The Multiverse shattering finale to Miles Morales’ very own What If mini-series has arrived. Across the previous four issues, readers have witnessed the lives of Miles splintering throughout the multiverse, seeing him gain the abilities of The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Captain America, and Thor. Unfortunately for Miles, family is difficult to deal with in every universe, with each variant having to battle their own Uncle Aaron. Using the remaining fragments of the cosmic shard, variants of Miles’ uncle have been banding together across the many universes, searching for an ultimate weapon.
In What If… Miles Morales #5, the Aaron’s converged on the central 616 universe, ambushing Spider-Man. Spidey is on the back foot before his multiversal variants arrive to even the score, but the Aarons still has an ace up their sleeve. You can read the reviews by Carl McDonald for the four previous issues of ‘What If… Miles Morales’ on The Nerdy Basement website!
With illustrations from Paco Medina, Chris Sotomayer’s colors, and lettering by VC’s Cory Petit, author Cody Ziglar writes the multiverse-spanning finale to What If… Miles Morales! Although this series opened as a fun exploration of Miles Morales’ character as he took on the powers of Marvel’s major heroes, the series encountered some controversy following the series’ fourth issue: ‘What If… Miles Morales Became Thor?’.
Many readers within the black community saw the issue as making a caricature of African American culture. Although not outright racist, the book was uneducated in its use of African American Vernacular English as well as the employment of a Hispanic writer rather than an African American one. Many readers may skip this issue due to the many problems they found within the previous issue. However, Cody Ziglar may bring some concerned readers back. Ziglar is black, however, his track record for working on many Spider characters, such as Spider-Punk, and Miles Morales mainline series will be the major draw for lots of fans left uncomfortable by the book’s previous installment.
With all the multiversal variants of Miles Morales established within the four previous issues, Ziglar can get straight into the action. Although the What If books allow for fast-paced stories, audiences cannot get attached to the characters and plot beyond the initial novelty of it. What If storylines often fail to grasp readers due to the lack of stakes. The majority of, if not all, What If stories published by Marvel never majorly affect the 616 universe. Readers go into these issues knowing that everything will work out in the heroes’ favor most of the time.
This is not to say that Ziglar’s story is all mindless action. Ziglar presents some solid character work for Uncle Aaron from the universe where Miles is Captain America. After acquiring the cosmic amplifier, the cosmic shard he’s using to travel the multiverse now gives him and the other Aaron’s the power to shape their destiny. Aaron remarks that he never hated Miles he admires him and his heroism, seeing it as the best of himself shining through his nephew. Aaron guarantees that he’ll keep the good his nephew brings when he reshapes the universe.
Whilst Ziglar wrote a compelling enough speech, it’s unfortunately not par for the course for Uncle Aaron’s character or villain speeches in general. In the end, a series to present fun and original twists on beloved stories and characters, What If… Miles Morales could only produce a bland and cliched villain.
Not all elements of this story are as disappointing. Ziglar uses the ‘all action’ premise of this issue to create some compelling action set pieces, namely the surprise introduction of a Blue Marvel version of Uncle Aaron. This introduction allowed for some high-powered combat and a showcase of Thor’s abilities and strength.
Speaking of Thor, the defeat of the Uncle Aarons comes from Spider-Man combining his venom-blast with the thunder from Mjolnir. While the climax of the battle comes down to a basic beam struggle, the idea of Miles Morales and Thor combining their respective lightning powers is just too fun not to enjoy.
The pencils from Paco Medina allow this moment to shine, due to dynamic framing and effects work. However, these moments of energy and creativity aren’t the norm for this issue. That is not to say that Medina lacks the skill, the illustrations within this book are extremely well done, however, they are lacking in any unique flair.
Though the characters and poses are well done, they lack a sense of movement and weight. Characters feel stuck in whichever pose they are in as if they are action figure posed to be photographed rather than living entity that moves naturally. On top of these stiff silhouettes, the action scenes seem to not affect the characters in any noticeable way. Characters get hit, but they aren’t bruised or scarred, leaving each action feeling empty. In one instance: Wolverine Miles is depicted as slashing Sabertooth Aaron across the stomach, onomatopoeia and all, yet suffers no visible damage, not even a tear in his costume.
Whilst well-drawn, the action within this issue is lacking in effects and stakes. What If… Miles Morales #5 offers an alright finale for this romp through the many lives of Miles Morales. Although the previous issue of this series saw some controversy, the talent of writer Cody Ziglar will likely bring some fans back for the home stretch. Unfortunately for fans, this finale presents a bland villain which is accompanied by some stiff and lifeless action. Although it wasn’t trying to break the mold, there is an argument to be made that it certainly didn’t fill it at all.
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