In the comics, aside from Miles Morales and two of Peter’s clones, Ben Reilly and Kaine Parker, one of the most fan-favorite characters to be introduced as Spider-Man’s legacy was Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099. Hailing from a world that is decades ahead of the main Marvel timeline, Miguel O’Hara was betrayed by his peers and found himself in a freak accident that gave him powers, which, motivated by the legend of the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker, he put to good use. The character and its world were a refreshing cyberpunk-ish take on Spider-Man lore, and it was great to see the character present in the artistically vibrant spectacle of the Spider-Verse movies. In Across the Spider-Verse, Miguel plays a somewhat complex role in the overarching narrative of Spider-Verse, and his motivation, action, and future role in the Spidey multiverse will be the topic of discussion in this write-up.
A Haunting Past
Across the Spider-Verse doesn’t delve much into Miguel’s background, but we do get to know that he is a gifted scientist from Earth-928 who didn’t receive his powers in the conventional spider-bit way. In the comics, the extremely freaky accident that contributed to his spider-like powers also altered 50% of his DNA with spider DNA, resulting in him having fangs that can paralyze when used on someone else and claw-like protrusions to scale any surface. However, aside from the dissimilarities in physical features, Miguel differs from most of the conventional Spider-Man characters in terms of mindset as well, which might have something to do with his turbulent past.
After gaining his Spider-powers and operating as Spider-Man 2099 for quite some time, Miguel discovered the means to move across different Earths across the multiverse and used the advanced technology of his Earth to harness the means into a portable device with the help of his AI assistant Lyla. In the post-credits scene of Into the Spider-Verse, we see Miguel traveling to the world of the 1967 animated Spider-Man, recreating the funny comic panel of two Spideys pointing at each other. However, that’s the last time viewers saw Miguel involved in any lighthearted moment. A grievous tragedy will strike soon enough that will shake the core of his life.
Miguel finds out about a world where an alternate version of him is killed, leaving a family behind. As his crimefighting career started taking its toll, Miguel wanted to have the taste of quaint family life; hence, he filled in the shoes of his deceased alternate Earth counterpart and adopted his family as his own. Unfortunately, the cosmic balance of the multiverse considered this act a transgression, and as a result, the populace of the entire Earth, along with Miguel’s adopted family, were wiped out of existence. The trauma of his daughter clinging to Miguel in her last moments broke him mentally and led him to a much harsher, darker path.
Protector Of The Spider-Verse
After learning more about the Spider-Verse, or as Miguel prefers to call it, the arachno-humanoid-polymultiverse, Miguel came to know that it is held together by the web of destiny, an intricate binding mechanism whose existence hinges on some particularly significant events (later attributed as Canon events) across various timelines. The events must happen to stop reality from tearing itself apart, and Miguel’s act of leading a family life with the alternate version of himself was an act that nullified the Canon event.
To prevent others from suffering a fate like his own, Miguel recruits a team of Spider-Characters and brings multitudes of Spider-Characters together in a “Spider-Society.” Led by Miguel, they seek to stop the threats the multiverse can face but also to try to let the canonical events happen without interference. The latter part is a particularly hard task to undertake, as it implies letting many tragic events unfold even after knowing the consequences. For people like Miguel and, by extension, most of the Spider-Characters, who have devoted their lives to serving justice, this aspect of letting adverse things unfold and standing by without preventing them for the greater good is an excruciating affair that even leads one to question one’s morality. A repeated occurrence of securing Canon events does a number on an already traumatized Miguel, and he becomes a jaded, ruthless, and cold individual.
Opposing Ideology With Miles: Is Miguel Really The Antagonist?
Across every Earth of the Spider-Verse, the death of Captain Stacy or his similar counterpart is another such Canon event, and this takes Miguel on a conflict course with Miles Morales, whose father, Jefferson Davis, is the Earth-1601 counterpart. Every one of Miles’ Spider-friends knows about the inevitable, but they also know that it takes the toughest will to make the hardest decisions, so they neither inform Miles of their knowledge nor ask Miguel to refrain from stopping Miles in his tracks. In fact, no matter how cruel his deliberate inaction might seem, it is also a reminder of the quintessential struggle of Spider-Man having to sacrifice for the greater good. When Miguel offers Miles a choice about saving one life or that of an entire Earth, and there is no option for opting out of both, he is just reiterating the eternal truth Spider-Man has had to face through the ages: the greater the responsibility, the greater the sacrifice. While it is up for the argument that Miguel’s fatalistic perspective, thanks to lifelong pain accumulating into bitterness, might not be the most pleasant option to choose, it can’t be said his ideology is wrong.
However, it can be said that the approach Miguel takes to forcefully convince Miles about his modus operandi is grossly wrong—it almost leads him to question himself at the end whether they are the ‘good guys’ anymore. He was growing restless seeing whom he considers ‘undeserving’ (the Spider that gave Miles powers was supposed to grant powers to someone else) take up the mantle of Spider and act all reckless, and therefore he takes it upon himself to bend the course of action to his will. But while doing so, he acts in an autocratic way, something that might low-key remind fans of the Injustice or Red Son versions of morally questionable Superman.
As the movie ends on a cliffhanger, viewers can easily assess that Miguel will have a larger role to play in Beyond the Spider-Verse. Perhaps Miles or others will somehow manage to uplift his spirit from the all-engulfing darkness, and he will help a fellow Spider-brethren out. Miguel fails to see that, Miles and he are somewhat similar – filling in shoes for someone else, and the realization can help him to approach to things in a better way in future instalment. After all, there isn’t a cooler sight than seeing two of the best legacy characters of the web-slinger join hands to lay waste to adversaries.