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Miles Morales: 11/19/17

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

I've been following (on and off) the Spider-Man comics since my early childhood. They were carried in our evening paper — back when evening papers were a thing. The evening paper has since merged with its morning paper rival but Spider-Man continues.

One thing comics do is kill off a long standing hero or do alternate what-if versions. Basically telling the same story over and over again for decades or finding reasons to keep a character living in real time but perpetually young or middle age or whatever age they're known for gets boring, frustrating, unrealistic, and tedious. Of course there's also the TV adage that every plot line can be recycled after seven years but sometimes you just got mix things up.

That's where Miles Morales comes in. He's Peter Parker's successor or he's an alternate version. Or or or. Frankly in the big damn scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Miles Morales is his own damn person and he happens to be Spider-Man. It works for the Dread Pirate Roberts — so why the hell not?

Now enter Jason Reynolds — a relatively new author who has rapidly become one of my favorite middle grade and YA authors. He captures the inner city, urban life in a way that is universally relevant. There was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to read a Miles Morales adventure written by Jason Reynolds.

Reynolds begins his novel at a low point for Morales. He's lost or is in the process of losing his spidey sense. He feels burned out and is ready to just go back to being a pretty much the only black teenager at this prep school because he's on scholarship. Except now he's been suspended and it looks like he's been framed for sausages from the bodega where he works (as part of his scholarship).

On top of all of that, his Spidey-senses seem to be working only in the one classroom he hates most. Miles has a history teacher that is right off the plantation. He's intentionally baiting Miles through micro aggressions and setting him up for expulsion.

Admittedly the teacher as antagonist or even supervillain, isn't a new concept. Adult mentor — especially elderly mentor — as monster or alien, isn't a new concept either. But here's it's presented in the form of institutionalized racism. It starts with Miles being told by all the adults among his kith and kin telling him about that one person in their high school career who made their life a living hell. They're doing it to show him that yes — what he's going through isn't a new thing and that he'll probably get through it like they did.

But then — a pattern emerges. That was different. Obvious but different. It was a fun twist on a type of story that's been done before. It was a chance to play out the idea of what if monsters or paranormal entities or whatever were taking advantage of colonialism and racism to harvest victims unnoticed and unpunished?

Suffice it to say, if Jason Reynolds writes more Miles Morales adventures, I'm there.

Five stars

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