In the world of
Ultimate Spider-Man Review
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
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
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
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
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.
Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz