9 out of 10
Michael Bendis and Spider-Man. A match made in heaven. Sure GHM found out the
scoop during an interview with BMB a few nights before the story broke, but we
were sworn to secrecy and actually ran the interview late. Oh well. It was worth
the wait. Joined by artist Mark Bagley (who had a memorable run on Amazing
Spider-Man years back, followed by Thunderbolts) Brian (Powers, Hellspawn, Sam
and Twitch) was given the responsibility of making Spider-Man relevant again.
Spider-Man is Marvelís way of reinventing the character without resorting to
revamping the core books and alienating readers. The book stands alone outside
the Marvel Universe and serves as a way to let new readers discover the book and
the character without 35 years of continuity and baggage.
needed the overhaul. The core books had gotten weighed down by tired plot lines
and resurrections of characters that didnít need resurrecting. Marvel tried a
minor update a couple years ago with ĎChapter Oneí, but that was met with
even more skepticism. Again, fans complained that the creative teams were
changing things that didnít need to be changed and leaving the things that did
need to be.
comes Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis made a name for himself with the wildly
popular Jinx and Torso, followed by a much talked about spin-off of Spawn, Sam
and Twitch. The attention of these books lead to Brian doing a storyline in
Marvel Knightís Daredevil series (which has yet to come out) and that put him
on the short list to take the reigns of this new Spider-Man title.
only a few issues out, Brian has shown a tremendous respect and understanding of
the character. Heís updated the character and situations to fit into the new
millennium without resorting to needless changes just because he would be able
to. Peter Parker is still a young man with issues that plague every young man
and Brian gives us clear insight into his daily life and the lives of those
around him. Uncle Ben isnít relegated to guest panel status before his final
fate, heís one of the main characters. Several issues into the run and Uncle
Ben is more of a father figure and friend to Peter than was ever portrayed
before. And Aunt May has moved from tired old caricature of a pushy aunt to that
of an eccentric but wise older woman.
Jane is no longer the pretty face with no substance. Sheís an intelligent
young woman in her own right and long time friend and neighbor of Peterís.
Flash Thompson isnít just a jock with a chip on his shoulder. Heís a real
jerk, surrounded by a cast of equally big jerks who serve to torment Peter and
anyone else whoís different. Most of the readers have dealt with a Flash
Thompson in their lives at one time or another and Brian reminds us all too
vividly of how Peterís life in school and out of costume can be more traumatic
than what will happen when he wears the webs.
of the biggest differences in the Ultimate Spider-Manís universe is the Osborn
clan. Norman is given more to do here. Heís a very rich business man who
craves power as much as he does money. He is ashamed of his son Harry, and Harry
knows this. The life of the Osborns is a flip side of the Parker homestead.
as Peter has the love and support of his family to give him reassurance after
his trauma in school, Harry loses his Ďmaskí of self esteem once he goes
home and if faced with a family that really wants nothing to do with him.
stage has been set, so it seems, for the origins of several villains including
the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus to tie into the origin of Spider-Man and it
makes sense. Why not tie several coincidences into the same amazing event? I
think it helps new readers not grow too skeptical of the typical comic book
motif too fast, too soon.
Peter Parker hasnít donned the webs yet, he has already become Spider-Man. He
realizes that he has these amazing powers and as any kid would, heís both
frightened to death and excited as hell to have them. He no longer has to fear
people like Flash Thompson because he could crush them if need be. Subtle
touches like Peter having fits in school or lashing out in anger at the bullies
are wonderful. It shows that the transition from tortured, lonely geek to
confident, jokey hero didnít happen overnight. Before Peter Parker could
become Spider-Man, he had to first accept responsibility for the powers or gift
heís been given.
have been a few minor, missteps. A homage to the famous scene in Ferris
Buellerís Day off seems a little forced, for example, but for the most part
the book is a bulls-eye. Bagley is great for this book. Heís managed to make
Peter and his supporting cast younger but at the same time show resemblances to
their current incarnations. Iíve always been a fan of his Spider-Man
renderings and their fluidity, but except for the covers, Iíve been unable to
get a chance to see it again.
people have complained that the title is dragging because Peter hasnít
appeared in costume and that Spider-Man isnít in the book yet. They donít
understand the character. Peter Parker became Spider-Man the moment he was
bitten by the arachnid and given those powers. But he wonít become a hero
until that fateful night when his life changes forever and he learns his
greatest lesson. I, for one, canít wait to see how Bendis and Bagley handle
that. Theyíve already accomplished a great feat making the character readable
for the first time in years and Iím awaiting the next chapters in their story
with much anticipation.
Ultimate Spider-Man is available monthly from Marvel Comics.
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