Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #8 Review


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Takeshi Miyazawa
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Picking up from last issue, Rick Jones, with the help of Spider-Man, the Human Torch, and Iceman, slowly pieces together that he is the herald chosen by the Watcher artifacts…which does not make him any less freaked. He demands that Johnny takes him to Project: Pegasus – where the FF encountered THEIR artifact – but it’s pointless because the Watcher disappeared after the herald was chosen. The three try to help him come to grips with this and even attempt to encourage him to come up with a costume and a name (in theory, anyway), but he rejects their efforts. Again demanding to know why the Watchers chose him, his powers activate again and this time ALL hitch on the “jaunt” from Forest Hills…to Project: Pegasus in Wyoming. The entire military installation looks deserted, and the massive doors have been forced open. As they come in, Johnny’s flame reveals a massive slaughter had taken place. They turn a corner and find four reptile-empowered young women who call themselves the Serpent Squad looking for – and found- an artifact called the Serpent Crown. The guys engage them in battle while Rick is chased by one of them. When Rick is tackled by one of them, he panics and accidentally blasts her out of the complex, but is nailed by another. The Squad gains the upper hand until Rick blasts another out of the complex…this one met by several guns.
Back inside, the fight’s over, but the kids are approached by government agents and Project leader Vaughn, who recognizes Johnny from before. After the shock of the Watcher choosing a kid has passed, he’s all the more starstruck that Spider-Man’s there. Rick reluctantly accepts his destiny as a super hero, and the three teleport out of the complex…while Vaughn worries he’s going to get fired.
Back in Forest Hills, amongst some ridiculous name choices, Rick opts to relocate when his mom and sister finds him in his glowing form. He says he needs space to figure all of this out, and promises his mother as he hugs there that he’ll be back when he does. Before he streaks into the sky,  he finally settles on a name: Nova. The moment’s over when Rick’s mother asks the remaining heroes to get off her property.

LIKES:

  • Commaradarie between the four guys – John Hughes would be proud
  • Rick Jones finally having relevance
  • Another FF connection

DISLIKES:

  • Where was Spidey swinging his webs from in the final panel?
  • A little too fast-paced
  • Serpent Squad too much of a filler

RATING: 3 out of 5 Webs

ADDITIONAL NOTES:
I know this review is weeks late and I apologize I’m making too much of a habit of this. Okay, let’s get to it. This issue would have made the late John Hughes proud in the teenage angst between the four main players. This isn’t the Lee-Ditko era in which the teenage heroes proved just as adept and insightful as their adult contemporaries. Three quarters of this group only have a vague idea of the impact superhuman abilities can have on adolescent life. As I noted earlier, two out of three are used to allowing the resident geniuses to figure out the hardest puzzles and strategies. Now Bobby and Johnny are trying to pick up the slack beyond the grunt work and Johnny’s starting to show some initiative with his connecting Rick’s transformation with the Watcher idols. You kind of have a “Greatest American Hero” feel to this setup (RIP Robert Culp by the way) in which Rick has been granted powers from an alien race without an instruction manual, in which hilarious chaos ensues. And that makes Rick fit in with the trio because they’ve ALL been there and are STILL there. The adventure has elements of misadventure and it works, albeit the art can still use a lot of work (more on that later). The mother’s reaction is also understandable at the end; does Pete really expect her to say something like “I’m fine” or “wanna come in for some milk and cookies, boys?” “Get the hell off of my property” pretty much sums it up. This also makes her one of the only non-villains that isn’t drinking New York’s Spidey kool-aid like the SHIELD agents.
The development of Rick’s character and mastery of his abilities takes some surprising twists. Bendis is really taking chances with connecting Rick to FF mythology ever so slightly, revealing in this issue that Rick has become the male version of Regular Marvel’s Nova, herald of Galactus. It took me a minute to realize this Nova’s not the guy with the goofy helmet. However, I recall the Ultimate Galactus (or Gal-Ak-Tus, as he was called) storyline and I really don’t see how Rick can fit into that context. Is Rick a herald for the Watchers? Are we going to see Watchers beyond the concrete slabs that kept popping up all over? The rebellious spirit of Rick is intact, having to choose to skip out on school now that he has power. And again his reaction to these power bursts is understandable. He goes from coma boy to superhero engaged in battle with attractive reptile women, so it’s a lot to take in. It’ll be interesting to see other writers explore Ultimate Nova’s character if Brian’s too busy.
However, with good points, of course, bad points follow. I recall the massive storyline involving the Serpent Crown in the 90s, so it kind of sucks that the magestic and dangerous qualities of this thing are significantly downgraded. It took me only two minutes to go through this book at first glance, so I had to go back through it to find the important points. A comic should typically take you 10 to 15 minutes to read at a regular pace. This book really felt rushed and thrown together. It probably is done deliberately to capture the essence of the ragtag situation between the four main players. The dialogue is witty, but feels really choppy at times. True there can’t be a soliloquoy in every dialogue balloon, but you feel the instinctive need to rush through Johnny’s explanations and the commaradarie between the group. And again there is the art. Miyazawa must have watched too much of the 60s cartoon because in the final panel…where the hell are Spidey’s webs connecting? He is too high and they’re in the suburbs in that “riding in the sunset” splash. The reptile squad was really filler and didn’t fit at all into the main plot. It was just T & A for the adolescent readers and was really a waste. I don’t know who decided to go in the direction of Manga, but it is too cartoonish for words and I sincerely hope that they move the creative direction back towards more traditional western style. I have nothing against manga, but I feel it’s a bad fit for this book.
Overall, I’m in a merciful mood so I’m giving this book a 3 out of 5 webs.

COVER: 3.5out of 5 Webs
While the story and art sucks, the cover gets a better mark because it has interior relevance. All port to Project Pegasus so this works. Nuff said.

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