Ultimate Comics Spider-Man # 1 Review

ultimate-comics-spider-manWriter: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: David Lafuente
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Six months after the events of Ultimatum, Manhattan’s been rebuilt, Midtown High students get a day off, which the president has declared Life Day…and Peter Parker struggles with his new job as cashier at Burger Frog. Due to a misunderstanding with an elderly customer, entirely the fault of the old woman, Peter is reprimanded by his supervisor. 
Later that night, three thieves crash their truck into a convenience store  as part of a robbery. They’re stopped by a mysterious, red-cloaked figure. They all fire on him at point blank range, but bullets have no effect on the man who regards them as idiots. The largest of the gang tries to knock him out, but only breaks his hand on his jaw. The figure proceeds to knock HIM out, he then moves to the other vandals, taking brutal tactics to disable them, scolding them for doing something this stupid after all that New York has lost. After checking on the cashier, he leaves. Moments later, Spider-Man
(smelling of hamburgers) appears simultaneously as the police. Though mistaken for one of the thieves, one of the officers eagerly shakes Spidey’s hand and congratulates him on this latest take-down, which Peter flatly denies having any part in. The hooded figure just looks on from the nearest rooftop.
Peter swings home into his room, where he’s greeted by Gwen Stacy…with a kiss. Before things get too hot and heavy, Aunt May calls them downstairs for dinner. Kitty had called while he was out, but left no message. Gwen thinks it’s because she’s trying to pretend she’s not in love with him. Moments later there’s a knock on the door. It’s Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch of the now-defunct Fantastic Four, reappeared after six months being away from New York. He needs a place to crash, but before Peter can say yes, Johnny suddenly collapses.
Later that night, at an undisclosed location, Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime, dismisses his two underlings from the room. He is finally back in control thanks to the evidence washed away in the Ultimatum tidal wave that conveniently destroyed the courthouse and forensics centres. However, it is short lived, as he is ambushed and blasted out the highrise window by a "big fan"…Mysterio.
  • Parker luck with the old lady
  • Peter and Gwen ?!?
  • The return of Johnny Storm
  • New antihero?
  • Ultimate Mysterio!
  • Not much Spidey action
  • Peter and Gwen?!?!
  • The death of the Kingpin?
  • No Daily Bugle?
  • Spidey’s head
Welcome back to the world of Ultimate Spider-Man. That being said, in the words of El Whoppo from "The Three Amigos"…WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?!?!! Honestly, we knew there were going to be changes, especially with the new title in general, but Brian managed to cram so many  in this issue, some good some questionable, it’s hard to get a real feel for the issue. Especially when the art is new.
Okay we’ll start with David Lafuente’s artwork. The last time he tackled Ultimate Spidey was in that annual which introduced Mysterio. I was critical then of the powers that be choosing him because his manga-esque style is such a radical departure from both Bagley and Immonen. While I don’t mind his character designs for the female characters, his take on Peter too young; he looked 13 rather than 15 or 16. As Spider-Man, while the physique is lithe enough, almost resembling the character design of the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, the head bothers me. There’s no shape to it. It’s like he’s wearing an egg-shaped Power Rangers helmet. The eyes are much too large for this face. However, Justin Ponsor’s coloring helps flesh out the characters. That first splash of Peter Parker looks really three-dimensional and vibrant. I do also like the redesign of Mysterio. Less theatrics and more straight to the point. Don’t know about the lack of the bubble mask, though. However, Bagley did something similar to this back in the 90s for a time. I admit that this is the first time that I saw The Kingpin in a black suit as opposed to his classic white attire. I guess it’s to accentuate the idea that this is a new chapter in everyone’s lives.
Now, on to the writing. Seeing Peter as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant in the mall was definitely a character trait of a teenager that I’d yet to see Brian put him in. It’s a huge step down from being the webmaster for the Daily Bugle website, which brings into question whether the paper did go belly up post-Ultimatum. You can see it’s a massive blow to his ego, which may or may not be a good thing. The altercation with the old lady was pretty funny. The boy doesn’t flinch when going up against goblins, symbiotes, and human octopi, but when faced with a feisty senior who seems to demand information that Peter doesn’t have? This is an adversary that can’t be beaten with a webline or a left hook. In a way, this is Brian’s way of trying to make Peter more like an average teenager. He only got the job at the Bugle under special circumstances; technically he’s underage and was hired to spare Jonah more headaches from Betty Brant’s complaints about problems with the website. Another shift, of course, is the cops actually showing Spider-Man some respect instead of firing on sight. This is a pleasant-yet-strange turn of events for Peter; the outsider is suddenly more accepted and appreciated by the public at large. Of course it won’t last and I know BMB will find some way to put Jonah back into “Threat or Menace” mode, but still this is a breather that the kid’s needed since pretty much being a hackey sack for Nightmare six months earlier. I guess Brian wants to get across the kind of ripple effect the obituary had had on Manhattan in the past year and a half. But now, let’s talk relationships. PETER AND GWEN?!? Guess Brian couldn’t resist firing off that round in the chamber. The girl who once said she loved Peter like a younger brother probably saw the latest Y & R episode and decided to follow suit. (a guy had sex with a woman who he THOUGHT was his biological aunt for years until it was revealed she was adopted if anyone’s inquiring as to what the hell I mean by that).
ultimate_comics_spiderman_1Okay back on topic. First question that comes to mind: What happened between Peter and Mary Jane? Was the possibility of him being dead too much for her and she had to bail on the relationship? Or did Gwen make a play for Peter and he broke things off? Or…is he having an affair? Negative on the last one. Ultimate or Marvel regular, Peter’s not built that way. I don’t think that’s something he’d do to anyone. As for the new red-cloaked figure, I’m trying to figure out if this is a new character for the Ultimate universe, or a
revamped hero. So far we’ve seen he’s bulletproof and tougher than titanium with a huge chip on his shoulder in regards to criminals. Is this Ultimate Red Hood or something, Brian? Stay tuned for that one. Then there’s Mysterio. As mentioned before, this one hasn’t changed much since his first appearance in that annual save for lack of special effects technology. I think Brian wanted to get across that this guy’s not about smoke and mirrors like the Quentin Beck of old. He’s willing to kill. And what better way for business to pick up than have him take down the Kingpin of Crime Wile E. Coyote style? Then there’s the mention of Kitty Pryde, who Gwen sees as a threat, especially after her admittance of her feelings for Peter back in USM #132. And the Peter-May relationship’s taken on a bit of JMS-inspired tact with May more relaxed and comfortable with Peter’s double life and even washes his costume.
All in all this is a good start. Lafuente, you’re off to a good start with the book, but PLEASE do something about how you draw Spidey’s head?! Look at Peter’s profile from the side, then look at Spidey’s. Where’s the bridge of his nose??? The mask isn’t tight enough to flatten his face. Other than that, in the words of the immortal Bruce Willis, welcome to the party pal!
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Webs
Cover: 4.5 out of 5 Webs
Black webbing? Okay we’re going with a Ditko-esque coloring job. Cool. But the idea of MJ and Gwen running towards the camera like a couple of cheerleaders is a little…I dunno, weird. Other than that, great wraparound. Again, Dave…FIX THAT MASK!!



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