Last year, it was announced that Brian Michael Bendis - who made his name at Marvel creating characters such as Miles Morales and Jessica Jones, and headlining iconic comics runs at the publisher for over a decade - would be leaving to work at DC Comics. It's only now, though, that some of his goodbyes are finally hitting shelves.
Miles in bed, a scenario that persists for much of Spider-Man #240. Image: Oscar Bazaldua, Laura Martin, Matt Milla and Peter Pantazis (Marvel Comics)
As he announced his exit from Marvel, Bendis was still writing several books for the publisher, including Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, Invincible Iron Man and The Defenders. In recent months, Bendis' time on those books has wrapped up, bringing closure to long-running arcs or bidding fond farewells to characters he's helped create and shape at the publisher for years.
But last week's Spider-Man #240 - where Bendis is joined by Oscar Bazaldua, Laura Martin, Matt Milla and Peter Pantazis, as well as Miles' original art team from Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor, for a special contribution - is a little different from the rest of Bendis' farewells.
The issue picks up with, and mostly spends time dealing with, Miles' recovery in the hospital after a battle with his Uncle Aaron; the latter recently returned from his supposed death to run a criminal heist to steal former SHIELD tech on behalf of Lucia Von Bardas as part of her attempt to usurp rule of Latveria.
Miles spends a good chunk of time in the hospital, not for the injuries he sustained in the fight, but instead because of a viral infection made difficult to treat by his superhuman biology.
Dr Claire Temple updates Miles on his serious situation. Image: Oscar Bazaldua, Laura Martin, Matt Milla and Peter Pantazis (Marvel Comics)
Miles spends practically the entirety of Spider-Man #240 in his hospital bed, drifting in and out of consciousness over a period of weeks as his friends and family check in to offer their support. Everyone from Miles' parents, to his best friend Ganke, to even Aaron himself, as well as Miles' superpowered friends such as Peter Parker and the Champions, all drop in and out of the issue to speak to Miles.
At the end of the story, Bendis lays down an intriguing future for Miles as a character when he finally gets released from hospital (only for Miles to skip meeting a mysterious benefactor in favour of heading to the cinema with Ganke).
Miles' superhero pals check in with their waylaid comrade. Image: Oscar Bazaldua, Laura Martin, Matt Milla and Peter Pantazis (Marvel Comics)
But given that the words "BENDIS' FAREWELL TO MILES" are plastered at the top of the front cover, it may not be the sort of tale that you'd expect from a writer's final issue on one of the most famous characters he helped create.
The rotating visitors give Bendis a chance to write for a large group of characters important to Miles one last time, while leaving things open for the character to continue without him. But it isn't a particularly explosive, grand finale.
But you begin to understand why when you read Bendis' lengthy farewell letter at the issue's end (or perhaps, if you followed him on social media, you already knew) and realise the story of Spider-Man #240 is a lot more personal to Bendis than any of his other recent Marvel farewells (it's also part of the reason why this story is only running now, as Bendis' first DC work is also hitting shelves).
so, 1 week ago I woke up in intensive care because of a surprise MRSA infection that grabbed & blinded me for 4 days. this was the worst week of my life. I almost died on Monday. it'll take months to recover. i wasn't even going to share it was so bad..
— BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (@BRIANMBENDIS) December 9, 2017
Last December, just weeks after his shocking exit from Marvel was announced, Bendis was hospitalised with a particularly serious MRSA infection that had gone septic, leaving him dangerously ill. As the writer put it in his farewell letter, he came close to death.
But the experience, and the experience of seeing his friends and family support him as he spent the month fading in and out of consciousness, galvanised in him a fitting and personal sendoff to one his creations.
Ganke and Miles hang out in the final page of Spider-Man #240. Image: Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics)
Miles Morales is almost as much defined by his supporting cast as he is being the Ultimate Spider-Man, and all that entails. It's why the final page of the issue is not of Miles in his Spider-suit, but instead hanging out and having a laugh with his best friend.
Those relationships, and the way they have developed over the years - whether it was in the Ultimate Universe before its untimely death (and recent return) or in the pages of Marvel's "All-New, All-Different" relaunch - reflect just how far Miles has come as a character as much as the strides he's made, and continues to make, figuring out his role as a spider-hero.
To frame that idea in such a deeply-rooted personal experience is a fitting end to Bendis' time with Miles as a character.