Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #4 Review


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Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Lafuente
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: JC’s Cory Petit

Mary Jane and Lucy start to leave the mall when her manager, Brad – a college freshman – stops her and tries to ask her out. She says she’s back together with her boyfriend just as a “gangsta” pulls up in a car prompting Mary Jane to get in the car with a gun. While MJ’s unphased, Brad bolts on her while the goon and his buddy tell MJ to get in the car. She refuses just as the mysterious Hood lands on their car. Mary Jane runs for cover while the driver speeds off with the figure still on its hood. He tosses him out just as the car crashes into a lamppost. The gangsta fires point blank at the Hood, but to no effect. Mary Jane starts to question who he is and asks if he goes to her school, but the mall cop car behind her causes her to look their way as the Hood vanishes.
Elsewhere, a dinner table discussion at the Parker home establishes three things: 1) Peter’s semi-okay with Johnny living there permanently since New York has too many bad memories and just wants a “normal life”, 2) Peter would rather take the attic than share his room with Johnny, who’s willing to go as far as dying his hair and wearing glasses to protect his secret identity, and 3) Johnny has to pitch in with the chore chart…and has never done chores before in his life.
The next morning at Midtown, Mary Jane tells Peter she encountered another superhero the night before. the conversation soon becomes too emotional for her handle and admits she’s a loser for dumping him. Gwen soon jumps in. She admits that she doesn’t want to date anyone else because they’re not Peter. Gwen says they’re still friends despite the fact that MJ dropped both she and Peter, but MJ says “You don’t want to be friends with someone who’s obsessed with your boyfriend.” Flash intervenes and is told to $(*U&$ off.  The conversation’s broken off by Jessica who informs her of the latest story breaking. The Hulk is attacking the Queensborough Bridge. Peter bails while both girls tell him to be careful…very awkward.
At the bridge, Spider-Man fights through the flying debris and tries to reason with the grey-skinned goliath, who has no memory of meeting the webhead. The battle ensues, but when Peter tries his webs on the Hulk, they just go through him, as well as the debris. Then he’s sucker-punched by well-placed explosives, rendering him unconscious. Mysterio appears, saying “Got ya.”
TO BE CONTINUED…

Likes:

  • Peter-MJ-Gwen pow-wow (with some Flash thrown in)
  • The Hood. Nuff said.
  • Mysterio’s revenge
  • Johnny setting up shop
  • better art in the bridge scene (on Spidey’s side)

Dislikes:

  • Hulk design
  • Peter’s hair
  • Mall holdup a little cliche

ADDITIONAL NOTES:
Well, whaddaya know? Big Jay’s finally caught up lol. Okay this issue presented some improvements….in the human arena rather than superhero battles.  After months of showing the cryptic new life of Mary Jane Watson, Bendis adds more layers to the current state of affairs. We’re starting to get a sense that’s akin to regular continuity MJ, in which she’s the object of many men’s desires, but whose heart is only for, as one fan put it a “foster cousin/sister-kissing, burger-flipping, uncharacteristic douchebag.” Hell, even her manager – a college freshman – is hitting on her. What is she, like sixteen? And he’s in his twenties? Come on, man. But seriously, another change is that while unphased by danger like a guy with a gun, she doesn’t have a Spider-Man hanging around to give her a hand. She’s lost her safety net and she’s having difficulty processing the consequences of her decision to leave Peter. As to the exact reason why she dumped him, that’s still a mystery.
Which brings us to the heart of the piece: the three-way conversation. The Hood is a well-used catalyst in this inevitable discussion as to how all three view each other. Bendis angst at its best. Peter still sees MJ as his best friend after all they’ve been through, although MJ longs for more while hypocritically being the one who ended things. Gwen still sees her as her friend despite her feelings still towards her new boyfriend. Flash…well he’s just an ass as usual (and is also starting to resemble the Flash Thompson of old with that letterman jacket on; I guess David was feeling nostalgic). That was a real manga moment in a break in the heart to heart. I totally identify with Peter’s frustration about the aburpt end; I myself underwent a similar experience. It’s not an easy thing when someone turns on you for no apparent reason. But while Parker’s moving on, MJ clearly isn’t. Career-wise, I’m starting to see Mary Jane as a journalist being Brian’s way of providing the hole that the dissolution of the Daily Bugle left behind. She’s become Chloe Sullivan to Peter’s Clark Kent (you’d have to watch Smallville to get that metaphor). Peter needs a source of information as to the latest threat, and what better source than a webpaper? Who knows? Maybe Brian will put him in the bullpen, which would make for great friction having both he and MJ working side by side. I also see MJ’s job as the key to figuring out the identity of this Hood character. Sorry for the increased Smallville reference, but she’s becoming the Lois Lane to the Hood’s Blur, but in a possibly constructive way. Through her we know that his/her voice is disguised, so we can’t tell the gender. More as it develops.
The bridge battle is the weakest part of it, but one with a dynamite cliffhanger. In this sequence you see some improvements on the animated motions of Spidey. Lafuente does a good job sketching him leaping and somersaulting by adding a red trail behind the scarlet parts of his suit. That’s an advantage over Stuart Immonen. It almost resembles the character design on the current animated series (the finale which, as I’m sure everyone agrees, ALL were screwed out of due to poor audio track). But again, Lafuente sinks in regards to his rendering of The Hulk. He just looked too blockish; the musculature just didn’t click. Huge, yeah, but it looked like he was trying to combine McGuinness, Kirby and Timm elements in one breath and it just didn’t gel. The dialogue, meanwhile, in the Hulk-Spidey encounter, started out good, but fell short. When you have both internal and external dialogue that doesn’t hold a candle to a simple “Got ya,” you’ve got problems. However, the saving grace is that it’s not an isolated incident, but the beginning of Mysterio’s payback for his defeat last issue. I’m starting to see that Mysterio’s being billed as more than just a random flash in the pan. The regular continuity Mysterio didn’t cause this much trouble for Spider-Man. Still, it did seem a little predictable. And Spidey should’ve seen it as well as soon as he noticed webbing and debris phasing through the Hulk hologram. A real “duh” moment for a computer geek, in my opinion.
Overall, I’m not really impressed by this issue in regards to the fight sequences, but the scenes involving the love triangle and the exaggerated reality of trying to move on hold it together…only slightly. I think Bendis is slacking off a bit, which sucks considering the quality of writer that he is. It’s not a bad issue, but not a stellar one either. But as a devoted Spidey fan I’m sticking with it in the hopes that it pulls out of this hole.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Webs

COVER: 3 out of 5 Webs
Good graphic. Little relevance. The Hood only appeared in one scene and only mentioned in a few moments of the MJ-Peter chat before things got emotional.

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