Ultimate Spider-Man #16.1 – Review


Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #16.1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: David Marquez & Justin Ponsor

Plot: Betty Brant is on a mission to discover who the new Spider-Man is. By repeatedly watching footage of the Prowler’s death, Betty is able to decipher the Prowler’s dying message to Spider-Man: “You are just like me.” Betty is convinced the new Spider-Man is somehow related to the Prowler and tries to sell the story idea to J. Jonah Jameson during a Daily Bugle staff meeting. Jameson tells Betty she doesn’t have enough to support her theory and dismisses her idea.

Betty then uses her investigative journalism skills to get information on the Prowler from an informant in the police department. This information leads Betty to the apartment of the late Aaron Davis. In the apartment, Betty finds the body of the genetically altered spider that bit Miles on the hand and gave him his powers. Betty takes the spider to Dr. Marcus, another informant who used to work for Oscorp. Dr. Marcus is duped into revealing the specifics about the experiments which took place at Oscorp and Betty correctly assumes that this spider must have gifted the new Spider-Man with his abilities.

Betty’s next stop is Brooklyn, where she observes Miles and his family returning from a family movie night. She takes a picture of Miles’ dad and returns home to write her exclusive story. Back at the Daily Bugle, Betty brings her article to Jameson once more and tries to use it as leverage to earn more money and fix her poor reputation. Jameson refuses to run a story which accuses Jefferson Davis of being the new Spider-Man, stating that it would do nothing but ruin the man’s life. Jameson calls Betty a fool who is willing to bury someone just so she can pad her bank account.

Furious, Betty storms out of the office claiming she will find someone else to run her story. Betty returns home and discusses a book deal with someone over the phone. After her phone conversation, Betty is confronted by Venom, who runs her through with his symbiotic tendrils and tells her that she shouldn’t profit off of things that don’t belong to her.

*

Ultimate Breakdown: What is the point of these .1 issues? Why is this still a thing? I don’t necessarily think this was a bad story, but I don’t see why it’s necessary to shoe horn this extra story in when there are other stories taking place in Ultimate Spider-Man. I enjoy the news angle and seeing the staff of the Daily Bugle, but why can’t this storyline be fleshed out in the background of the main book? Instead, the reader spends three extra dollars for a story which barely features the title character. I still have no idea what is happening with the civil war that Ben Urich is talking about, so maybe even spending some time on that and how it affected Miles’ family would have been more appropriate. At this point, I guess there is no point in pointing out how pointless these .1 issues are. The Venom reveal at the end was enjoyable though, and I’m glad Betty got her comeuppances.

I have no idea what happened to Betty in the Ultimate universe that made her so reviled among her peers. Bendis does a good job alluding to her past transgressions by having her contacts recoil at her approach for answers. Jameson even brings up her prior record as being untrustworthy. So without going into too much detail, Bendis is still able to paint Betty as a deceitful journalist. And trying to coerce more money out of your editor for a fluff piece based solely on an unproven theory is not a good idea either.

Betty’s shady past is unfortunate because she does a good job of showing off her investigative journalist skills. She knows the right people to go to in order to get answers, she dissects video footage, and she searches high and low for clues in Aaron’s apartment. Betty has the ability, but she somehow still manages to come to the wrong conclusion. This could be a reason why she has a less than stellar reputation.

The biggest problem with Betty’s conclusion concerning the new Spider-Man is her final assumption that Jefferson Davis is under the mask. I’m not sure where she got that from because Jefferson is clearly taller than his son. And if she was watching the video of the new Spider-Man over and over again, how did she not realize that the new superhero had the physical build of a teenager, and not that of a grown man? This is incredibly flawed journalism and Jameson was right in not proceeding with the story.

Jameson isn’t the only one to show some journalistic credibility in this issue, as Ben Urich is also disgusted at the idea of running a story which would out the new Spider-Man. Beyond those positive characterizations, Bendis also shows a brief glimpse of the connection between Miles and his father. Their conversation about the movie was touching and I liked that they both replied with the same answer when Miles’ mother pleaded with them to stop their innocent disagreement about the quality of the movie.

Marquez returns to the art, and with the rest of the art team, delivers another fine issue. I laughed at the scene in the police station which showed a man in a Rocket Raccoon outfit being taken into custody despite his plea that he was just trying to help. I also enjoyed the double page spread of Betty searching Uncle Aaron’s abandoned apartment. The overhead shot which showed the apartment’s layout was nicely done. My main problem with that scene however, was how easily Betty found the carcass of the spider.

The spider was lying belly-up under a floor tile which was already slightly pulled up from the ground. The large spider was in a hole in the ground under the tile, and this should have easily been discovered by Aaron or even the landlord when he learned of Aaron’s departure. This seemed a little too convenient a way for Betty to discover the spider, but I also found it a bit too convenient when the spider bit Miles to begin with anyway. Not that I feel Betty deserved to be attacked by Venom, but the appearance of Venom does offer some promising storylines for Miles down the line. It would be interesting if Dr. Marcus was somehow involved since he was the one Betty brought the spider to.

*

Rating: Good, art. Decent, characterization and writing. Poor, story. Bad, action. 2.5/5.

A complete filler issue that served no purpose but to reintroduce Venom to Ultimate Spider-Man. The art was the main highlight to the issue. I also appreciated characters like Jameson and Urich questioning Betty’s journalistic integrity, especially considering how wrong she was with her assumption that Jefferson was the new Spider-Man.

“Remember that one time during the fight when it looked like you might actually win? No? Me neither.” – Marvel vs. Capcom 3
“Did I mention I beat up Firelord once? No, seriously. Firelord.” – Ultimate Alliance 2

Twitter: @HookrsAndSpdrMn
Blog: sicklygazelle.wordpress.com
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(2) Comments

  1. Spider-Dad

    Overall, an excellent synopsis of this story and I agree with many of your complaints. However, I must disagree that those items drag it down to a 2.5 out of 5.0 webs. Since I enjoy a good subplot, I would have also preferred this tale be interwoven into the "main story". However, since Bendis also used this issue as a vehicle to spotlight Betty, (a minor, minor supporting character in the Ultimate Universe), we learn quite a bit about her and it appears she may actually be a "horrible" person. She clearly does not have any confidence from her boss, the respect of Ben Ulrich and is clearly not trusted by the police or the scientist. By self containing the story, it provides a clear picture of the deceased (?) Ultimate Betty Brant and for that reason makes it pretty memorable. Overall, I would give it a borderline A- or high B+. Strong characterization, great artwork, nice pacing/dialog and a solid surprise with Venom at the end. My complaint is that Spider-Man briefly appears and only in "recap" of the Prowler confrontation. Since the intent of .1 releases is to get fans interested in the new Spider-Man, I can see people wanting to learn more about Miles after reading this issue. Solid issue, recommended for fans as a jumping on point if they are entertained...

  2. Shaun Martineau

    Gotta disagree with you on this one... Was an excellent entry point for people who wanted to start reading and it was entertaining to people already in on the know... The last page reveal was really well done too... As for Betty, the one thing that jumps to mind is didn't she try to sleep with Kraven to get the inside scoop?

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