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“To go from people denying my black existence in comics to seeing a movie that screams “We’re here to stay” is some powerful s**t that I couldn’t even imagine four years ago,” says 18-year old VOX ATL writer Kenneth Franklin. (Photo: Sony Pictures)

In ‘Into The Spider-Verse,’ Anyone Can Wear The Mask

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I’ve been an avid Miles Morales fan for the past four years, and have read just about every Marvel Comics volume of every story that he’s featured in. Miles is a very important character to me since I grew up right before the inclusivity boom of the 2010’s, meaning that I spent my most formative years watching and reading stories about white people that I couldn’t fully relate to. By the time I found out about Miles, I was a teenager in high school, which was really convenient since Miles was also in high school, and for the first time there was a character that I could fully relate to. We were the same. So when the trailer for “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” came out last year, I was ecstatic, and it’d be an understatement to say that this was an emotional moment for me.

“Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” tells the story of Miles Morales, a teenager living in an alternate reality who takes up the mantle of Spider-Man after the untimely death of his universe’s Peter Parker. Unfortunately for Miles, just as he starts to adjust to his new powers, he finds himself thrust into a larger conflict when he realizes that multiple spider people have all been transferred to his universe’s version of New York City. As far as spider people go, there’s the mainstream Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, Peni Parker and her mech robot SP//dr, Peter Porker/Spider-Ham, and Peter Parker/Spider-Man Noir. Together, they have to find a way to beat the bad guys and make it back to their individual realities, all while Miles is figuring out what it means to wear the mask.

Given that there are so many characters in this film, not everyone gets equal amounts of screen-time, and the writers make up for this by giving the best lines to the characters audiences are least familiar with. More specifically, Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir—voiced by John Mulaney and Nicolas Cage respectively—are purely comedic characters, and everything they say is utterly hilarious, and I’m sure that they’ll be fan favorites. Kimiko Glenn voices Peni Parker, who serves as the hacker of the group, she doesn’t have much to do comically, but Peni gets some emotional weight that I wasn’t expecting, considering the newness of her character to the Marvel canon. It wouldn’t be a superhero movie if there weren’t any bad guys, and in the case of “Into The Spider-Verse,” I can only talk about one without any major plot spoilers, so that’s that. Liev Schreiber is a great Kingpin, and I’ll be honest, he gives Vincent D’Onofrio (who portrays the mobster on the Netflix Marvel series “Daredevil”) a run for his money, and he sounds exactly the way I’ve imagined Kingpin in my head.

As for the three main spider people, they’re the most developed characters by far. Peter Parker is a little bit different than we’re used to, since this version of Peter has been Spider-Man for 22 years, and is going through a midlife crisis, to put it bluntly. It’s no surprise that he’s funny since that’s a defining character trait for Spider-Man, but I really liked this cynical version of Peter, and it helps that he’s voiced by Jake Johnson, who I adore. The neck-snappingly awesome Spider-Woman (more commonly known as Spider-Gwen) has a pretty significant role in this movie, too. Voiced by Hailee Steinfeld, Gwen serves as the love interest and foil to Miles, since she wants to protect him due to his lack of experience.

And for my absolute favorite performance, Shameik Moore rips it as Miles Morales, and I’m so glad that a kid from Atlanta got to be the first person to bring Miles to life on the big screen. He’s literally everything I could’ve hoped for and more, because watching Miles Morales on screen was an absolute pleasure, and there were times when I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

It touched something deep inside of me that “Black Panther” didn’t even bring out. Whereas “Black Panther” gave me a feeling of pride, “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” gives me pure unadulterated joy. Seeing a comic book character that I’ve related to since I was 14 on the big screen is so powerful. But then you realize that it’s so much bigger than you, because there are other people out there who’ve been reading too, and there are little kids who see a Spider-Man that looks like them, and could be them. They get to grow up in a world where Spider-Man can be anybody, and the mountain of internet commenters screaming “Spider-Man is white” gets dismissed by mainstream media. Hell, the only reason I even started reading the “Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man” comic anyway was because a white classmate told me that black people didn’t read comics, as a way to justify a lack of diversity in superhero films. To go from people denying my existence to seeing a movie that screams “We’re here to stay” is some powerful s**t that I couldn’t even imagine four years ago.

“Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” sits atop the throne as the new best Spider-Man movie. The writing is the strongest it’s ever been for a Spider-Man movie, all the jokes land and each character feels like a fleshed out person, giving another level of life to this animated film. There are so many references to Spider-Men past, present, and future that if you’re like me, you’ll lose your mind peeping out every reference. And that’s probably one of the movies biggest strengths — it doesn’t have to be this self-contained story because it relies on the multiverse, and everyone gets what they want. It also goes without saying the soundtrack is great, loaded with tons of talent from Vince Staples, to Denzel Curry, and even Aminé. All of this just serves to make the universe, or Spider-Verse more defined since those are the artists a black teenager like Miles would listen to.

I can’t talk about much more without spoiling elements of the film, but I implore everyone to go see “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” while it’s in theaters, it’s a great movie no one should miss out on.

Kenneth Franklin is an 18-year-old college student who still doesn’t know how to drive, among other things.

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