The narrative continues to be unveiled at an incremental rate in Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, though unlike last month, issue #3 revs up the tension by giving readers a fair amount of the recently resurrected Green Goblin/Norman Osborn.
It still feels monumentally unfair that in the Ultimate Universe Peter Parker remains dead with a capital “D” (I’m obviously operating under the assumption that the character who claims to be “Peter” is, as Miles said last issue, a “clone, clone, clone, clone”) while Osborn returns to the fold bigger, meaner and more powerful than ever. However, I remain hopeful that Brian Michael Bendis has a few surprises left up his sleeve regarding the circumstances behind the Goblin’s return to the land of the living. Otherwise, if the status quo is what it currently appears to be, then Peter seemingly died in vain a few years ago, which is generally not a statement a creator should be making in a superhero comic, regardless of the fact that this is the edgier “Ultimate” version of things.
Additionally, I’m still waiting to get a little more explanation as to what exactly Norman’s aspirations are now that he’s stomping around and murdering people again. Obviously, evil people do evil stuff, and sometimes that’s all the motivation a character needs. But Norman has always been a cut above your standard bad guy. Over the span of 160+ Peter-led Ultimate Spider-Man issues, Norman’s objective always appeared o be laser focused on eliminating the teenager who was accidentally bitten by one of his radioactive spiders and give super powers. At this juncture, it isn’t totally clear if Norman realizes that another kid was bitten by one of his spiders, and while it looks like the fight is on between he and Miles at the end of Ultimate #3, it could just be a case of Miles being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What Bendis does accomplish with his script is the reestablishment of the Goblin as an absolutely terrifying force of nature. Every layer that’s peeled away with the Goblin in this issue is just pitch perfect in terms of its tone. From Ben Urich bursting into the Daily Bugle newsroom announcing that Norman is alive, to the (assumed) murder of former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Monica Chang (which had a more intimate and personal feel to it than some of the Goblin attacks in the previous two issues, Osborn is put on a pedestal that entrenches him as dire threat to everyone’s well-being.
The terror is tied together when Miles confronts Norman in front of Aunt May’s house, and before he can mount any kind of offense, he is instantly struck by the fact that he is standing in the same exact spot where his predecessor, Peter, was killed. The scene brings Miles’s journey as a reluctant hero full circle and sets the stage for the remaining issues of this arc to be a defining moment in this young character’s career.
Meanwhile, Bendis continues to deliver on developing Miles’s character when he’s not under the mask. The scene where he attempts to tell his girlfriend Katie about his secret identity as Spider-Man is as authentic and genuine as anything we have ever seen from Peter in the “mainstream” 616 universe. Bendis is being absolutely certain to demonstrate the tremendous difficulties and strain being a superhero places on a young adult trying to find his footing in the world. Just a few issues earlier, Mary Jane warned Miles that while telling Katie about being Spider-Man was the “right” thing to do, he had to be sure that he was committed to riding things out with his girlfriend regardless of her reaction.
Bendis takes the riskier, but ultimately more rewarding route of having Katie being horrified by this reveal (or at least shocked enough that she needs to run away from Miles without saying a word in response). Bendis could have copped out and just had Katie nod her head and smile when hearing this news and I don’t think anyone would have batted an eyelash, but instead the writer continues to understand that at the core of Spider-Man’s “with great power there must also come great responsibility” mantra, is the fact that the right thing to do is rarely the easiest thing to do, nor does it usually produce the most satisfying results on a personal/social level.