I’ve got to admit after how big of a flop Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra and Elektra: Devil’s Due both turned out to be for me, I wasn’t exactly eager to jump into Ultimate Spider-Man. I don’t know what it is but my entire life Spider-Man hasn’t ever really registered with me. I’d watch reruns of the old cartoons and while they were decent they never offered me much more than a way to pass 30 minutes. The cartoon in the 90s was better so I guess there was that. When I was younger I couldn’t have cared less about the comics (I was all about X-Men and Superman back then) and when I was a kid I’d always pick up the X-Men toys in the store and not even give any thing with a Spider-Man logo a second glance. Don’t even get me started on the three live action movies. The one good thing is that while I would never have willingly picked Spider-Man I didn’t have the same unnatural level of anger and revulsion that I do with Iron Man.
I know I’ve been doing the Ultimate Marvel reviews in a way that seems like I’m just going by the way the trade paperbacks are collected, but that’s not the case. One thing I don’t ever enjoy is while I’m reading something and then out of the blue the writer decides to Retcon in an entire story that happened within the timeline previously but didn’t actually exist until the writer needs it as a plot device. So I went into the Ultimate Marvel Universe with a promise I made not to read the stories in publishing order, but event order instead.
I like the idea of updating well established characters and making them more relevant to current times (but in my opinion DC Comics has done it better so far) Ultimate has been hit and miss so far. However with a character like Spider-Man there are some things that have to be set in stone. Peter Parker’s parents must be dead, he has to be raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Peter has to be bitten by a spider in order to get his abilities, Peter has to have Uncle Ben taken away from him in a manner that Peter feels responsible for. Peter has to work for the Daily Bugle and he has to be a freakishly smart geek.
That being said the first few issues of the series are basically a wash. There are so many events that have to be set up before any writer can re-imagine Peter Parker’s universe it almost becomes pointless. Sure there are a few things that can be changed but not enough to give it any real weight. Like I said with the Elektra reviews this is another case of a writer using a plot that has been used time and time again only to just put their own spin on it. Ultimate Spider-Man’s origin issues aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but at the same time they’re not trying to turn him into something it was never supposed to be. I want to be fair though because this is Brian Michael Bendis that we’re talking about, I just wish that we can see more of him unrestrained and that we can move away from the issues being credited as “Writer Brian Michael Bendis from original material by Stan Lee.”
While I’m willing to stick this out because I trust Brian’s writing ability the art on the other hand…. I know that Mark Bagley was with the series for a long time, he was onboard until issue #111; his style just isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t mind it so much when he’s drawing Spider-Man, but when it comes to the unmasked characters like Ben, May, Mary Jane, Liz, Peter and Harry they all seem just a bit off. It’s not a lot, but there’s something about them that’s just different enough to look funky, and not the good kind of funky. The one good thing about the art style is that this is one of the few times that we aren’t treated to a rendition of Mary Jane Watson that looks like she belongs on the cover of a low budget porno movie. I’ve never been a fan of the over sexualization of female characters in comic books; if I wanted nothing more than sexy women doing weird things to fight mutant space aliens I’d just set my dvr to record everything that airs on Cinemax after 2am every night. But as weird as it sounds I’m kind of afraid of how The Black Cat will be represented once she finally makes her debut considering that she was always supposed to be the ‘overtly sexual bad girl.’
Rating this isn’t going to be simple since it is 7 stories overall just to tell the origin. The pacing is a bit odd because some issues drag out a lot more and there’s so much focus on certain events that do nothing but bloat the story arch. It could have been told in 4-5 max, yet it’s 7.
Issue #1 – Powerless: C -
Issue #2 – Growing Pains: C+
Issue #3 – Wannabe: B-
Issue #4 – With Great Power: C+
Issue #5 – Life Lessons: B-
Issue #6 – Big Time Super Hero: B+
Issue #7 – Secret Identity B
Overall Rating: C+