Spider-Man has always been a jokester, but recent developments in Miles Morales’ newest issue have taken the webslinger closer to Deadpool than ever.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2018) # 36 by Saladin Ahmed and Christopher Allen
When it comes to fourth-wall-breaking and metacommentary in Marvel Comics, readers are typically experiencing Deadpool or She-Hulk. It’s generally done blatantly and clearly, often as a joke for the readers. Occasionally, however, meta- is more than just jokes among a couple of characters, and the newest issue of Miles Morales: Spider-Man is proof positive of just that.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man # 36 sees Miles continue to search for his Uncle Aaron alongside his new enemy-turned-ally Shift. The odd couple jumps across the multiverse in likely route to the Ultimate universe. The two are quite familiar with the sensation of multiversal travel as Miles interacts with familiar, distantly-related faces across realities. These realities are colorful, and a brilliant setup for the distant relations Miles is soon to meet. More than anything, these realities provided a unique opportunity in genre-bending for Marvel to delve into without the blatant jocular nature that is generally applied.
As Spider-Man and Shift navigate the multiverse, they encounter three distinct worlds before the end of the issue: The wild western world of King, a Black Panther variant; the cartoonish world of Spider-Ham, and the nightmare world of Marvel Zombies. The two must adapt to seeing familiar faces in unfamiliar situations in the first world. Beyond this, however, the two have to understand that this new world features new rules. A sheriff is an arbiter of justice at a level above what they can wrangle. Their usual abilities to fight or scare away enemies do not prove as effective, despite their enemies’ scaled-down strength.
All in all, the two have to recognize, much like the reader, that this is not a world of superheroes but strange and unique humans without inherent powers. In the world of Spider-Ham, Miles and Shift have to use the logic of cartoons to move on. In the zombie world, Miles has to pull from his knowledge of horror movies to make decisions.
Miles here becomes a foil for the reader. Yes, readers know how these worlds should work, but generally, the people therein have no idea what is supposed to happen next in their story. Miles, however, has to tap into the meta of these realities to move forward, with his own perceptions of right and wrong altered by what he notices in the story around him. He has to operate with an active meta-knowledge of what should happen next in the story. This is the very definition of a meta moment. It’s just not how Deadpool does it. In this, it is subtly meta.
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Given how the Spider-Men hop across multiverses with unmatched frequency, Miles’ literacy in the narratives he is experiencing is telling. Rather than simply play along with the stories, Miles makes the distinct decision to go against what the narrative traditionally demands. As multiversal antics become more common among all comic book media, it will be intriguing whether other Spider-Men also become familiar with the meta-aspects of their narratives.
Even in Marvel’s What if …?, Spider-Man indicated he knew how a story like his own was supposed to work. As this meta-awareness becomes more ingrained into Spidey’s character, it will be interesting to see how the stories form around and reflect his actions.
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