by a radioactive spider created by Norman Osborn (in an attempt to duplicate the accident that gave Peter Parker his powers), Miles contended with his Uncle Aaron, a man he admired and respected, but who was also a professional thief. After Miles battles Aaron, an accidental explosion kills his Uncle who whispers, “You are just like me” before dying. Miles, struggling with issues of identity and his place in society begins to question if criminal behavior is hardwired into his DNA despite his father – a former criminal having reformed.
Eventually Miles ended up in the 616 Marvel Universe. He continues to make a splash across both comic page and screen- culminating in a live action appearance Donald Glover as his Uncle Aaron. (Glover also voices Miles in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.) When Glover says, “I’ve got a nephew in this neighborhood”, it was the biggest and best Easter Egg in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Could an appearance in the MCU be next?
A HEROIC FAMILY DRAMA
“Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you’re on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew he had hustling in his veins.”
Miles Morales is at it’s heart a family drama. Miles is a typical teenager who has “dinner on sundays with his family” and crushes on Alicia, the girl from Brooklyn Visions High School. He and his best friend Ganke watch American Ninja Warrior. Apart from the tragedy of losing his Uncle in an “accident”, he’s living what could be called a normal teenage life- for a superhero. That’s the core of Miles Morales: knowing who you are just in time for life to throw you a curveball. In this case the curveball is being Spider-Man. And just when Miles thinks he’s accepted his fate his Spider Sense goes on the fritz.
Things go downhill from there. Malfunctioning super senses are never a good thing and they interfere not only with Miles’ school job that helps him keep his scholarship, but also with wooing Alicia, the young poet classmate who encourages protest against their unfair teacher Mr. Chamberlain. Chamberlain appears to bear a particular grudge against Miles – to the point of it being harassment. But Miles has no time for romance, unfair teachers, or even family. His abilities going haywire leaves him to question if he should be Spider-Man in the first place. After all, losing his Uncle has ultimately led to losing his position with the school store, letting Ganke down, and leaving his family potentially open to being hurt…right?
Things become even more engrossing when Miles discovers that he has a cousin, the long lost son of his Uncle Aaron who is also at the mercy of a harsh authority figure much like Mr. Chamberlain. It’s that family connection which ultimately pulls Miles into a chilling plot that’ll leave his whole life affected and truly prove once and for all that he has what it takes to be the web slinging hero that New York deserves.
Jason Reynolds has crafted a book rich in New York culture. In this case, it is a New York that’s distinctly Afro-Latino as well as rich and diverse. His world should speak to many fans. His reality is timely, from Alicia talking about Harlem poetry and her family’s deep connections to the borough to Ganke dealing with the relationships between his family and himself. It’s beautifully crafted and authentic. Reynolds brings these cultures to life with the care and respect of someone who lives these realities which adds to Miles very real and visceral experiences. As a tourist in these worlds I read and appreciated where all of these characters were coming from. However I feel that a person coming from the worlds of Miles, Ganke, and Alicia would draw entirely different conclusions from these words and wholly new insights.
Reynolds crafts an incredibly engaging story. I ended up finishing the book in a day because we couldn’t put it down. The twist that comes is both surprising and reflective and gave me quite a lot to think about especially in regards to legacy and how actions can impact communities long after a person is gone. In terms of the “world outside your window”, Miles Morales captures a part of the world my window rarely looks upon and it was a privilege to observe it. It made me want to see more from both Reynolds as an author tackling Miles and more of Miles, his world and his friends, period.
If you’re looking for a Miles Morales fix that’s engaging, fun, and thought provoking, Disney publishing and Jason Reynolds has the perfect book for you. You can visit Reynolds’ website here to check out more of his work.
I give it five out of five stars.