Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #15 Review


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Art: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: JC’s Cory Petit

The night before, at the Triskelion, SHIELD Director Carol Danvers visits Peter Parker in his hospital room. While she believes his statement regarding the Chameleon twins, she confesses to always seeing him as a problem she inherited from Nick Fury’s administration. She thought she didn’t have to worry about Peter if he’d stayed in line. That’s no longer the case. She tells him that he’s suffered enough and he deserves to put his life back together after what he’s done for the city and the world…but to consider leaving superheroics till after graduation. Danvers leaves with a warning that if something like this happens again, he won’t like the decision she’ll have to make on his behalf.
The next day, Peter is still in bed, this time listening to Aunt May. While he intends on going in to school, he confesses he has no idea what to say to Gwen, and regrets bringing this craziness into the home. She tells him to take stock in the sense that he’s alive, and it’s also due to the fact his friends came through for him (“the friends you have are the friends you’ve earned”, as Uncle Ben used to say).  She leaves but not without telling him to focus on Gwen, who got the worst of it.
At Midtown, MJ and Gwen reluctantly talk about what the Chameleon put them both through. Gwen finally breaks down and blames Peter for what happened and hates the fact she has to live there, and hates that she’s not as “perfect” as MJ is for not seeing Peter in that light. She says she can’t stay in the relationship after this. She also tells MJ that while they are friends, she knows that MJ is still in love with Peter and would fall in his arms if he came to her. With that she hugs her and leaves class.
Across town at St. Mary’s Hospital, J.Jonah Jameson is in recovery from surgery watching the news broadcasts at the fallout of Spider-Man’s “rampage” across New York, not one voice in opposition of imprisonment. Robbie and Ben drop by, armed with questions about what happened. He explains to them that it was not Spider-Man who committed these crimes, and that he knows Spider-Man’s identity…but will do everything within his power to ensure he’s protected. Even if people do not believe him, he wants the word put out about Spider-Man’s innocence.Back at Midtown, Peter, MJ, and Gwen are in English, trying to focus on the lecture, but can’t. However, the monotany is broken by the introduction of a new student named Lana Baumgartner, who takes Kitty Pryde’s old seat next to Peter. Peter stares at her, trying to figure out where he’s seen her before…then it hits him. It’s the daughter of the mother-daughter crime duo the Bombshells! After class he tells Bobby and Johnny and they’re in disbelief. Peter opts to talk to her…which is initially read as a come-on by Lana until Peter mentions he knows her identity. The courts had incarcerated her mother after deeming her an unfit parent and direct influence for her criminal activity. She now lives with her grandmother. Peter promises to keep her past under wraps…while MJ and Gwen look on from behind a corner. Gwen  is surprised that Peter has not even talked to MJ and thinks that they were both wrong about Peter.
In the school newsroom, MJ reads the Daily Bugle’s article declaring Spider-Man’s innocence when Peter walks in. Peter’s relieved that Jonah’s decided to keep his identity a secret….albeit DECLARING he knows but will not tell a soul. Peter swears everything Jameson describes in the article about their ordeal was true.  Peter apologizes for MJ getting sucked into this, but she’s not mad and tells him he should have gone to her first. MJ is candid and confesses that she believes Chameleon came on to her…because he sensed how much she still loved him. She excuses herself and tells him to go find Gwen.
At the Parker house, Gwen leaves with her things…
TO BE CONTINUED…

LIKES:

  • Excellent aftermath
  • Realistic handling of Peter’s collateral damage
  • Return of “Threat or Menace” Status
  • No web-slinging action

DISLIKES:

  • Gwen’s schitzo routine
  • Where is Bendis going with SHIELD Director Danvers?
  • Pichelli’s character design of Johnny

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Happy New Year. 2011 will bring about a lot of improvments on last year. In particular, you’ll get up-to-date reviews from here on out. Now on to the aftermath of Hurricane Chameleon.
What makes this issue work is that Peter is not out as Spider-Man once in this issue. He has pretty much been through hell, and how he’s handling is well-written. He’s still numbed by the experience and how his life has been turned upside down by the experience. His girlfriend hates him, his ex-girlfriend is indifferent, his former boss knows who he is, and his reputation as Spider-Man has been fractured beyond repair, it seems. Top it off he gets “advised” by the head of SHIELD to quit for a while. One thing that Bendis hasn’t done lately in the spider-books is internal dialogue. Perhaps that works in the sense that Peter is trying to feel his way through this very complex situation, and reading his thoughts as he is trying to do so takes away from the experience. The reader is following the hero through visual representation as opposed to literary expose. Of course, Bendis has made that Peter has spoken the least for the past few issues. For a notorious chatterbox, that’s a major change. It could be because he’s trying to distinguish Peter from Spidey in the sense that it’s when he’s behind the mask that he can truly be himself.  Peter’s indecisiveness as to where he should go from here is believable and relatable.
While I like the new artist, Sara’s interpretations of Lafuente’s designs leave a lot to be desired in some cases. While her Peter is great, Johnny has too many lines on his face and his jaw is too angular. He looks in his early thirties and has a hook nose from a side profile. In short, he looks like he belongs on the Jersey Shore. Mary Jane’s face, meanwhile, looks a little too pouty without the glasses. I would have liked to have seen how she handles costumed characters in this issue beyond that one panel flashback between Spidey and Bombshell. Overall, a great improvement over David’s renderings.
And now we have Peter’s “Spider-Man: Threat or Menace” status back in full effect…without Jonah for once. This is a major twist for the character. Just when you think that Bendis is going to go out on a limb and declare Jonah dead, he keeps him alive and kicking and now a full-fledged Spidey supporter. Even Robbie and Ben (the good cops to JJ’s bad cops) are surprised at this change in attitude. He’s willing to help Peter by publishing the truth about what happened, even though no one will believe it and even though he has no evidence to back up his claims. This approach runs parallel to regular Marvel JJJ, who often printed stories that villified the web-slinger’s actions with only his singular viewpoint. This is where I find the beauty of the Bugle going digital: it’ll get across at the public on a global scale to anyone with either laptops, blackberries, iPads, and so forth, and not be reserved to just the newsstands. I admit at first it was a major shift in the Spidey mythos, but I’m intrigued at how the new Jonah and the new Bugle will affect Spider-Man from this point. He’s now the D.A. to Peter’s “Green Hornet”.
Still, with the good points of this issue, there are the bad points. Biggest? Gwen Stacy. Her going schitzo is an act that has been repeated time and again, almost as much as Peter’s guilt by association. Chameleon used both her and Mary Jane, but she blames Peter for allowing this to happen. This is the same case as when she found out he was Spider-Man and blamed Spider-Man for her father’s death (also guilt by association and ironically another doppelganger story). I always found the Peter-Gwen story since the series was rebooted a very difficult pill to swallow and it’s for these very reasons. And hell it’s not even the REAL GWEN!!! People forget that she is a clone that was once a Carnage created by Doc Ock. While a decent cliffhanger, her running away from home is not a motif we hadn’t seen before, and I feel that Brian uses her “drama queen” routine a little too often. Surprisingly during Ultimatum we didn’t see this kind of crap, which led us to think that the new Gwen could handle this domestic situation. It’s not as if Chameleon slept with her and MJ. Question on my mind is where is she going to go? Then there is SHIELD director Carol Danvers. Aside from the fact that those sunglasses appear to be glued to her face, Carol just strikes me as one in the same vein as Agent Coulson in the Iron Man movies. Just the no. 2 person rather than the go-to person for this international peacekeeping force. She just doesn’t strike me as the untouchable authority figure that Nick Fury was; she has as much authority as a high school principal. Her talk with Peter just felt too much as a lecture to a student in detention. While I like the parallel with May’s lecture, her repeating Nick’s “wait till you turn eighteen” warning just felt needless.
Aside from these concerns, the new artist and the aftermath of the past three issues shows a promising start. While I like Lafuente, I feel Pichelli will make a fine replacement – if not a fill in.  Overall good issue. Looking forward for part 2.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Webs

COVER: 2.5 out of 5 Webs
Uhm…what am I looking at here? “Everybody’s got someone but me?” I mean what’s the point? I know Spidey’s rep is low but uhm shouldn’t someone be hurling rocks at him or something?
 

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