“What If? Miles Morales,” a new series of one-shots from Marvel Comics, reimagines the young Spider-Man as different superheroes. The first issue will introduce a version of Miles who became Captain America, written by Cody Ziglar and illustrated by Paco Medina.
The synopsis wonders, “What if… Miles Morales had never been bitten by a genetically modified spider and never became Spider-Man?” “What if instead… the U.S. government recruited, trained, and granted him incredible powers with the Super-Soldier Serum? What makes Miles a hero no matter the circumstances, no matter the reality?!!”
Did we really need two exclamation points at the end of that question? Marvel’s marketing department sure thinks so. Ziglar, who writes the first issue, is literally quoted in the press release as saying, “I’m a supreme Miles stan and life-long Cap truther, so being asked to helm the kick off of this ‘What If?’ series was a dream come true. Simply can’t wait for folks to see our boy Miles yeet that shield and how he handles the mantle of Captain America.”
Other issues will include Miles as Wolverine, Miles as Thor, and of course, Miles as the Hulk, all designed by Paco Medina.
Youtuber Just Some Guy asks the question on many comic readers’ minds: “What if you stole one hero’s schtick, but it never caught on? So you stole another hero’s schtick instead?”
JSG aptly observes that a better premise could be asked in Miles’ own series; taking away his powers, challenging his morality, putting him in difficult situations. Marvel doesn’t need to do tokenized alternative versions of the character to figure out “what makes him a hero?” He further wonders if Marvel would ever have the audacity to allow Miles to look bad, or do something not heroic.
As far back as when the original What if…? series of comics was first launched, and throughout the subsequent volumes, writers weren’t afraid to postulate on those types of scenarios. In fact, some stories got downright grim and ugly. In the first volume of the series, the alternative reality comics explored scenarios where Wolverine actually killed the Hulk, Korvac not only destroys the Avengers, but the entire universe, and in the friendly neighborhood of Peter Parker, not one, not two, but three of Spider-Man’s associates don the red and blue tights, to incredibly tragic results. Flash Thompson kills someone, and later the Vulture kills him. In another reality, Betty Brant becomes Spider Girl, but fails to stop a burglar and quits. And J. Jonah Jameson’s son John lives heroically after being bitten by the radioactive spider, but then dies during a mission.
Heck, issue #19 from the first series even showed what may have happened if Peter Parker had decided to cash in on his new powers and never become a crimefighter. Spoiler alert: he didn’t act very heroic. Later volumes of the What if…? comics would get even MORE gruesome. With Daredevil murdering the Kingpin, and sentenced to 44 years in prison. And a later one-shot examined what would happen if Frank Castle aka The Punisher turned on every Marvel hero and villain in the comic book universe, and assassinated each one by one.
Even the current animated series on Disney+ has explored some dark, alternative realities, with a serial killer taking out the Avengers’ starting lineup, Doctor Strange destroying his reality, and visited a world overrun by zombies where several heroes were literally ripped apart. The show may look like a Disney production, but the stories were way more John Carpenter.
The new Miles stories could turn out to be good. But as JSG remarks in the video above, Marvel seems so bereft of ideas these days, that a series that lets them do whatever they want to do with any character or scenario, a cosplay series gimmick is all they seem to be able to come up with these days.