Marvel Comics, March 2017
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
The cover to this comic book, produced by American comic book publisher Marvel Comics, features two people, upside-down, kissing in a nod to the famous kissing scene between actors Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the motion picture “Spider-Man” (2002). Both of the characters featured on the cover of this comic book, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman (a character in her own title, called “Spider-Gwen”), are irregularly moulded, in a figurative sense. The large American comic book publishers maintain vast but frayed continuities, and use parallel universes as a plot device to allowing various characters to interact, where common sense or the publisher’s continuity itself would otherwise dictate that they should not interact. In this case, Miles Morales, a version of the famous Marvel character Spider-Man by originating from now defunct parallel universe, is kissing Gwen Stacey, a version of Spider-Woman but from yet a separate dimension. This is much like a shell game: it takes concentrating to follow the sleight-of-hand and determine in which universe the characters are operating.
There is nothing particularly exceptional to this topic. Miles Morales’ is recounting a story to his friends about how he came to kiss Gwen Stacey. It involves a quest to find his missing father, a well-meaning confrontation with Maria Hill, the director of SHIELD (an espionage organisation about which we have spoken many times before). There is a revelation that SHIELD knows who Miles Morales really is, underneath the mask and Spider-Man persona. SHIELD’s director divulges some technology which is probably too close to the truth: that SHIELD has the technology to track any person across the planet having reference to that person’s body chemistry. Hill gives Spider-Man a wrist device which can project a person into another dimension, enabling Spider-Man to track down his father. Hill also demonstrates that she is capable of making bad judgement calls: Hill has sent Spider-Man’s father on an inter-dimensional mission despite being a rookie. There is an action-packed exchange of violence and gymnastics towards the conclusion, with a criminal called The Ringer who can project circles of plasma from a waist-mounted device. To reiterate, there is not much in this comic which is especially unique or otside the standard fare of American superhero comic books. It is fun, aimed at a young-ish audience, and busy.
But we think we see something else in this. US President Barack Obama gave his final speech on office on 10 January 2017 in Chicago. During that speech, President Obama said:
“After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say. You can see it not just in statistics. You see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.”
This cover, featuring two fictional superheroes kissing, seems evidence of contemporary Obama-led social attitudes. Spider-Man is black. Spider-Woman is white. Perhaps it is a stretch, but this cover seems to us to be a nod to the departing president.