Miles Morales is back in Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse, his second feature film since the much-acclaimed 2018 Into the Spiderverse. For those not familiar, Shameik Moore voices Miles, a regular Black Boricua kid growing up in the Bronx—that is, until he’s bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes our favorite web-slinging superhero.
I really can’t overstate how visually stunning Across the Spiderverse is. I thought it’d be hard to top the 2018 installment, which pushed the boundaries of transforming paper comics into moving pictures, but they’ve done it, crafting a film that builds artistry into each of its frames, delivering visual surprises throughout its two-hour-plus runtime.
I normally get bored in action sequences —we know the good guy will survive— but not so in Across the Spiderverse, whose visual language is so rich that it brings beautiful new elements to each of its scenes.
And they did it with color! Yes, the Latinx mainstay of bold, bright hues is everywhere in this film. The somber blacks and greys of the typical “serious” comic-book film are almost entirely missing.
And the colors mean something. They transmit emotion, mood, character, and place. The film slips between visual styles to demonstrate the various worlds and eras different Spider-People have inhabited: from the gloomy universe of Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) to the bright and modular Lego Spider-Man, and everything in between.
It’s a glorious way to leverage movie magic, and particularly the often under-used power of animation. As such, Across the Spiderverse builds upon what’s possible in comic books rather than just blandly aping their conventions.
Yes, the movie is too long, especially considering how it ends (no spoilers here), but there’s no denying that Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse is a tour de force.
And in the center of all this beauty is Miles. His superpowers and secret identity drive the film’s action, serving as a metaphor for the ways we normies grow up, learning to trust in ourselves and build lives separate from our parents.
In that way, Miles is relatable—an every-Spider-Man, so to speak. He grows up in a loving family, with mom Rio (voiced by Luna Lauren Velez) dropping wisdom and Latina mom mainstays (“New Jersey is too far” for college, despite being in… New York). While Miles struggles to meet his family’s expectations, he still has big dreams for himself, thanks to his parents’ belief in him.
It’s notable that not only does our Black Latino Spider-Man have a strong, nuclear family, but his adventure is tied so deeply to all the Spider-Men —and Women— across the Spider-Verse. Our boy belongs to a community, not a lone wolf but part of an ever-growing team.
And that team is beautifully diverse. Yes, there are other Latinos, namely the aforementioned Issac. But Issa Rae also shows up as Spider-Woman (a.k.a. Jessica Drew), there’s Karan Soni as Pavitr Prabhakar (a.k.a. the Indian Spider-Man), and the list goes on. Hailee Steinfeld is Miles’ love interest Gwen Stacey, a Spider-Person (as Spider-Gwen) and heroine in her own right.
This a different story than the typical white-male exceptionalist one, and it’s more interesting because of it. Here the question isn’t what Spidey is willing to sacrifice to protect the many, but rather the nature of fate and destiny, free will versus canonical tropes.
Miles deals with a strong case of ni de aquí, ni de allá—different from Peter Parker’s in the obvious ways—but he’s also learning to trust himself as he steps into spaces not made for him.
The Miles Morales franchise is glorious, a whole step above the usual comic book fare, and we Latinos should be shouting from the rooftops about it. He is our hero, and he makes me proud.
Cristina Escobar is the entertainment reporter for Latino Rebels. She is also the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade