Heeere’s Johnny! An unusual greeting for the Ultimate Spider-Man review, but everyone’s favorite flamethrower has a pretty nice role in this issue. Norman Osborn is having everyone stand up to him and this time around it’s the Human Torch. While Peter recovers from being shot, Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake are left to defend the Parker household against some of Spidey’s deadliest villains. Find out how they fare below.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #158
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Andy Lanning
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Art: Mark Bagley, Andy Lanning & Justin Ponsor
*Be sure to read Nathaniel Collins’ review of Ultimate Comics: Avengers Vs. New Ultimates #4 to find out what transpired since Ultimate Spider-Man #157.
Plot: Spider-Man comes to after being shot by the Punisher at the end of last issue. Groggily, he comes to his feet, all the while beseeching his spider-powers to give him the strength to make it to a hospital. Spidey sarcastically thanks the other super heroes who left him behind to bleed to death while engaging in their epic battle. Peter realizes that a trip to the hospital means he will need to reveal his identity to the public, but he sucks it up and webs the bullet wound to keep himself from bleeding out any further. Before he can leave, Spidey witnesses the remaining members of the Sinister Six fly overhead. He hangs his head, and then with much pain, shoots a web-line to follow.
Outside the Parker house, Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake return home and are recounting their evening. Bobby is disgruntled that his date didn’t go as well as he would have liked and expresses his displeasure with living the “normal teenage” life. The two enter an empty house and wonder where everyone else is. They find a note left by Gwen urging them to leave and find some place safe. Puzzled by the message, the duo goes to exit the house, only to be confronted by the Sandman, Kraven, Norman Osborn, Electro and Vulture.
The sinister villains had visited the Tinkerer earlier in the day for new equipment and weapons. Now rearmed and more deadly, they have arrived in Queens, in pursuit of Peter Parker. Norman demands to know where Peter is, only to be rebuffed by Johnny who tells the villains to leave. He flames on and Norman transforms into his own fiery, monstrous form. A fight breaks out. The Human Torch overwhelms the Green Goblin and sends him crashing backwards into a brick wall.
The fight elevates as the Sandman drowns Johnny and smothers his flames. Bobby ices up and joins the fray attacking the Sandman. Electro uses Bobby’s mutant abilities against him, sending electricity coursing through Bobby’s water-based powers. Bobby crashes through a neighbor’s window who was in the process of calling the authorities. With the Human Torch and Iceman incapacitated, the villains turn back to the house and call for Peter Parker to reveal himself.
Down the street, an unmasked Spider-Man appears and stands vigilant. The Vulture flies towards Spidey and curses him for ruining his life. Peter snags the bad guy in the face with his webbing and throws him over the neighborhood rooftops. Sweating, weak, and holding his wounded side, Peter feebly asks who’s next?
Hot to the Torch: I love the artwork in this issue. The creative team they brought together for this big story arc works really well. Ponsor’s colors have been a consistent highlight since I began reviewing Ultimate Spider-Man, and Lanning’s inks really help define the great work Bagley has done. There’s great detail and shading to the character’s faces as well as in the interior and exterior of the houses in the Parker’s neighborhood. I would have no qualms about suggesting this book to any non-comic fan because of how beautiful I find the art on the pages.
Another great example of the art can be found in the action scenes. There is great use of fire, ice, sand and electricity on display during the fights. Seeing the Human Torch and Iceman face off with some of Spidey’s deadliest villains was a great showdown. I enjoyed Johnny getting the upper hand and taking down the Green Goblin, although why he couldn’t have turned up the heat on Sandman and turned him to glass, I’m not sure. Spidey’s webbing is drawn nice and thick when it was used to patch up his side, swing away or when it was used to blind the Vulture and toss him aside.
When not involved in altercations, the characters all had some good insight to their motives, desires and feelings. Bobby has always been portrayed as one of the younger, more immature X-Men and it felt right to see him annoyed that he can’t use his Iceman powers to impress the ladies. Johnny, being the hothead that he is, came off really well in standing up to Norman and taking the fight to him. The villains interactions with the Tinkerer in the beginning of the issue provided a good look at how the seedy underbelly of the Marvel Universe works. And of course, despite being at death’s door, Peter showed that great toughness he’s known for, and the willingness to put himself in harm’s way, in order to do what he felt was right.
Spider-Man’s thought process at the beginning was used to great effect again. The narrative boxes showing Spidey’s internal monologuing, which I admit I am quite fond of, mirrored the thoughts I had when reading. Where were the other super heroes? How does Spidey plan on getting out of this mess? All in the dry, sarcastic Parker tone that I have come to expect of the hero.
The Ice Cold: The other thing I’ve come to expect of Peter, and Bendis at this point, is his affection for the word “tuchis.” Perhaps Bendis uses it for a sense of continuity, but I find it somewhat annoying that he keeps going back to the well with that word. Peter is an educated kid, with a decent vocabulary; I would think he could come up with other synonyms to keep it fresh. “Keaster,” “behind,” “fanny” and “rear” are just a couple of other words I could see Peter using.
The other bit of writing that seemed forced was when Johnny and Bobby were discussing why their cell phones weren’t on. They focused on Johnny’s phone being turned off simply to set up the joke that he burns his mobile device whenever he flames on. Does Bobby not own a phone in this age of technology? I figured the easier explanation for Gwen and May not being able to get in touch with them was because the two teenagers were out on dates and wished to not be disturbed.
All my problems with this comic are pretty minor and don’t take much away from this issue as a whole. The questions I had about Peter waking up alone at the beginning of this chapter are answered when reviewing what happened in the Avengers vs. New Ultimates title that ties in to the Death of Spider-Man arc. That’s a common problem with big crossover stories, so it’s not that big of a deal.
The Ultimate: I really hope Spider-Man gets involved with the fighting at some point, despite being weak and dying. The fights that took place between the Sinister Six members, the Human Torch and Iceman were great, but I’d still like to see Spidey get involved in the action. As a side note, I’d really like to know the effect webbing has on open wounds. With all those chemicals in the web fluid, I would think it’d be a bad idea to have it mix with his blood system and internal organs.
The more important Spider-Man story, however, was in the beginning when he agonized over his decision to go to the hospital. I feel that Bendis is setting up a way to keep Peter alive at the end of this “Death of Spider-Man” story. Peter states, “I can’t be Spider-Man and Peter Parker,” and that once his secret is revealed he “sure won’t be able to be Spider-Man anymore.” This isn’t a death of Peter Parker story, but simply Spider-Man. So I believe we’ll see a public announcement by S.H.I.E.L.D. that Spider-Man has died at the end of this story, but they will enlist a new hero under the guise of Spider-Man. All the while Peter and his family will go underground for protection until Pete is ready to resume the mantle of Spider-Man.
Rating: Great, art. Good, character development and story. Meh, action and writing. 4.5/5 Ultimate Spidey Friends