Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Carlos Gomez
Color Artist: Bryan Valenza
Cover Artists: Arthur Adams & Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Peter Parker is hospitalized, but Ben Reilly’s on the job as Spider-Man! Now that he’s faced Morbius and Kraven The Hunter, Ben is getting back into the action as he protects New York. But now the Beyond Corporation is sending Ben on a fight that will have him clash with Miles Morales in Amazing Spider-Man #81.
So, this is a classic case of the cover only hints at superheroes fighting each other. Like before, the Beyond Board switched writers again, this time with Saladin Ahmed who normally writes the Miles Morales Spider-Man series. The Beyond Corporation is sending Ben Reilly to take on some random monster with plant abilities called “Rhizome” in Brooklyn. But while he’s there, Beyond wants Ben to enforce their trademark with Miles Morales and ‘suggest’ he pick a new name other than Spider-Man.
This plot is part dumb and fun. There is a fun story there of a corporation in the superhero business trying to enforce copyright laws on a street-level superhero using the same name they’re using. There’s plenty of humor and fun to be had with that and all the different ways they might try to go about doing that. But not only is none of that explored in the comic, but the idea just doesn’t make sense in Marvel comics when there are too many superheroes using the same titles and names that most people can’t keep up and readers generally don’t care. So it feels like a gimmick with little creative thought put into it.
The meat of the story is in two parts: when Ben and Miles meet each other and when Ben comes back to Beyond. The first part is what readers will look forward to, seeing the two Spider heroes finally interact since we don’t regularly see Ben and Miles talk or fight together. The interaction starts out very predictably and is very cliche for superhero comic books. Thankfully the dialogue is okay, though. It’s the same formula you see with other American superhero comic books: initial misunderstanding + heroes argues + brief hero spat + villain shows = heroes team up.
Even the brief bit about Beyond Corporation’s trademark gets sidelined for the formula, but the selling point is the actual back and forth between the heroes as they fight together against Rhizome, who’s just a plot device to make this encounter happen. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Miles’ new costume (hopefully he gets the old one back soon), but the comic was okay thanks to the art team who pulled it off and made this a dynamic looking comic book.
Meanwhile, the second important part of the book is when Ben comes back to Beyond after the team-up and we get another encounter between him and Maxine Danger, head of Beyond’s Superhero Department. At this point, the writers are putting in way too much effort to show how unscrupulous Maxine is and how she’s not Ben’s friend. The red flags are impossible not to see: she insults him, gives him veiled threats, and keeps reminding him how he’d be nothing if Beyond hadn’t given him a second chance. It’s the same thing every time we see her, and we’re getting nothing new here about Maxine other than she’s shady as sin and plotting something evil.
Also, we do get the explanation on why Miles (and the other Spider heroes, at least) hasn’t checked on Peter yet, and it’s because he didn’t even know Peter was hospitalized. Honestly, this is less the characters’ faults and more of Marvel’s fault at failing to depict these heroes as great friends. Like, why wouldn’t MJ call Miles or any of the other Spider heroes to let them know Peter was hurt badly. She’d be making calls to see who can help him out: the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Dr. Strange, and especially the Spider heroes. But the writers don’t bother to show any of that when in all likelihood she’d call anyone and everyone Peter’s met to help him out or at least be there for him. Thankfully, Peter is getting back to health due to the events of the Amazing Spider-Man #80.BEY tie-in, so there’s that.
Amazing Spider-Man #81 delivers a fun, if not predictable, superhero clash between Ben Reilly and Miles Morales. Nothing significant really happens here, other than the formulaic encounter between Ben and Miles. The comic is at it’s best when they’re fighting, both each other and the villain, visually speaking thanks to the art team. The story is very predictable, but hopefully we get better interactions between the two heroes later.