Ultimate Spider-Man #21 Review

Ultimate_Comics_Spider-Man_21-674x10241-300x455When news of the fight between Venom and Spider-Man reach Gwen and Mary Jane, they meet with Miles to discuss a counter-offensive. They’ll have to hurry, as Venom has just arrived at Jefferson’s hospital room ready to strike! Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Illustrated by Sarah Pichelli

Colored by Justin Ponsor

Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit

THE PLOT: Gwen and MJ see on the news the battle between Miles and Venom, and rush to his house to offer information on how to beat the evil symbiote.

LONG STORY SHORT: Detective Maria Hill eavesdrops on the conversation and warns the teenagers to tell her everything before leaving. Venom attacks the hospital, seemingly still believing the injured Jefferson to be Spider-Man.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those kinds of issues from Bendis I’ve been dreading to review, because it comes up at least once per story arc and there’s never much to say besides how well it was presented.

This issue is rife with exposition.

Mary Jane and Gwen tell Miles and Ganke all they know about the symbiotes, Venom’s backstory, and what happened to Gwen. Maria Hill arrives to tell them to knock it off, then leaves. Venom appears intermittently.


It’s tough because to keep the more grounded tone the Ultimate Spider-Man title is known for, these issues have to happen. Yet…what do you say about them? All this is at the end of the day is characters telling other characters information the readers already know. In instances like these, a smash cut to after the explanation of who Venom is probably needed to have happened. Perhaps Bendis had the entire scene written out to establish a rapport with Miles, MJ and Gwen, but there’s no real discernible nuance that we’ve not seen before. Gwen talking about being Carnage was a bit interesting, but it wasn’t worth being attached to the bulk of the book.

This issue also has Miles feeling a lot of guilt over his handling of the Venom fight and his father being injured. It’s completely understandable and necessary for a Spider-Man to go through, but it’s not all that fun to read. This issue did reveal that Ganke’s father has passed away, but in a way I found a bit clunky in terms of dialogue. Perhaps it was in the way the dialogue was given in just one small horizontal panel, but it felt like it came off unnaturally, so as to only give the information that Ganke’s dad is dead rather than have Ganke try to give advice.

One thing I’ll say about the art is that I was really taken aback by how hipster-ish Mary Jane looks in this book. I didn’t read the post-Ultimatum relaunch  of USM, so I’m assuming this isn’t new, but she almost looks like Gwen did when she first appeared in USM vol.3.  The panel where Gwen and MJ first appear in front of Miles and Ganke is almost startling. It’s going to really date this book after a while. USM has always been very contemporary, but this was a character design I’m not sure I like. Gwen’s clothing looks modern enough without being distracting (aside form the Converse shoes) but MJ looks really out of character to me. Maybe she’s going through an Emo phase after Peter’s death, but…even for Ultimate Mary Jane, would she really dress in black clothes, big goggle glasses and wear a shirt that says “Punk!”? It’s almost as though she’s wearing it ironically. I don’t have anything against people who wear that type of clothing, but it really strikes me as trying to give MJ characterization through her clothes and it feels really off.

Again, there’s not much I can say about this issue. It’s not bad but it doesn’t offer much it all in what readers can take away from in a story. I’m concerned that this will lead into Miles quitting which I really hope won’t happen but looks like it might. I hope I’m either proven wrong or it works out well enough that I like where the story goes.

3/5 webs



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(1) Comment

  1. JT

    MJ and Gwen in this book reminded me a lot of Enid and Becky from Ghost World. I half expected them to go off on a tangent midway during their symbiote exposition to criticize the mainstream. MJ was emo in her brief appearance during Spider-Men too. I think it is her way of mourning Peter's death.The dark glasses are a bit much though. Doesn't she have to use regular glasses? How do dark glasses substitute for regular glasses? I really don't get how that works.

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