Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is just around the corner, and although it’s bringing some fresh faces to the forefront with Miles Morales and his friends, it’s also drawing on some pretty familiar comic book history. Or more accurately, you could call it recent history–Miles himself is less a decade old in terms of publication, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not familiar with all of his background. There’s been a lot of it in not a lot of time.
One of those background elements revolves around a new version of a familiar Spider-Man baddie, a man called The Prowler, who was completely reimagined for Miles’ universe and is subsequently being brought to life for Into The Spider-Verse. He may not be the most famous villain making an animated big screen debut, but he’s probably going to be one of the most painful challenges Miles has to face for the movie, and it’s all thanks to one simple fact: If the movie keeps his backstory the same as the comics, Prowler will turn out to actually be Miles’ uncle, Aaron Davis.
To really understand what that means, you’ll have to wrap your head around the basic concept of the “Spider-Verse” as a whole. Miles exists in a reality that is actually separate from the traditional Spider-Man story–Miles’ world, the Ultimate Universe, has its own Peter Parker, who is still Spider-Man, and it’s still populated with heroes and villains with names you’d know. But there are some major differences, too. It’s essentially an alternate reality where only some things are changed. Back on the standard Spider-Man Earth–the one we know from the comics, generally called Earth 616 for the sake of clarity–Prowler is essentially a d-list villain who has had a couple of incarnations, none of them all that impactful.
Ultimate Prowler is a different situation, however, and a whole lot more relevant to the situation at hand. Aaron Davis actually had a direct hand in Miles’ spider-empowerment in the comics. A petty thief and cat burglar, Aaron had attempted to steal a case of experimental tech from an Oscorp lab, but in doing so, unknowingly spirited one of the genetically modified spiders Norman Osborn had been working with (in an attempt to replicate the Spider-Man phenomena) out of the building. Miles, not realizing what his uncle had just done, visited Aaron’s apartment only to be bit by the spider and, well, you know how that particular story goes. Miles and Peter aren’t that different when it comes to how they actually got their powers.
Prior to the spider-incident, Miles and Aaron had been pretty close, much to the dismay of Miles’ father, Jefferson, who used to run with the same less-than-reputable crews as his brother before going straight and becoming a cop. However, with the Oscorp job officially botched and Aaron now on the run–not to mention the complications built into Miles’ new dual identity as the new Spider-Man–things began to get pretty rocky. Aaron went on the run, Miles came into his superheroic own, and Jefferson forbade Miles to spend time with his uncle should he ever come back.
He did come back, of course, and things began to go even more down hill. Aside from the obvious conflicts between Prowler, a costumed villain, and Spider-Man, a superhero, there was also the matter of Aaron slowly piecing together just what had happened with his nephew and, eventually, learning his secret. The knowledge put him at a crossroads, not wanting to hurt his nephew, but seeing the opportunity it presented for things like blackmail. Afterall, the life of a supervillain gets considerably easier when they’re able to keep the local heroes off their back.
Prowler’s career blackmailing his own nephew came to a tragic conclusion after a showdown between he and Miles resulted in the fatal malfunction of his gear–or, at least, the sort of fatal malfunction of his gear. Despite “dying” in the Ultimate Universe, Aaron Davis was mysteriously resurrected following the massive multiverse-wide event known as Secret Wars, which transplanted Miles from his home Earth to Earth-616. Somewhere in the chaos, Aaron was returned to life and brought to Earth-616 as well, where he co-opted the Iron Spider identity and began working for the Sinister Six.
So what does this mean for Into The Spider-Verse? Well, it’s a little complicated. We know from our sneak peak at NYCC that Aaron and Miles are going to have a relationship at the start of things that is pretty similar to their comics counterparts. Miles sees Aaron as a cool mentor figure, despite his dad’s reservations. Miles’ origin story is slightly modified for the movie, however, so Aaron’s attempted robbery of Oscorp isn’t how Miles ends up getting spider-bitten.
That said, it would seem like Aaron is still an active criminal in the Spider-Verse universe. In the Venom post-credits scene, we saw Prowler–or at least, a version of Prowler–pursuing Miles (and an unconscious alternate dimension Peter Parker.) The interesting thing to observe here is that Miles is not actually disguised for this chase, so if the Prowler hunting him and Peter down actually is his Uncle Aaron, he may already be aware of Miles’ secret identity at this point in the movie.
(It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Aaron Davis was also portrayed in Spider-Man: Homecoming, albeit as more of a cameo. He was played by Donald Glover and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker confronted him in a parking garage.)
The other possibility here, given the multiversal shenanigans in play for all of Into The Spider-Verse, is that there are actually two different versions of Aaron Davis in play–the one Miles knows and loves, and a considerably crueler one from another dimension, working for Kingpin. Either way, Miles is probably going to get a very rude awakening about his favorite uncle when and if that purple mask comes off.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hits theaters December 14. Read our full review to find out what we thought.