Spider-Men II: Arachnid Analysis

After years of buzz and a universe-shattering crossover that altered the landscape of the Marvel Universe, this year finally brought us the long-awaited sequel to SPIDER-MEN.

And on December 27, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli’s SPIDER-MEN II #5 concludes this epic tale. The issue will also mark some of the prolific writer’s final moments with two characters he’s spent more time with than most.

We talked with Brian about the end of this era and what his final (for now) statement on the Spider-Man mythos will be.

Marvel.com: When the original limited series ended, did you already have this story in mind? Or did things change after Secret Wars?

Brian Michael Bendis: All of this changed after Secret Wars. The entire landscape of the Marvel multiverse changed and with that so many pieces got shifted around, including where Miles lived. Sometimes readers will hear this and get concerned about all the stories that can’t be told anymore but I get more focused on the new ones that could be told. SPIDER-MEN II is absolutely one of the stories that could not be told without the glorious liquid organic nature of the shared Marvel multiverse.

Marvel.com: The interplay between Peter and Miles in this story feels very different than it did in the first go around. How do you see their relationship now?

Brian Michael Bendis: This is the reason I wanted to revisit the relationship. I’m very fascinated by the complicated emotions that come with being part of this growing legacy of Spider-Man. On one hand you have Peter Parker, who became Spider-Man not to start a legacy of people with spider powers who would then rise to his challenge, but only for himself. It has become this growing legacy and he lives with the idea that with great power comes great responsibility, so he won’t shirk the responsibility of it all. At the same time you have Miles, who has probably taken the mantle as far as anyone other than Peter has taken it and also feels conflicted. Though he has Peter’s approval and his path as a hero has been righteous, he now questions whether this is his path at all. This is Peter’s path. It doesn’t mean it’s also his. It’s all so deeply confusing.

Miles’ best friend Ganke has even told him that yes, it’s great that you can be Spider-Man and it’s great that Spider-Man approves of you being Spider-Man, but maybe you’re just a really good guitarist in a really good cover band. It’s really hard to play the song you’re playing and only a few people can, but it’s still someone else’s song. What is Miles’ song? And is it this? Does he just has to come to terms with it or might there be another path?

Marvel.com: What made you choose Taskmaster as the villain?

Brian Michael Bendis: He’s an amazing gun for hire. He feels so passionate but also very eager to sell to the highest bidder. So it’s always interesting to drop him into a story like this because you don’t know which Taskmaster you’re getting. The gun for hire or the passionate cause? He’s a mystery. Where he gets his powers from varies from time to time. I love him as a dispassionate foil. He’s such a product of the Marvel modern universe.

Marvel.com: The Earth-616 Miles’ origin story hearkens back to more of your crime fiction roots and work on DAREDEVIL than what we’ve been used to with your Spidey stories. Did you consciously bring things full circle that way?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yes and no. I have kept the Kingpin thread going through ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN for storylines all the way through today because I think it’s as important to the Miles/Peter journey as Aunt May’s or Ganke’s. I think The Kingpin is a fascinating individual because he is a real person. He has lived a cultured and varied life while, at the same time, ruling with violence and intimidation. He has love and he has loved. This makes him a passionate antagonist.

The idea that Kingpin might have been the Ganke to 616 Miles sort of came to me as I wrote them and it made me fall in love with both of them. I think the most surprising part of the story has been that The Kingpin would let someone out of his grip. That he loved someone so much that he would let him go. That he would trust Miles enough to let him go. For Wilson, that sounds like ultimate friendship that he only gave to one person.

Marvel.com: You’ve written various iterations of Wilson Fisk, so what do you see as his role in the Spidey mythology compared to his role with Daredevil?

Brian Michael Bendis: I truly think the Kingpin’s story has been a very important part of the Spider-Man mythology. I have used it as a backbone for what Ultimate Spider-Man would learn about the adult world. That truth and justice might not be for everyone. That sometimes the bad guy wins. Also for Peter and Miles to come up against someone so human and yet almost mythological at the same time is very interesting to write.

Marvel.com: SPIDER-MEN II #4 ends with a killer cliffhanger, as this new Miles prepares to enter an alternate reality looking to find a living version of his lost love. What can you tease about what he might find there?

Brian Michael Bendis: Inside the final issue sits a pile of easily the most requested things anyone has ever asked me for on the Internet. We have so many amazing surprises. I didn’t know at the time that I was writing it that it would be among the last Spider-Man stories I would ever write. But I am so happy that my instincts pointed me to write so boldly and to include my dear friend [artist] Mark Bagley in the proceedings. It created a wonderful capping moment for an 18 year run on Spider-Man.

Last year when I started writing this I didn’t know I would be leaving the characters. I just knew that the emotional core of the first SPIDER-MEN limited series was the reason the book is so well thought of and that the emotional core to this series had to be equally surprising. So I accidentally created some final moments for Peter and Miles that I am so grateful for. Though I will be leaving the characters and this universe for at least a few years, I am so grateful for the journey we’ve taken together. I am so excited to see what the new creators do. I hope they find new avenues and truths that inspires years of new storytelling.

SPIDER-MEN II #5, by Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, reaches its climax on December 27!