Miles Morales has been ripped from the streets of Brooklyn by a mysterious new force, and questions abound: who took him? What do they want?
But the bigger question according to Miles Morales: Spider-Man series writer Saladin Ahmed is who is the shadowy force behind the kidnapper?
Some answers to those questions (and some new questions, no doubt) will be revealed in July 10's Miles Morales: Spider-Man #8 from Ahmed and series artist Javier Garron. Ahmed has already revealed that the Ultimate Universe a big way with September's #10, but we got some answers out of him early - including the kidnapper's name - in a recent conversation.
Newsarama: Saladin, you left off Miles Morales: Spider-Man #7 with a couple cliffhangers and big changes in life. Let's start at the end and work our way back - who or what is this new character that's subdued Miles and strapped him onto a table?
Saladin Ahmed: All I can say right now is that the character's name is Quantum. An unseen someone has been directing the capture of Miles, and Quantum has been dispatched to do that. Quantum himself is totally silent and clearly has some sort of teleportation or space-warping powers.
Nrama: The solicit for #8 talks about this abductor and says Mile's rogue's gallery continues to grow. That would infer this isn't a misunderstanding - there's something malicious going on here. When you took on this book, how much of your focus became in fleshing out Miles' own group of adversaries?
Ahmed: I've definitely taken it as part of my task to give him some villains who are unique to him. He's operating there in Brooklyn, and I'm making that its own little world in the same way Peter's corner of Manhattan was his own little world when I was growing up reading comics.
It's been great fun co-creating villains, but I know from experience as a reader that it's pretty easy to introduce a villain and then never have them be used again. So we are being careful when we do this to not dash something off, but contribute something to the mythos.
Nrama: Just before the introduction of Quantum in #8, Miles' parents revealed to him that they're having a new baby together. That's a big deal for parents, and also for an older sibling. How'd this idea come together, and are you pulling from any of your own experiences for this?
Ahmed: I'm a dad, so I think I draw on parenthood a lot. Part of the reason in general that this Miles Morales book is family-focused is because I'm not a teenager. I've seen these dynamics from both sides, so I think about Miles, but also how Miles' parents and uncle - that generation - reacts to him, and interacts with him.
But Miles is getting a little older in the comic books, while still being a relatively youthful face in the Marvel Universe - and a great role model. So what I wanted to do was see him as an older brother figure and bring him into that intimate space.
Nrama: Speaking of older brother figures, another big moment, especially from the inner dialogue, is Miles reconnecting with Aaron Davis - who seemingly has a clean slate and is trying to go the honest route. What's your take on their relationship as a part of the Miles Morales story?
Ahmed: I think Uncle Aaron probably understands certain aspects of Miles that Miles' own dad doesn't quite get. I think they've had a bond since Miles was very small, and Aaron was in Miles' life a lot more when Miles was younger.
Aaron's criminal enterprises pulled him farther and farther away from his family, but now he's trying to reconnect - at least with Miles.
It can be hard - a lot of super heroes exist in a black and white world, and heroes are heroes and villains are villains. Period. But Miles is unique, and he has a much more personal connection with Aaron. For me this becomes writing comics from personal history; I have more than one family member who has been on the other side of the law, and they're still incredible human beings and I think Miles is uniquely poised to still take a chance with Aaron.
Nrama: But that being said, returning from a life of crime isn't easy or quick.
Ahmed: Right. I will say it's going to get much harder before it gets easier - if ever. This is just the opening chapter in diving back into that relationship. I think that whole lifestyle brings a lot of baggage and history, and it will catch up with Aaron.
Nrama: In all of this, you also have friendships with Starling, Bombshell, but also word that Miles and Barbara are no more. Miles would be embarrassed to talk about this, but he's not here - what's it like for Miles on the personal side of things?
Ahmed: [Laughs] Miles, on one hand, is a lot smoother than Peter ever was. At the same time, he's still a teenager who has a lot of conflicting feelings and is trying to do the right thing.
He has his superhero world, and his high school world - but now that's combining, overlapping. He's as likely to meet his next date in his chemistry class as he is while fighting villains on rooftops. It's a confusing world.
Nrama: At the same time, Barbara seems to be edging out of the picture from the way I read #8.
Ahmed: Yeah. Miles is big enough to understand her reasons and not be mad about that.
With Starling there's definitely some flirtation there, which we'll see more of.
In Miles Morales: Spider-Man #10, we have a Starling back-up story that fleshes out her story more.
Nrama: Speaking of #10, that is also the 250th Ultimate Spider-Man book ever - a legacy milestone, if you look at it the right way. What does that kind of symbolic number mean to you as a comics fan, and now as a comics writer?
Ahmed: It's a big deal. A new character was brought in that was welcomed with open arms by a lot of people, but skepticism by others. Getting this many issues out is sort of ratifying the character and signals he's come into his own here.
Nrama: Can you say what you have planned for this issue?
Ahmed: It kind of feels like Miles' life is running a mile-a-minute, no pun intended. #10 is sort of our... without getting into too much detail, the Ultimate Universe returns in a big way. And Miles is finally going to start to reckon with the weird history he has coming from another dimension.
On the cover we see the Ultimate Green Goblin (a.k.a. Norman Osborn) in monstrous form, but there's a force behind him we only know as Ultimatum.
It's going to be really exciting. Fans have been wanting that crossover.
Nrama: Indeed. So you're here, the first Miles Morales: Spider-Man story arc is done and being collected, and you're onto round two and beyond. How do you feel about what you, Javier Garrón, and the others have done so far?
Ahmed: You know, I feel pretty good about it. I feel like I should engage in a lot of false humility, but this is a job and I put a lot of work and thought into it.
Javier has been an absolute warrior, turning out pages without ever sacrificing quality. He's put a lot of thought into this.
Our editors too, Nick Lowe and Kathleen Wisneski. Our colorist David Curiel, letterer Cory Petit... Every member of the creative team has been firing on all cylinders. It's pretty exciting.
Nrama: And what are the big goals you still have moving forward?
Ahmed: I'm trying to balance going bigger, bigger, bigger with consistent storytelling. For me, there are a lot of 'oh my god' moments coming up, but I also want to be people's favorite monthly comic book. A lot of that is about consistent character building and world building - not just fireworks.