While news media cover the aftermath of Ultimatum, J. Jonah Jameson sits alone preparing what he believes will be Spider-Man’s obituary. Focusing on presenting a clear, objective view of the hero’s exploits as a way of retracting all negative press he had given him, Jonah focuses on one particular example…
A SHORT TIME AGO. Peter complains to Mary Jane of feeling tired, but cringes even moreso when his English teacher informs them that they’ll be studying Chaucer. However, the lesson is cut short by the PA. The military have ordered an evacuation of the school, but when all get outside, the soldiers present order them back in as the cause of the emergency lands a short distance away: The Incredible Hulk (green version).Peter and MJ make it to the roof where he suits up and swings into the fray as Spider-Man. Ignoring General Ross’ orders to get out of the area, Spidey is immediately attacked by the Hulk. He manages to hold his own until the green goliath swats him away, sending him crashing in a coffee shop. Knowing that Forest Hills is bound to be destroyed if this continues, Spider-Man gets back into it. Ross orders his men to take them both out if necessary. Peter evades a blast from the tank aimed at the Hulk….which only makes him angrier. Tackling the armored beast, the jade giant hurtles the tank for the GeorgeWashingtonBridge. Colliding with the girders, the airborne juggernaut causes a massive car accident as it skids across the road and hits a loaded school bus. The bus almost goes over the side before Spidey manages to snag it with a webline, but the weight of the bus starts to win out. Suddenly…the Hulk single-handedly lifts the bus away from the edge and places it back on the ashphault. Spidey urges the stunned schoolkids and driver off of the bus as the Hulk just stands there motionless and silent, exhausted. The giant suddenly starts to stagger and finally reverts back to the form of a man the science nerd in Peter recognizes as Dr. Bruce Banner. He explains he did this to himself by accident and now he’s hunted like an animal by a government who won’t listen to him or leave him in peace. At that moment, Thunderbolt Ross and his militia catch up to them and tries to place them both under arrest. Peter tries to point out the so-called "monster" just saved a busload of kids, but Ross won’t listen and fires point blank at Banner…whose stress causes him to Hulk out and causes the bullet to bounce off of him. Instead of staying to fight, the Hulk leaps away, and again the obsessive general ignores Peter’s defence of the Hulk’s actions and give chase again, leaving him amidst an entire bridge of carnage…which Mary Jane somehow manages to reach.
NOW. In his article, Jonah admits that the story he ran – ARMY CALLED IN AS MONSTER AND SPIDER-MAN TEAM UP TO WRECKCITY – was a complete lie. Jameson goes on to paint Spider-Man as a man-child who persevered in the face of adversity regardless of bad press, public distrust, and much personal sacrifice. He admits that regardless of his motives for doing this, he should be remembered as one who stepped forward to confront everything from small-time hoods to unnatural monstrosities while others did not. The one who rose to the challenge and made those hard choices. And Jonah goes on to encourage others to do the same.
Elsewhere, Captain America, Iron Man, and SHIELD helicopters arrive at SoHo amidst the debris where the Sanctum Sanctorum exploded. Iron Man’s sensors pick up a faint life sign buried under the rubble. Cap digs himself until finally uncovering an unmasked, battered and bruised Peter Parker. For a moment, there is no movement…until Peter opens his eyes.
- Jameson’s obituary
- Montage of actually used images coupled with some new ones
- Peter’s reaction to Chaucer (I cringed too, dude!)
- Spidey vs. Green Hulk vs. Thunderbolt Ross
- ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN LIVES ON!
- Where does this fit into Ultimate continuity?
- How did Mary Jane get onto the bridge?
- Different Iron Man armor from the first issue
- Inconsistent proportions on Spidey
Before we start this LONG review, let me first say to Brian Michael Bendis happy birthday. Many happy returns, my friend.
This issue delivered a one-two punch to the reader. Though not flawless, it’s Spidey at his funniest, the Hulk at his….uhm…smashiest, and Jameson at his….most creative. (So I ran out of words that end with "est." Sue me.) And again Brian can’t get away from DD, noting that the media have revealed the death of Matt Murdock "in a Daredevil costume." Nice to know how open-minded the press can be in a world of mutants and wall-crawlers.
Okay, enough of the showmanship, let’s get to the nitty gritty of the positives. As always, Bendis and Bagley prove that their collaboration is the definitive Ultimate Spider-Man. Bendis really knows how to write teenagers, though I’m surprised that in the US they actually teach Chaucer in high school. I studied the writer in freshman year of university. For those of you who don’t know him, he wrote the Canterbury Tales, which is difficult to interpret when read and understand because its dialect is in the old English language. Peter, I share your pain, my web-headed brother. In my first test on the material, I wrote on the upper right hand corner "Please bury me now."
But enough about me. Let’s get to the main event: The Hulk on Midtown High grounds. The splash of the big green is jaw-dropping. You can feel the awesome might of the green goliath (I love that nickname), as well as see the tortured anguish on his face. Plus his pants are torn at the sides rather than at just the cuffs. This is Bagley at his best with the creature. As for Spidey himself, he’s at his best for overstating the obvious with the Hulk through quips about his pants. But what makes this story work is that, again, the web-slinger is out of his league. This is the most powerful creature on the planet with near-limitless strength. Peter knows this, and yet to save his community, he’s still willing to go toe-to-toe with the beast in a hopeless battle. Bendis is having Jonah show Spider-Man in a David-and-Goliath grudge match. It’s like Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago if you want to delve into the underdog metaphor. However, this time with his handling of the Hulk, Bendis has focused less on the atrocities he’s committed – though I don’t think we’re at that stage, judging from the skin color – and more on the classic idea that he’s a misunderstood creature who values life as long as it’s not trying to kill him. Having him save those kids gave the reader some familiar territory, minus the baby-talking on the Hulk’s part. As for Banner, aside from him secretly being the man who murdered Peter’s parents in his first Hulk-out, Brian gives him an interesting soliloquoy as to how the world works, focusing on intolerance. And it’s very much in the vein of similar internal dialogue and external soliloquoys Peter has delivered. It’s in that instance that you see the parallel of both these characters. More or less, neither asked for these abilities but nonetheless have them due to lab accidents and are misunderstood and feared because of it. The fundamental difference is that Peter’s abilities are at his mercy, while Banner is at the Hulk’s. And Bendis doesn’t have to have Spider-Man comment on this parallel directly for that to become apparent to the reader.
But of course there are two adversaries for Spider-Man has to deal with. General Thaddeus Ross is a character we haven’t seen much in relation to the Hulk as of late. Mostly we’ve seen him in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four, and his only connection to Ultimate Hulk, of course, has been through his daughter Betty. This is Ross being his obsessed, myopic life-endangering self. The soldier who feels his time his up and subconsciously pursues the Hulk because it’s a war that never ends. In his mind, he’s Patton, and the Hulk is his Hitler. And of course there’s the matter of his daughter in love with the "milksop" inside the monster. And he’s not going to let some skinny smartmouthed weirdo in a spider-costume hopping in and out of the line of fire keeping him from doing his duty. Bendis gives the reader the sense that if anyone – especially Spider-Man – gets in the good general’s way, Ross is willing to shoot through him or run over him with his tanks all in the name of "keeping the peace." And good move on Bags’ part to keep Ross in military gear rather than him in the cliche military honors and medals chomping on that cigar. He’s like classic JJJ with tanks and guns. And setting up a battalion in front of a public high school shows how ballsy and how crazy he is.
Speaking of old flattop, he’s one of the real stars of the show here through his writing. For the majority of his existence, both in Ultimate and regular continuity, we’ve seen Jonah as a loudmouthed, over-the-top, hot-tempered slave driver of a publisher. And for the most part in Ultimate continuity, he’s been just the guy who attaches severely off-base headlines to legitamite stories and lets Ben Urich have it every other week. This is the culmination of his character’s growth. We actually see his literary voice for the first time. Objectivity has dawned on him, and he rises to the occasion, holding nothing back. He has been humbled beyond words can say, and this article he writes is partly bearing his soul for all to see. His attitude is simple: If this is the last Bugle article that makes it into print, he wants to get it right. And in doing so he shows there is a keen, journalistic mind behind the mouth. And this reads LIKE an actual article. I’d really like to see Bendis show Peter’s reaction to this piece because Jameson paints Spider-Man as a hero on the same level as Captain America, the kind of hero that Nick Fury noted seeing in Peter "if he doesn’t $*)*% it up before graduation." All in all, this was a great sendoff. Too bad for JJJ that Peter was found alive. AS IF THERE WAS ANY DOUBT THAT WOULD HAPPEN! The silent treatment for the last few pages worked because it connected with #133, preparing us for the worst…until that last panel.
However, sadly…this is not an issue without flaws.
Possibly the biggest is…WHEN IN ULTIMATE CONTINUITY DID THIS BATTLE TAKE PLACE?! Peter battled the green Hulk the first time in Ultimate Team-Up #2 and #3. This is also the first time he meets Dr. Bruce Banner, as well as General Ross. It set the premise for ULTIMATE ORIGINS with Banner’s talk about the conspiracy behind the influx of superhumans. Though Spidey does act as though he’s battled the Hulk before, you’d think that he’d remember the face of a guy who changes into a green monster whenever he gets even a little upset. And if he’d read all of Bruce’s work, you’d think there’d be a PHOTO attached to those articles. You know that it’s set in the past since Liz Allan is still in pre-Firestar mode, but it’d have been nice if Brian could have pointed out how much of a "short time ago" this was. Mary Jane, meanwhile, is the biggest plothole. Geographically speaking, the GeorgeWashingtonBridge is quite a run away from Queens, and public transportation had to have been screwed severely by the diverting of traffic or evacuating citizens. That being said…WHY IS SHE ON THE BRIDGE IN THE FINAL SPLASH?! HOW DID SHE SLIP PAST THE BATTALLION? IS SHE SECRETLY A FEMALE NIGHTCRAWLER?! Mark really should have thought this through. Another thing he should have kept in mind were the proportions of a teenage Peter Parker. His neck on the last panel of page 22 looks too thick; he looks like his adult version in that image. And the same goes for the pinup shot of Spidey with the Ultimates. One of the ways we know Peter is young is that oversized head of his, and his biceps look lanky and skinny. In Stuart’s case, I don’t know whether or not Jameson’s writing this on the same day as when Peter was rescued, but Tony had the suit from the Orson Scott Card origin story on when he zoomed past the helicopter, and now he’s back in the Bryan Hitch model. I don’t know; he may have had time to change in between issues. Minor complaint I know for a guy who has more suits in his closet (or briefcases if they get that far in Ultimate verse) than Trump.
Other than these problems with this issue, the book read very much like the end of Ultimate Spider-Man, especially with the montage of images from miniseries and cancelled Ultimate titles, till Brian and Stuart surprised us with the final panel. Look for my review of ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 soon. Stuart, you held the torch and delivered, so congratulations and best of luck on your other projects. You’ll be missed as much as Mark is missed. Bravo boys!
Ugh! Just when you guys have relevance in the first issue of this series you drop the ball AGAIN! Yeah it’s a great montage of past Spidey fights, but among them you should have included the battle with the Hulk! Still a great cover though in terms of visuals.