IN THIS ISSUE! Miles runs out of web fluid, but he’s not Peter Parker so how will he get more? PLUS! Maria Hill confronts J. Jonah Jameson about the death of another Marvel character. AND! Venom’s still on the loose with no end in sight! How can anyone possibly survive? Find out in this, VENOM WAR!
Ultimate Spider-Man #19
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Sara Pichelli
Colored by Justin Ponsor
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
THE PLOT: Miles is out web swinging one day when he runs out of fluid. Ganke offers to be his supplier, dipping into his Lego Star Wars savings for the requisite chemicals. Meanwhile, Detective Maria Hill questions Jonah Jameson on the circumstances surrounding Betty Brant’s death. She learns that Ned Leeds set Betty up with a publishing deal over the identity of the new Spider-Man, as well as Jameson denying the knowledge and vowing not to ruin another super hero’s career.
LONG STORY SHORT: The media crashes the Morales’ home requesting an interview with Jefferson over his ordeal with Hydra. Jefferson storms out of the house demanding to know how the reporters found his home, when all of a sudden Venom attacks from behind!
MY THOUGHTS: Right off the bat, this title proves to be an entirely different beast to review compared to Amazing Spider-Man. For one, the writing is flat out better. People speak more realistically under Bendis’ writing, and whether or not his style of dialogue has become something of a trope in of itself, it’s a lot easier to read. Miles speaks like a modern day 13 year old. He reacts to things in a manner similar to Peter Parker, but with the inexperience and added youth factored in. It’s most apparent in the first scene when Miles is faced with a crowd of on-lookers after running out of web fluid. He feels the embarrassment Peter so often felt whenever he was forced into a public display, but where Peter would tend to quip his way out of an awkward situation (to either himself or the crowd) Miles quickly flees the scene. It’s a small touch but it establishes enough of a character difference that keeps Ultimate Spider-Man as one of the best books Marvel’s been publishing for the past decade. Miles may not be Peter Parker, but he’s still an everyman who will duck out of an awkward situation whenever its convenient. It differentiates him enough from both Ultimate Peter Parker and the current 616 Peter Parker, who’s humiliation in this modern era would have been made as public as possible to get the point across. Of course we’re talking about USM here so that’s the last I’ll say about that for a while.
I’ve always regarded Brain Michael Bendis as a great writer. His knack for suspense and character driven drama in both this book and Daredevil have helped make his name. That being said, I will admit that I haven’t read much of his other work in the Marvel Universe past those two titles. His Avengers era is both liked and disliked by fans for various reasons. From my perspective I think it’s just the nature of heading the Marvel Universe for so many years. Bendis is more of a Geoff Johns type-writer rather than a Gaiman or Moore in that his success and fan acclaim eventually lead to his divisive status as a public target for the less than charitable readers. As such, there may be certain motifs of his work that won’t please everybody. It’s very similar to Dan Slott in that the longer you follow a particular writer, the more the luster of their writing wears off and the quicker to notice the flaws. After following Bendis’ Daredevil and USM work for so many years, the one complaint I agree with is that the pacing can be glacial at times. Character beats and humorous scenes don’t always make up for a lack of anything important happening, and Ultimate Spider-Man fell into that pit a lot during the Peter Parker days.
This issue does as well, unfortunately. I enjoyed it, but I’d be lying if I said this was an issue that people absolutely had to read so not to risk losing total perspective on where USM is at these days. I feel as though Ganke’s self-appointed job at providing the web fluid could have made for a much more entertaining issue if the scene were a bit longer. The pages of Venom destroying the old Osborn Industries factory could have been summed up in less than two, and more humor from Miles and Ganke would have better balanced the series scene between Robbie, Jonah and Maria Hill.
Speaking of which, that was great in furthering the scruples Jonah had after Peter Parker had died. For a long time, Ultimate Jameson had gotten a short shrift in that he wasn’t really more than an angrier, less entertaining version of 616 JJ. Ultimatum and the Chameleon arc had really given this Jameson legs which set him apart in how it solidified him as a solid newsman an all-around good person. This was a good follow-up to the scene with him and Betty a couple of issues back, with him speaking more honestly to Detective Hill about his feelings on Spider-Man. His candor towards Betty was more authoritative and sagacious while still coming off as her strict boss. In this issue he opens up his thought process in a way which, granted, we were probably aware of vaguely but was still good to read nevertheless. It also presents him as a highly likely ally of Miles should he ever learn of the new Spider’s identity.
The scene with Jefferson at the end interesting, but only in how it presented Miles a vision of his dad that he could compare with himself. Another benefit of the differences between Miles and Peter is that Miles has a father figure who is completely different than Uncle Ben yet is someone who Miles still respects. He was clearly impressed as a kid would be to learn that his dad fought off villains, and for a new superhero to have that kind of view of his father, it lends itself great potential in the tension between Miles’ alter ego and Jefferson’s view of Spider-Man.
Jefferson himself is a hard character to take, because he’s usually played at the same note with each issue. His consternation at the reporters is understandable, as his him being on edge after the ordeal with Hydra, but it would be nice to see more sides of his personality other than “ANGRY BLACK MAN”. It’s not even so much of a racial trope, Bendis just has his character constantly that way and I wish he were shown to be a bit more multi-dimensional to better bounce off of his wife Rio. Angry characters get really tiring to read after a short while, and though this title has a variety of fun and upbeat characters to keep to energy going, it will continue to take an emotional detour every time Jefferson has a scene if he is to continue to be written this way.
Overall this series has kept good on the promise of potential its premise gave way to back when the concept was first announced. It still feels like Ultimate Spider-Man despite the lack of Peter Parker, and Miles and his supporting cast continue to keep the book fresh with their nuances and humor. The only real downside is the pacing which I wish could be a bit faster, but that’s much more appreciable when considering the quality of writing.