I’ve never been a Peter Parker guy.
Reading comics all these years, I never really had a strong affection for Spider-Man. He was my brother’s superhero. And maybe that was the reason right there. Subconsciously, he called dibs on Marvel’s flagship hero and I was left to look elsewhere. That wasn’t a struggle, to be honest. There was plenty to choose from and I got into comics at the right time. I had Daredevil going through another epic run thanks to Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. I jumped in on Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the run that gave the world The Winter Soldier. And on the other side of the industry, I got DC’s Green Lantern from Geoff Johns and company. But I never quite not noticed what was going on with Spider-Man, the hero I never got to choose.
In 2010, Marvel announced that a version of Peter Parker was going to be killed off in a separate universe/comic-line, and in his place, a new character would take up the mantle of Spider-Man. That headline would get even the most casual of fans to take notice but I was still skeptical to say the least. I gave it a shot and with that new issue, I had found my Spider-Man.
Swing time: The real Spider-Verse is the Spider-people we meet along the way.
Miles Morales was relentless. He burst onto the scene filled with joy and the kind of vibrancy only a new idea could give. His origins ran parallel to Peter’s. Never falling under its shadow or denying its legacy, Miles represented the best of what made Spider-Man the everyman hero but also showcased what made him different from Peter. For one, Miles had his parents and extended family with him. That dynamic became the heart of Miles’ story. While Peter’s foundations began because of loss, it was the bonds of family and the love and drama it brings that became the core of who Miles was and would be. His relationship with his father, mother, uncle and grandmother immediately made Miles both a relatable figure and a sympathetic hero.
Into the Spider-Verse is about the finding and losing of family, and all the battles to have it
It’s these familial bonds that are at the heart of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony’s latest installment of the franchise and its first attempt via animation. Into the Spider-Verse is about the finding and losing of family, and all the battles to have it. And while the inspired animation and a baker’s dozen cast of characters will grab the headlines, it’s that idea of how similarities can turn strangers into a family that truly sticks. Yes, there’s a ton of Spider-Men/-Women/-Pigs in this movie but the filmmakers turn what could seemingly be too much of a good thing into a strength and focus in on how our shared experiences ultimately unite us.
While the movie definitely — and rightfully so — belongs to Miles, this is perhaps the most complex Peter Parker we’ve seen on the big screen. We’ve already gotten the high school Peter Parker to varying degrees of success but for the first time, we see a Peter who isn’t really living up to the second half of Uncle Ben’s famous last words. Despite all this, you still not only root for Peter but empathize with him. And it is that empathy that distinguishes Into the Spider-Verse from almost every other superhero movie out there, animated or otherwise. It’s a movie that doesn’t tell us to look up in the sky but towards each other and to recognize ourselves in others.
And if anyone can wear that mask, then it means that we are all equal, that we all share in what life throws at us, and that we are all worthy of great power and the responsibilities that come with it.
The point of Spider-Man, be it Peter Parker or Miles Morales, is that anyone can be Spider-Man and the film makes this point to both comedic and heartwarming effect. By understanding that anyone can be Spider-Man, it allows us to not only relate to the heroes but feel for them as well, and to embrace their experiences as ours. And if anyone can wear that mask, then it means that we are all equal, that we all share in what life throws at us, and that we are all worthy of great power and the responsibilities that come with it. The idea of Spider-Man is a communal one. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a Peter Parker guy or a Miles Morales guy — at the end of the day, it’s all the same kind of good.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now showing.