The Ultimate line, from the beginning around ten years ago, was a way for writers and creators to take the classic Marvel characters and retell their stories in a way that was unchained from the decades of continuity and was arguably more realistic and level-headed. From The Ultimates that presented our dear Avengers as a bunch of dysfunctional nutcases to an X-Men mythology that introduced Wolverine as Magneto's assassin, the alternate universe was a chance to try something different without disregarding the narratives and continuity that had been built up since 1962. So it comes as no surprise that the Ultimate line would offer a replacement Spider-Man, one who is in fact a mixed-race teen rather than the traditional lily-white nerd from Brooklyn. Of course, the official announcement today has set off the various criticisms, some of it rooted in racism, some of it merely rooted in the general fanboy whining whenever something is done differently than it was before (see - Sam Raimi's organic web shooters, the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman, etc). Overall, a racial minority, mixed-race no-less, taking over the cowl of Spider-Man in what is as much a mainstream Spider-Man comic book as the traditional 616 universe is an obvious sign of progress and should be taken as such. My problem isn't with Miles Morales becoming the new Spider-Man. No, my problem is that Peter Parker had to die for it to happen.
As written by Brian Michael Bendis, the Ultimate universe Peter Parker was arguably the best-crafted version of Spider-Man ever created. By rooting the stories in character and ground-level plotting, Bendis gave us an instantly relatable protagonist who was a genuinely complicated human being underneath the red-and-blue spandex. Bendis made sure to flesh out all of Spidey's supporting cast, giving us three-dimensional portraits of Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane, and the rest of the crew. Because these stories obstinately took place in the real world, the violence had sting and there was a genuine shock at the loss of life (even though forced participation in crossover calamities lessened the impact of the violence in the individual stories). Point being, Peter Parker was a true hero, and a genuinely wonderful human being. He didn't deserve to die. Nor did Aunt May deserve to grief over the loss of her beloved nephew. But for some inexplicable reason, superheroes, even teenage ones, cannot be allowed to retire.