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Miles Morales’ What If Stories Hint At Larger Problem For Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man

Miles Morales has been around for a decade now, but What If…? only proves that Marvel has yet to really define him as his own character.

Miles Morales has been a part of Marvel Comics for over 10 years now, and visually, he’s quite recognizable and distinct. The problems with Miles come when the costume is taken off, leaving a character who’s still fairly undefined from a characterization standpoint. Failing to make a real mark for himself and get out from under Peter Parker’s shadow, Miles’ journey to having a niche of his own iscurtailed by Marvel’s current publications with the character.

The What If…? series currently stars numerous variants of Miles as a respective universe’s version of another Marvel hero. While the concept sounds interesting, it only highlights how much of a blank slate he still is, all the while begging the question of his real purpose in the Spider-Man mythos. It also makes What If…? as a concept feel more insular than ever. Here’s how, despite constantly pushing him, Marvel has underutilized Miles Morales.

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After a decade of existence, the one thing that stands out about Miles Morales is his rivalry with his villainous uncle Aaron. This has been the one constant brought up in the current What If…? series, where Miles is reimagined as heroes such as Hulk, Wolverine and Thor, the God of Thunder. For one thing, this utterly undermines the series’ basic premise, which to be fair is limiting as compared to DC’s Elseworlds equivalents. Several What If…? stories are simply “what if x character was y character.” This seems rather repetitive, even for big time superheroes like Peter Parker, Iron Man or any of the X-Men.

In the case of those characters, however, they at least have a mythology, supporting cast, and established villains to reinterpret to fit the story. Miles, on the other hand, lacks much in the way of that, even after a decade of stories. In contrast, half of Peter Parker’s classic villains and supporting cast members were introduced within two years or so of his own debut, making Miles’ lack thereof particularly problematic. Miles has had constant ongoing books to his name, not to mention appearances in movies, cartoons and video games. The fact that all he has to show for it is his uncle and perhaps his friend Ganke says a lot about how Marvel has stalled with his development.

Another problem that these What If…? issues highlight is that Miles could literally be slotted into any character’s mythology without missing a beat. Whether he becomes Hulk, Thor or anyone else, he loses nothing because that would require having iconic stories or a tight connection to Spider-Man to lose. Miles is simply one of several Spider-People swinging around New York City and the Multiverse. This makes Peter Parker less unique but it also dilutes his brand with characters who are in many ways almost exactly the same as him.

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Marvel has struggled to produce stories with Miles that absolutely require him over Peter Parker. Without any defining stories, he’s had nothing to really set him apart as a vital part of the Spider-Man Family. This could even include having him be completely separate from the family at large, as this is how Spider-Woman and Spider-Man 2099 typically operate. Their stories and settings are far removed from what Peter usually engages in, and they’ve developed their own story because of it. Sure, Spider-Woman arguably should be closer to the rest of the Spider-Man Family than she is, but Miles Morales is definitely on the opposite end of that spectrum. Even Ben Reilly, the second Spider-Man makes it a conscious decision that he’s not Peter Parker, and he’s a literal clone.

So far, Miles’ biggest claim to fame is the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It gives Miles a distinct personality that’s quite different from Peter. There’s also the fact that his dad is still alive, which, when combined with Miles’ evil uncle, make him potentially the exact opposite of Peter Parker. This would be a good direction for the comic books, making it clear that Miles isn’t just a retread of another character. As mentioned, it would provide some narrative diversity for the Spider-Man books. An original name could help, as “Ultimate Spider-Man” simply would not work, especially in separating him from Peter. Given his popularity, Miles Morales should be front and center in the Marvel Universe but it starts with making him more of his own person.

Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing.

A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek.

In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.

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