Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Sara Pichelli
Colored by Justin Ponsor
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
THE PLOT: Ganke, MJ and Gwen tell Miles to make sure Det. Maria Hill doesn’t think he’s Spider-Man, but when Venom is reported to be at the hospital where Jefferson is staying, Miles leaps into action killing that notion.
LONG STORY SHORT: Miles jumps into the fray gun a-blazing, trying to keep Venom from hurting anyone. Rio recognizes her son as Spider-Man right away and begs for Venom not to hurt him. Miles, who was swallowed up by Venom, bursts through with his Venom blast. The police arrive and gun down the person inside the suit, later revealed to be Dr. Conrad Marcus, a worker at Roxxon. Rio is somehow injured during the fight, and tells her son not to ever let Jefferson learn his identity before she passes away. While the Roxxon CEO determines how to keep the Venom incident from implicating his involvement, Miles wakes up the next day with the realization that his mother is now gone. Distraught, he furiously rips apart his costume, swearing to never again be Spider-Man.
MY THOUGHTS: This review is coming off a fresh read so some opinions may later vary, but due to the events in this issue I felt I had to get this review out ASAP.
Bendis seems to have two modes with Ultimate Spider-Man: slow and fast. If an issue is slow moving, it’s mainly dialogue heavy and relies on character moments and exposition to carry it through (see last issue). If it’s fast paced, it consists of high-paced action and violence to get the plot across, what little there is of one (see the issue before last). This issue was a good mixture of both, as we had action sandwiched in between revealing character moments. Of course the big deal with #22 is the death of Miles’ mom Rio, and because of the lack of real significant meat to the story before that fight, that’s what the majority of this review will pertain to.
Part of Miles’ appeal is his youth, and I think that can be either a plus or a detriment to his adventures. It’s fun to see how someone even more inexperienced than Peter would react to certain things, but lately it felt as though he was being dragged around by his nose and told what to do most of the time. Ganke usually pushes him into being Spider-Man, and Gwen and MJ were both advising his approach towards tackling Venom to the point where I felt Miles’ thoughts on the whole thing was starting to become lost. It was nice to see that take a backseat once the fight in the hospital started. Of course by the end of the issue, Miles makes the ultimate (see what I did there) decision to quit the hero business altogether, but in this Venom War arc, I feel as though he’s been kind of missing most of Bendis’ focus. There a decent amount of things going on, from Betty’s murder (lol) to the identity of Venom to Maria Hill’s investigation. Miles really hasn’t had a moment since issue #20 to really take up the book’s attention. Obviously that gets changed here, which plusses the story even more in rectifying that straight away.
I do enjoy his fight scenes though, because his thought process is so scrambled. I like the touch with the Venom Blast when it has a delayed effect before really messing Venom up.
Getting to Rio’s death, I was iffy on it when it first happened in the book. For one, it comes a bit out of nowhere that she suddenly recognizes Miles as her son. It’s understandable because the Ultimate Spider-Men have the worst kept secret identity in the history of fiction, but that to me was unexpected and a bit gratuitous. I was like “Really?”, but the nature of the fight kept me rolling with it. Her death was also something I’m of two minds about. I got a 616 Captain Stacy vibe from her last words to Miles, which actually is especially tragic considering she was most likely knowing that Jefferson would blame him for her death. Further than that though, I’m not entirely sure exactly how she died. Venom began to swallow her before Miles burst out of his gut and tore him apart. The cops came in and began firing. Miles grabbed Rio and ran away, and suddenly she’s bleeding and dead. Was she shot? Stabbed by Venom? I feel that I have to blame Pichelli on that one, as I went back and read that scene over and over again and I cannot for the life of me tell what happened. If someone’s going to die, make it understandable.
It wasn’t until the final scene that I really began forming my thoughts on the issue, because Miles’ grief nearly tore my heart out. Him waking up to the realization that he’ll never see his Mom again was heart wrenching, and extremely well handled. Death in comics is so commonplace that it’s become annoying, because it’s so rare that it’s taken seriously. Bendis nailed that scene, because in the heat of battle your emotions won’t be working properly. It’s only when everything’s said and done that someone will really feel the pain and have time to work through it. It was a great scene, and made the actual death scene earned in how brief it was.
Concerning the identity of Venom, I don’t think I liked how that was wrapped up. Unless I missed something, and it’s very possible, the random aspect of this Conrad Marcus causing so much damage almost takes away the threat of Venom for me. It feels like an afterthought, and the fact that he’s dead takes away the interest I might’ve had in his character.
After this issue, there will be a time-skip. When I first heard the news, I was wary on how that would go. Seeing the events that occur here, it’s more than justified that Miles would quit being Spider-Man. I’m interested to see how he’s changed between now and next issue, and hope the death of his mother will bring him up to be an even better character.