Spider-Man Annual #1 takes a look into the past of Miles Morales and explores the nature of Spider-Man as a character from his perspective.
Spider-Man Annual #1, despite its present-day framing device, is a story about the past of Miles Morales and the nature of Spider-Man as a conception. “With great power comes great responsibility” has always been the web-slinger’s credo, but what does that mantra look like when you’re a lower-class person of colour in the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy?
Contrasting the backgrounds and outlooks of Miles and Peter Parker helps to separate the Spider-Men, and Spider-Man Annual #1 does a good job of how exploring how their similar powers and costumes don’t necessarily make them alike. Parker doesn’t feature in the issue, but his backstory and personality are so deeply engrained in the popular culture that their spectres can’t help but colour the pages of the annual written by Bryan Edward Hill and illustrated by Nelson Blake II.
A brief Skrull invasion gives Spider-Man Annual #1 a jolt of action and allows Miles to debut a makeshift crime-fighting costume, but the meat of the issue is exploring the logic behind Miles deciding to put it on. Having secured a school place thanks to a lottery, and having absorbed the nihilistic, us-against-them mentality of his uncle, the youngster is grappling with his place in the predominantly-white, predominantly-upper-class social hierarchy.
With the overwhelming sense of not having achieved his position fairly, and of not being treated equally even if he had, for Miles the allure of saving a world that might not ever truly accept him is bigger than his own desire to fit in; it’s a resistance against his structural disadvantages. It’s him rising above that and standing up for what’s right regardless; not being bitter, or angry, or resentful about who he is.
Spider-Man stories have always considered the need to use one’s power against the consequences of doing so, and Spider-Man Annual #1 complicates the matter with questions of how intelligence relates to privileges bestowed by background and upbringing. But the question at the heart of Miles Morales, and Peter Parker, and Spider-Man, is one of morality; the right or the wrong thing. The character has endured so long because the answer to that question is always a simple one.