The last two trailers for the PlayStation 4's upcoming Spider-Man had an interesting constant: Miles Morales. Only noted at the very end, in true Easter Egg fashion, as “Miles” in the first trailer, then introduced as a more ostensibly important part of the story in the second. Spider-Man geeks may be popping big-time over the character being involved in the game, but more casual fans may be wondering, “Who the hell is this Miles kid?” Well, I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a brief explanation.
In the late 90's, Marvel Comics launched the Ultimate line. This came around the time of the first X-Men movie, and appropriately started with Ultimate X-Men. It was a reimagining effort for familiar characters designed to make them more approachable to younger audiences and fans of the movie. It took off and was expanded to fresh, new takes on many other Marvel characters, including Spider-Man.
Ultimate Spider-Man brought the character back to high school and streamlined/modernized a lot of the lore. Much of this was used as the basis for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie, but things also got real weird, real fast. In efforts to make things as different as possible from the classic, still-running “616” comics universe, writer Brian Bendis came up with all kinds of new gimmicks to reintroduce the huge Spider-Man cast.
Ultimate Comics got more and more weird over time, but one rule generally stayed: dead means dead. Characters were killed, often in increasingly dramatic fashion, and didn’t come back like every other comic book death. This would eventually happen to Peter Parker, as he died fighting Norman Osborne in his own backyard. At the same time, a similar, genetically modified spider bit another young kid, Miles Morales, not long before he witnessed Parker’s death.
Miles had similar powers to Parker, with the proportionate strength of a spider, the ability to cling to surfaces and the spider sense. But he could also cloak himself and deliver a poisonous shock to his opponents. He would become the new Spider-Man for the Ultimate universe, which would last until it collapsed upon itself (real life) and fused with the 616 mainline universe (comics).
Miles would interact with Peter Parker, both the Ultimate and 616 versions (so much for the dead is dead rule, right?) throughout his career, and he eventually even get his own, separate Spider-Man comic book. Peter Parker still retains the “Amazing” title, but Miles is treated as just as important a figure in the new-ish “Spider-Verse.” Parker, a more global-tier superhero these days, has taken on a mentor role for Miles, who is currently an active member of the Avengers and sticks to the usual New York turf.
Miles Morales has not quite taken hold in mainstream culture, often making cameo appearances at best in Spider-Man games or being an unlockable character in the various multi-character Marvel games (mobile titles, Marvel Heroes). Miles is making more frequent appearances, having a side role in the current Spider-Man cartoon show, as well as getting his own novel and soon the lead in an upcoming animated Spider-Man theatrical film.
There’s no telling what Miles’ relationship with Peter Parker will be in Insomniac’s Spider-Man game. I spoke with the game’s director at E3, and he is a self-proclaimed fan of the comics works of Dan Slott and Brian Bendis, both the writers of Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Man over the years, respectively. There’s plenty of material to drawn from regarding Parker and Miles interacting with each other, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Miles is revealed to have his powers already at some point in the game.
The PlayStation 4 game does star a 23 year-old Peter Parker, which doesn’t quite line up with either comic. But it’s an original story set in an original universe (with obvious inspiration from the previously mentioned writers) so the door is open for a lot to happen with the character. It wouldn’t make a ton of sense to introduce him if he wasn’t going to be important, and if Marvel continues pushing the character, there’s no reason not to have the Spider-Men cracking skulls and swinging through New York City together in this intriguing new take on the Spider-Verse.