Why Miles Morales' Spider-Man upgrade is a huge creative (and cultural) step

We knew Marvel Comics would be shaking up the status quo with an "All New, All Different" universe in the wake of Secret Wars later this year, but no one expected something quite this big.

We’ve seen new versions of everyone from Thor to Captain America in recent years, though it’s rare that Marvel actually messes with the golden goose that is Peter Parker. Heck, we had to head to an alternate universe just to give Miles Morales a shot at strapping on the web shooters. But now the former Ultimate Spider-Man is getting a chance to headline the main Marvel Spidey book — no asterisk required.

The title of Miles’ upcoming standalone comic says it all: Spider-Man. No ifs, ands or buts. Word broke earlier this week that former Ultimate Universe mastermind (and all-around comic guru) Brian Michael Bendis will be back in the saddle to kick off the new mainstream Spider-Man series this fall, with Miles’ version of the wall-crawler front and center. The folks at Marvel have made it clear this isn’t a side story. Once the dust settles from Secret Wars, Miles will be the Marvel Universe’s new Spider-Man. Sure, Peter Parker should still be around, but it's Miles' time to shine.

We already knew Miles would have a co-starring role in the new flagship Avengers ‘book, but at the time we just assumed there’d be two Spider-Men zipping around saving Manhattan. Now it sounds like Peter Parker will be taking on a more advisory role to mentor his young protege. Though Miles is easily the most popular and enduring character to be born from the Ultimate Universe (R.I.P.), it’s still a risky move to effectively bench your heaviest hitter. Especially when you’re sidelining him for a character (no matter how popular) from a creative offshoot that has dwindled to the point of cancellation.

That’s why we couldn’t be happier to actually see Marvel do it.

With Miles Morales, Bendis & Co. created a character who resonated with a whole new generation of kids and adults looking for a hero. Considering New York is one of the most diverse places on the planet, it stands to reason the kid who is randomly bitten by a spider and given superpowers in the modern day wouldn’t be an apple-pie-eating white teen from Queens. More likely? It’d be a kid like Miles, who is from black and Hispanic descent, which is arguably a more accurate representation of New York in the 2000s. It makes one of the most beloved heroes in history more inclusive. How could that be a bad thing?

Despite the obvious focus at times from the media and fans, Miles’ stories were rarely about race. Instead, they were about an average kid growing up in the big city, dealing with friends, family, girls and his burgeoning spider powers. For Marvel, this is an opportunity to tell those stories on a much larger canvas in the main universe. Yes, we all love Peter Parker, but Miles’ story feels fresh in the same way Peter Parker’s story did all those decades ago. Much as Ms. Marvel and Spider-Gwen have grown into quick hits, Miles has that same aura surrounding him. He’s a new hero for a new generation.

"Let me be quite frank. There was a time last year where I had given notice on this book,” Miles Morales creator Brian Michael Bendis told Marvel. “I thought that with the character moving into the [Marvel Universe] maybe that should be a time for me to bow out. What I didn’t know was that the plans for Miles were substantial: that he would be an Avenger or that he would be set up in a way because of things going on in different books to be the more traditional Spider–Man character. And by that I mean that Miles will be the Spider-Man that is trying desperately to balance his life as a high school student and his super hero career. He will be the character that is wrestling with power and responsibility in a very raw way."

One of the most enduring traits about Spider-Man is that he could be anyone underneath that mask. With Miles, that became more true than ever. Marvel has already given us a female Thor and a black Captain America (Sam Wilson FTW), but making a move like this with a character as critical as Spider-Man shows Marvel really is trying to pull its comic universe into the modern day. Make no mistake: This is a risk with the company's biggest property. Period. The medium is evolving into something that actually reflects the world we live in, and we couldn’t be more excited. The big-screen versions might be sticking with the tried and true (sadly), but comics have always been a place to foster creative risks.

Sure, reboots happen all the time, but the Marvel Universe is changing in a way it hasn’t really done in a long time. Miles' perspective will give us a fresh lens through which to view the new creative landscape created by Secret Wars. He’ll be just as much a fish out of water in this world as we’ll be, and we can take the journey with him.

Spider-Man is Marvel’s biggest hero, so who better to introduce us to this world than Miles — the new Spider-Man?

What do you think of Marvel’s decision to give Miles a shot at the title role this fall? Can he live up to Peter Parker’s legacy as the Marvel Universe’s new Spider-Man?

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