It continues to be impressive how Brian Michael Bendis makes it feel like superpowers are zapping across the page when the only thing happening is a bunch of people talking. The writer on many of Marvel's biggest books has been doing the dialogue-heavy, talking-heads thing for, wow, more than a decade now and it still manages to surprise me how much more satisfying it can feel than an issue packed with fight scenes.
The emotional tug-of war inside this issue—set a year after the death of Miles Morales' mom—feels incredibly raw. On one end, you have Miles's understandable desire to pull away from superhero life. It's what's on the other end that's surprising. The call back to a web-slinging destiny doesn't come from inside of Miles. It's his friends who try to remind him of the good he can do. And the conflicts ring true. Would anybody want to throw themselves back into a career where a loved one was lost? Even if it meant helping avert the suffering of others? With the personal nature of the threats he's faced, Miles hasn't had a much of a carefree good time wearing the webs. David Marquez’ artwork shines in this issue, bringing to life the painful emotions and hard-won wisdom in the faces of the characters. There's a stronger undercurrent of sadness in this incarnation of Spider-Man. It's probably not going away anytime soon.
Generations of gods—from different pantheons, different families—fighting amongst themselves. But not just that: drinking, laughing and loving, passing along all their dysfunctions and foibles down through the ages. And like the storytellers of old probably did, Azzarello and company make these characters their own. So, Orion adds a layer of douchebro attitude to his brutal/noble duality and Highfather comes across as more of autocrat than compassionate prophet. Different? Yeah. But still the same in ways that matter.
And anchoring this story to a historic moment of political compromise during the earliest days of the United States is a great, great thing. Mark Bagley’s art juggles the rustic and the galactic with equal flair. In lesser hands, a time travel adventure with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would be trite or corny. But, as an exploration of family and of what makes the Fantastic Four work as a concept, this issue is a highlight in an already strong run.