It's not hard to imagine why any Spider-Man fan would be excited about a new game in the franchise. So many of us have spent countless hours swinging through digital worlds created for Spider-Man and his rogue's gallery to explore, fight through, and cover in sticky webbing. But my interest was piqued even further when I first heard that Miles Morales would be playing a role in this newest PS4-exclusive game. Widely known as the first Afro-Latinx Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe, Morales set a new template for diversity that Marvel is still adding to to this day. Like other younger heroes like Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, Miles is a relatively fresh face on a generation far removed from both the gee-whiz campiness and gritty self-seriousness of modern comics; new eyes on a new world. It's a lofty position to be in, and over the course of his early life, Miles' ascent hasn't been an easy one.
No Spider-Man has ever had an easy go of things. Miles has seen loved ones die at the hands of heroes and villains, falling out with his father and his uncle (more on that later) over hero work, and doing it all before school on Monday. The Prowler arc, comprised of Ultimate Comics' All-New Spider-Man issues 6-12, is one of the earliest and darkest spots in the character's history. But let's start at the beginning: Miles' uncle (remember him?) Aaron Davis is a cat burglar who breaks into OsCorp to steal valuable data but accidentally leaves with one of their infamous experimental spiders in his backpack.
During a visit to his uncle's house, the spider gets out of his bag and bites Miles, granting him with similar powers to Peter Parker, the only differences being a slightly less potent spider sense and an extremely potent venom blast that can paralyze just about anyone he touches. As the Prowler arc begins, Davis demands money from Scorpion, who ordered him to rob OsCorp. An attempted double-cross fails before Davis is arrested by the Mexico City Police, all the while Miles is still learning how to handle the responsibility his powers come with. Miles begins to study old videos of Peter Parker's battles with Dr. Octopus while Prowler/Davis is muscling Scorpion and The Tinkerer for upgraded tech to help him match up with this new Spider-Man that he later discovers is his nephew.
The thing that really causes this story to pop is the family ties that just about every Spider-Man story can't seem to shake. Davis hangs Miles' father's apprehension about heroes over his head to blackmail him into defeating Scorpion, a fear that manages to keep Miles in line...for a little while. Eventually, Miles confronts his uncle about his past and present actions, which leads to a fight on the roofs and streets of New York that causes Davis' gauntlets to explode, burning him alive. "You are...just...like me" are his last words as a horrified Miles watches his uncle die in the middle of the street.
The character of Spider-Man has been teaching us for decades that with great power comes great responsibility, and this story is no exception. Peter Parker learned it by becoming vain and selfish enough to not stop the robber who eventually killed his uncle. Miguel O'Hara aka Spider-Man 2099 was a fiercely intelligent and reckless man who almost sabotaged his relationship with his fiance right before stepping into the machine that eventually gave him his spider powers. Miles is just the latest in a long line of Spider-Men to have both power and responsibility thrust upon them, and his heartbreaking arc with his uncle the Prowler is proof of that.