Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch calls Peter in the middle of “quality time” with MJ for help in ditching the self-absorbed, attention-hungry pop star Brittany Amber Fox that he idiotically took out AGAIN after swearing off of her. Elsewhere, May presents a letter from Tony Stark to Midtown High’s vice-principal in order to explain why Gwen Stacy has miraculously returned from the dead and why he thinks May is the perfect foster parent. He informs her that the very fact that Iron Man, with connections to SHIELD, is acting on a single parent’s behalf , is very questionable, and that this is the type of craziness – with Spider-Man being at the top of it – is the reason Midtown is being threatened with closure. She swears she knows nothing about Spider-Man when she feels the vice-principal – well aware of the rumor that he is, in fact, a Midtown student – is leaning towards that.
Meanwhile, Peter phones Johnny’s cell and leaves him to fake surprise at the news that Doctor Doom is back and uses that excuse to ditch Brittany via “flame on.” He suddenly runs into the Vulture in the middle of another hi-rise robbery. The fight is soon joined unexpectedly by Spider-Woman. Together she and the Torch manage to ground Vulture, but Jessica (feeling awkward) makes a hasty vanishing act while Johnny is left smitten.
Back in Forest Hills, Kitty and Kenny hook up with Peter, Gwen, and MJ at the Parker home for an excursion into the city. Shortly thereafter, police arrive at the door and ask May to come with them for questioning on her and her son’s “connection” to Spider-Man.
TO BE CONTINUED…
- shock and awe – Aunt May arrested?!
- the return of Spider-Woman
- the deepening of Peter and Johnny’s friendship
- the connection to ULTIMATUM
- not much Spidey
- underused Vulture
First off, since it’s the day before New Year’s Eve, I want to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous 2009. Drink responsibly and leave your keys with a buddy if you’re too saucy to get behind the wheel. Ok now that the public service announcement is over and done with, on to business. The comaradarie between Johnny and Peter was really funny. The boneheadedness behind their friendship is growing and it makes for great teenage hijinx that you didn’t find back in the 1960s. I find the major plotpoints this issue were May’s spanish inquisition in the vice principal’s office. Bendis worked this sequence perfectly. How can you explain to parents that a teenage girl that was murdered has miraculously come back from the dead? I definitely feel that from the first Spider-Man-Goblin melee at the high school that things were becoming a major topic of discussion at the school board meetings and parent-teacher meetings. Again Brian, thank you for injecting much-needed realism into this book. School violence is a constant issue in the educational system, such as how to identify it and how to deal with and minimize it. In this case, the threat to the students by outside forces like mercenary terrorist groups like the Wolf Pack, or again a powerhouse hurtling fireballs at the building is a grave concern, and it is so Spider-Man to have Peter’s alter-ego be labelled as the lightning rod for all this insanity. I honestly don’t believe there’s any hard evidence linking Peter and May to Spider-Man; this is a basic witch hunt so as to assuade the board from closing Midtown. It’s random paranoia on the part of the vice principal, and he’s going on this letter from Tony Stark and SHIELD as proof. But it is interesting to see the fallout from all this. I see a possible groundless expulsion from Midtown post-Ultimatum. The only thing the school scene was lacking was a name for the vp.
Getting back to Johnny, he is the perfect counterpoint to Peter in this book: brash, cocky, superficial, popular, and immature when it comes to a social life. He swears off Brittany Amber Fox (nice jab at Ms. Spears, Bendis), but goes out with her solely because she’s hot. Idiot! And the joke of it is she’s one level higher on the superficiality meter than he is. While an attention-grabber himself, he feels isolated and wants to make a connection. Bringing Spider-Woman back into the fold after a lengthy absence – and the object of Johnny’s affections – is sure to bring in fireworks when Johnny learns he’s falling for a female clone of his best friend. Yyyyyeah. Awkward. I also like how Brian tied the ending of the story into the beginning of Ultimatum, with the gang on the tram when the wave hits. With Peter busy in the city he’ll have no clue what’s going on at home.
The only downside of this book was the underuse of a villain like the Vulture. For a guy with such a rich history, it just felt like featherhead was used as a filler and plausible plot device that would initiate the first encounter between the Torch and Spider-Woman. There was no explanation as to what he was stealing, and from the looks of it it wasn’t money. And Peter seemed like a guest star in his own book, no less. However, the redeeming factor is that the events that transpired ultimately (no pun intended) affect him, so this is a very small complaint in the long run.
Okay, New Year’s resolution: stop knocking Stuart for not being Bagley. He is hitting his stride and doing a great job so far. The shadow effects on the vice principal added an ominous feeling in the background. His action sequences are getting better and the facial expressions on the principal characters are funny when they should be and serious when they ought to be. And Brian, again, you’re the man, like every other year. You’ve been the number one writer in Wizard for five years; time to get your spot back, brother. That being said, see you guys next month and more importantly next year. THWIPPP! HAPPY NEW YEAR, CRAWLSPACE!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Webs
Cover: 5 out of 5 Webs.
This cover delivers a POW! effect. Stuart delivers an unexpected player in the pre-Ultimatum issue. While she doesn’t really have that much material in the book, in light of her regular Marvel counterpart’s culpability in Secret Invasion, Ultimate Spider-Woman’s appearance brings a shock and awe just by looking at her. The arc of her body and use of her webbing separates her from Peter’s style and attitude. The centralizing of the figure and its size helps in its impact upon first glance. Stu’s design of Jessica Drew mirrors Peter’s physique by keeping her lithe and petite as opposed to her, uhm, ample proportions in regular continuity. I also like Bag’s concept of patterning her look after Julia Carpenter (Spider-Woman II, now Arachne). Great job, Stu!