Dum, dum, dum. Honey what have you done? In this issue, somebody’s got a gun. Well, besides Kraven, he’s got a couple. The pot is boiling over as we now race to the conclusion of “The Death of Spider-Man.” Dr. Octopus has been murdered by the Green Goblin and Iceman and the Human Torch have been knocked out of the fight. Now, Spidey must face four of his toughest adversaries all on his own while fighting to stay conscious. Will this mysterious gunman (spoiler, it’s not someone named Janie) be Spider-Man’s savior, or another hurdle for Peter to spider-leap over? Read on to find out.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #159
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Andy Lanning
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: Mark Bagley, Andy Lanning & Justin Ponsor
Plot: Electro, Sandman and Kraven surround a wounded and unmasked Peter Parker in his home neighborhood of Queens, New York. Peter lies and tells his foes that the Ultimates are coming to arrest the escapees, but Electro calls his bluff, stating that Spider-Man is just injured and desperate.
When the villains pounce, Peter kicks the top off a fire hydrant and directs the gushing water at his enemies. Electro explodes when he comes in contact with the spray and knocks himself and his teammates out. Spidey follows up the initial attack with a teeth-shattering punch after snagging the downed Electro with a web-line.
An exhausted Peter falls to his knees in front of his neighbors, who had gathered around the chaos. He asks them to call 911 as a few take pictures of the unveiled hero. A soggy Sandman rises up and crashes down on Peter who manages to shoot out a web-line and escape from the fray.
The Vulture has recovered as well and is waiting for Spidey as he breaks free from the sand attack. The villain slashes out at Peter’s back with his sharpened wings, sending him crashing into a parked car. Pete’s spidey-sense blares, warning him of the bombs the Vulture lobbed toward the street. The resulting explosion overwhelms the net of webbing Peter spun around them, and sends him sprawling in the grass.
Elsewhere, Aunt May is driving away from their home with Gwen. She is upset that she left Peter behind to face the fight alone. She receives a call from Doris, one of her neighbors. Doris tells May that she thinks Peter is Spider-Man and is being killed in the street. May slams on the breaks and makes a u-turn.
In tandem, Sandman and Vulture toss Spidey into a mailbox on the sidewalk. Doris runs up to Peter and tells him that he needs to come with her if he wants to live. When Sandman comes in for another attack, Electro zaps his teammate, and asserts that he will be the one to kill Spider-Man. Peter taunts Electro before he is able to inflict a killing-blow and the villain is shot three times by a mysterious gunman.
Electro blows up in a burst of energy taking Sandman and Vulture down for the count. Aunt May holds the smoking gun. Peter walks over to his Aunt who appears to be in shock, and takes the gun from her. They hug before Peter collapses in her arms. Gwen checks on Bobby and Johnny who are still unconscious from their encounter with the villains. The reprieve is short-lived, however, as Norman Osborn has recovered and is now standing over May and Peter in his frightful, flaming form.
Hot to the Torch: I’m pleased with the art in this story. I like all the small additions to the art that make it pop. In this issue you see all the ice ramps that Bobby had formed in the previous pages of Ultimate Spider-Man, reminding you that he was part of this fight. When Electro was not surrounded in energy, you could see burn marks on his body which I also thought was an interesting touch. Bagley’s variation of the spider-sense was also nice.
The art complimented the action again really well. All the explosions and fires that littered the battlefield were a nice backdrop to the fighting. One of my favorite moves in Spider-Man’s arsenal is when he uses a web-line to snag his enemies. He grabs Electro in this issue with a web-line and delivers such a powerful blow when he pulls him towards him that several of the villain’s teeth fly from his mouth.
I’m also pleased to see Spider-Man finally get more involved with the action. It’s a shame that it only came after he was shot, which means that most of the action is against Peter. That’s not a problem though, since we still have an issue left for him to persevere. Peter’s ability to beat the odds is what Spider-Man should be about, and that resilience is put to test when he is not at full strength against three of his deadliest villains.
This type of action makes for good storytelling as well. Peter needs to be creative with how he defeats his enemies since he is hurting and not on top of his game. Using the fire hydrant to disable Electro for a while was a great move and shows Peter’s brilliance. Trying to web up Vulture’s explosives was another nice attempt by Peter to use his intuitiveness. He was also helped out by the inevitable in-team bickering when Electro attacked Sandman near the end.
The Ice Cold: The thing that ultimately brought down the action and story may have been the way this chapter ended. May’s shooting of Electro seemed pretty extreme to me, but how else would she respond when she sees her nephew about to be murdered? However, my main gripe with it was how May was able to get back to the scene of the action so fast. She and Gwen had been driving away since last issue so I expected them to be farther away and was surprised to see them arrive so soon. Gwen’s opinion that it was awesome that May had just shot someone seemed a little crass as well.
It seemed really foolish that all the neighbors were just standing around. It wasn’t very considerate of them to just stand there taking pictures of their neighbor dying, especially when they were in danger of being flash-fried as well. Doris was the only good Samaritan, and she was sensible, hiding in her house and informing May about the danger her nephew was facing.
Doris kind of loses a bit of respectability though when she leaves her safe quarters to offer Peter protection. Her line of “come with me if you want to live,” felt a bit cliché. The writing was alright for the most part, but there were some missed opportunities in my mind for some better narrative. Vulture telling Peter to “go to hell” and then Peter’s potentially last cut-down for Electro was a bit lacking.
The Ultimate: This story has really picked up as it races towards the climax, and it’s nice to know that the Green Goblin will carry on the fighting in the last issue. The action could have wrapped up in this chapter, with May shooting Electro, and then the last part of the story could have dealt with the fallout and the potential death of Peter. But with the Goblin back in the fold, and looking really ticked off, it’ll take a little bit more than a gun to stop him. I’m expecting the Avengers and New Ultimates to make an appearance in the last arc to help Peter out, but I’m looking forward to what I’m hoping will be a pretty satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable story so far.
Rating: Great, art. Good, action and story. Meh, character development and writing. 4.5/5 Ultimate Spidey Friends