Hello. Just wanted to say good luck and best wishes again to Jason Marsh Larouche who is off to influence the minds of our youth. His departure opened the door for me to slip in and take over the Ultimate Spider-Man reviews, so I will do my best to continue providing the quality reviews like Jason had offered this site for some time. I’m the first to admit that I am not the biggest Ultimate buff, I am currently making my way through the X-Men and Spider-Man TPBs, and after a rash spending spree at my local comic book shop, I’ve recently jumped into the current Ultimate storyline. I’m using Jason’s past reviews and the nice Teenage Wasteland podcast to answer any questions I may have, but please correct me if I ultimately botch anything. (pun intended.) In the meantime, we’re going to Benjamin Button these past three issues of Ultimate Spider-Man and end with the very large and very special issue #150.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #152
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Sara Pichelli & David Lafuente
Colorists: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: J. Scott Campbell & Justin Ponsor
Plot: Two weeks ago, Black Cat began staking out Mysterio in his new headquarters. Spider-Man swings by, unaware of her presence and proceeds into the hide out. Black Cat watches through her binoculars as Spidey takes a swipe at Mysterio, whose misty head disappears. Cop cars arrive outside the building before it explodes with both Spider-Man and Mysterio inside. Black Cat looks on in surprise as the hero is dragged out of the building by police officers.
One week after the explosion, the feline villainess returns to the wrecked structure. Black Cat breaks open a safe which contains the Zodiac Key, a “secret talisman that kept the Kingpin in power over all his men.” Mysterio appears behind the burglar and demands the artifact. Black Cat claims she knows how to use the key and the building lights up, attracting the attention of the reporters gathered outside. Betty Brant notices Black Cat fleeing on a rooftop across the street, and no one is found inside the building.
In the meantime, at Peter Parker’s house, Iron Man arrives to find Spider-Man for his S.H.I.E.L.D. mandated superhero training program. Aunt May loses her cool and demands that Iron Man leaves before he gives away Peter’s secret identity to the neighbors gathered in the street. Iron Man awkwardly thanks May for the “directions” and flies away. Gwen Stacy, who had just recently returned home since running away, asks what that was about but is asked to go inside.
Peter is walking home from school with Bobby Drake and Johnny Storm, who are posing as Peter’s cousins, when they overhear a couple arguing about moving away from the city, citing Iron Man in their neighborhood as the reason. When they return home the boys are surprised when Gwen greets them. They walk in on the tail end of Aunt May’s angry phone conversation with S.H.I.E.L.D. Aunt May calms down when Peter reminds her of her weak heart and she explains why Iron Man was there. Gwen asks to speak to Peter upstairs.
The couple has a long heart-to-heart about their relationship and what her return home means. Gwen tells Peter she loves him, and she’s still his best friend, but they can’t date. Gwen believes she forced Peter into dating her in the first place and just asks that he keep his relationship with Mary Jane to himself. Peter argues briefly about the reasoning behind their relationship, but accepts her “presumptuous” decision that they’re broken up only because he’s happy that she is back.
Peter’s phone rings, interrupting the couple’s embrace. Tony Stark asks Peter to meet him at Stark International Headquarters. He promises to send Aunt May a car or muffin basket as an apology for his intrusion earlier that day. Peter scales the stairs up to the attic with Gwen looking on sadly from the bedroom. The issue ends with Spider-Man webbing across the city on the way to his first superhero class.
Hot to the Torch: I found the art by Pichelli and Lafuente to be really enjoyable in this issue. It has a sort of Romita feel to it, and I like that. The few things that really stuck out were the apelike hands of Gwen Stacy and the panel of Aunt May asking Iron Man to leave – she looked like a sad gargoyle. Peter’s look, specifically his hairstyle, is much more tolerable than the way Bagley drew him earlier in the Ultimate series. The colors and inks also have the classic comic book feel which enhance the look.
I don’t get to cover Peter Parker’s life very much with the New Avengers review, so it’s nice to get to look at this other side of Spider-Man. I like the addition of Bobby and Johnny to the cast of characters, but the neighbors must imagine that it’s some sort of halfway house for troubled youths. The personalities of the two play well opposite Peter’s cooler, more aloof nature, his thoughts usually someplace else.
It’s really interesting to see the character of Gwen interacting with characters like the Human Torch and Iceman. I have always had an odd respect for Gwen’s character. I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic with Gwen in it, other than Amazing #121 when she died, but her story is by far one of my favorites. It was strange to see her in the first Ultimate series, and sort of dying in the Carnage storyline, but I’m still waiting for that webline to snap in the Ultimate universe.
It’s really hard for me to comment on the story right now because I’m still catching up with the Ultimate line, but I do like the Ultimate version of most of the characters. Even though Aunt May appears younger and more lively, she still has her weak heart problems. While I’m not the biggest fan of the Peter in high school angle, or having the story directed at what seems a younger audience, there are certain things I can appreciate. For one, there are no gratuitous pin-up shots of Black Cat lurking on the rooftops, and Bendis doesn’t seem to feel the need to litter his dialogue with censored words, as he does in New Avengers, to reach the more mature audience.
The Ice Cold: The main drawback to jumping into the series at this point is getting used to the new setting for Peter Parker. I’m currently reading ongoing Amazing; back issues of Amazing; the Ultimate trade paper backs; and a Spidey novel. I’m not even sure where the novel fits in the timeline. In this series it seems like everybody knows that Peter is Spider-Man, and his relationship drama is like an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
Mysterio is a personal favorite of mine in the Amazing universe so I found this version of the villain a little lackluster. This may not have been the best showcase for him, but he seems more of like an ordinary thug with a flare for the dramatic as opposed to the jaded Hollywood special effects artist with an even greater flare for dramatic. Bobby’s bandana and baggy clothes probably don’t help in his endless quest to impress girls and appear as cool as Johnny.
The Ultimate: Spider-Man didn’t appear much in this issue, but the full page splash of Spider-Man webbing off to his training was pretty great. I think anybody dissatisfied with the recent pictures from the new movie can appreciate Lafuente’s Spider-Man in that last shot. Spider-Man’s sentiments about Tony needing someone to teach him were quite amusing as well.
Rating: 4/5 Ultimate Spidey and Friends