Curb your enthusiasm, it’s just me with another Ultimate Spider-Man review. I sometimes try to relate this beginning intro to the show/movie that I’m watching at the time of posting the review, but unfortunately, Larry David’s hilarious HBO series doesn’t make it easy for me. Lines such as “the whole cashew-raisin balance is askew” and “do you respect wood,” serve no purpose in this review, but Larry’s catchphrase could be effective because this comic turns out to be pretty good. Pret-ty, pret-ty, good.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #11
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Kaare Andrews
Plot: Uncle Aaron has been a constant influence in his nephew’s life. Five years ago, Aaron introduced Miles to the comedic martial arts styling of Jackie Chan. Today, as the Prowler, Aaron is introducing Miles to the more dangerous side of the criminal world. In the backroom of a night club, the Scorpion exerts his dominance over more crime lords of New York City. The Prowler interrupts the meeting, and the new Spider-Man crashes through the ceiling window shortly after.
Violence and gunfire erupt from the back of the club, and patrons flee into the streets. The Prowler attacks the Scorpion with a pistol, but the villain shrugs off the bullets and turns his attention to Spider-Man. Scorpion grabs the young hero’s ankle and slams him to the ground. Miles recovers in time to take down one of the crime boss’ henchmen, but is caught off guard when the Scorpion throws a vicious punch that connects with the hero’s face. Before the Scorpion can pounce on his downed prey, Aaron comes to his nephew’s rescue with a taser gun.
Miles kicks out, knocking the Scorpion to the ground, and the two family members enjoy a brief respite from the conflict. When their guards are down, Scorpion punishes them by slamming Miles’ face into the ground. Miles disappears from sight, and then reappears to knock the Scorpion to the ground again, only to have him spring back up and flee the night club. Miles chases the Scorpion down and uses his venom blast to knock the Scorpion out for good. The neophyte hero turns the bad guy over to cops, who try to apprehend Spider-Man as well.
Miles vanishes and runs back into the club to look for his uncle, but Aaron is nowhere to be found. Back at school, Ganke sees the breaking news about Spider-Man’s victory over the Scorpion. Miles returns to his room and angrily confronts his uncle via text message; he refuses to continue working with him. In response, Uncle Aaron threatens to talk to Miles’ father.
Aunt May and Gwen Stacy return to their home in Forest Hills, Queens. Curious neighbors look on, only to be turned away by Gwen. Aunt May calls Tony Stark and requests that he put her in touch with the New Spider-Man.
Ultimate Breakdown: Bendis does a nice job in the beginning by drawing a parallel between Miles and Aaron’s current relationship and the way it was five years ago. Miles has always idolized his uncle, going back to when they watched kung-fu movies together instead of doing homework, but now all Miles really wants to do is just go home and do his homework. I thought this was a clever way to show how the characters have begun to drift apart. The purple and green striped shirt which Aaron wore in the flashback was a nice nod to the color scheme of his Prowler persona.
It’s becoming difficult to see how Aaron can be redeemed. Despite his willingness to kill and use other people as human shields, I figured there had to be a silver lining to Aaron. I would have thought that the silver lining was his relationship with Miles, but he shows a complete disregard for his nephew and his safety. How incredibly selfish and dangerous was it for Aaron to bring Miles into a mess like this after only one night of training/sparring? He doesn’t know the extent or limits of his nephew’s powers, so what makes Aaron think Miles is ready to take on a massive gang war with a super-powered baddie, who also has unknown abilities.
I like this version of the Scorpion as Miles’ first main villain. Bendis has set up a nice antagonist for Miles so hopefully he won’t spend much time in jail. This ruthless crime lord has helped ground this new Spider-Man in a more realistic gang war storyline so far. In an earlier review, I had made a favorable comparison to the Wire. This time the setting of the action reminded me of a scene in the movie Boondock Saints.
Another comparison I could make is to the game Borderlands, a first-person RPG-shooter using the cel shading art style commonly found in comics. Borderlands was a great game, with some awesome artwork and crazy character designs. The Scorpion would fit in perfectly with that game’s other villains. Marquez has some nice attention to detail with the jagged scars and bold tattoos across the Scorpion’s body, and even gives the Scorpion some beat-up cauliflower ears.
The art team continues to be a strong asset to this comic. Marquez’ character designs are really sharp and his panels and layouts are easy to follow and varied enough that the pages stay fresh and different throughout the comic. The use of red lighting in the back room of the nightclub aided the fight scene by reflecting the danger and deadliness of the situation.
Miles has learned a few things here and there as the new Spider-Man, such as how to pose like a true wallcrawler. His entrance into the fray was very Spider-Man-like when he crashed through the ceiling. Miles is still learning new things though, such as how to take a punch to the face. This looked to be Miles’ hardest challenge so far and he took a beating because of it. A beating no 13-year-old kid should have to suffer, even one with enhanced strength and spider-abilities. It can be hoped that Miles will soon understand how to read the nifty spider-sense that tried to warn him of the pending face-smashing.
Another thing Miles is getting the hang of is his venom blast, and he seems to be using the stealth ability more effectively now too. I think a meeting with Tony Stark could help establish the limits and potential of Miles’ abilities, as well as tie back to Peter Parker and Tony’s training session before Peter’s death. Maybe we’ll see Tony when he introduces Aunt May to Miles. It would be nice if visiting Paris has brought May some serenity, though, so she’s not ready to haul off and slap a prepubescent teen.
Miles’ banter during the fight, and his interactions with the cops didn’t really offer up any memorable lines. His own admission that he talks too much makes me think it’s more of a reflection of the character’s rookie status and nerves, and not just poor writing on Bendis’ part. I wouldn’t mind seeing Miles come forward with his father at some point so the blackmail angle doesn’t get too played out. Much like how the use of “to… be… continued” between the final panels has been overused in the last few issues.