One of the great achievements in comics the past twenty years has been the Ultimates line of comics from Marvel. Realizing that the average consumer found themselves in a bit of a quandary due to the fact that despite their knowledge and love of a particular character, they found themselves not really knowing where to start reading a comic because there was simply such a large backstory for each and every character out there. The sheer volume of work on Spider-Man alone, on top of the fact that Spider-Man had multiple comics running at once with stories about him, kept the average person from diving into the comics they might otherwise enjoy. Instead of making a complete overhaul of their comics and starting over, they did the smart thing. They allowed Brian Bendis to essentially recreate the characters. While they may look and sound the same, there was enough of a change to invite new readers to enjoy the comics.
This comic is a continuation of the Ultimates story involving Spider-Man. By this point someone else has donned the mantle of Spider-Man due to the brave choice of having Peter Parker be killed off. (Stan Lee would NEVER have been so brave back in the day.) A young boy by the name of Miles Morales takes on the mantle of Spider-Man. This picks up after Spider-Man and the Ultimates have destroyed Galactus. Miles is living with his friend because his father left town after Miles revealed he was Spider-Man.
I’ve read the entire Ultimate Spider-Man line of comics to this point. In regards to back story, when they mention an event or character from the past, I know who they’re talking about. What I love about this comic though is that they seamlessly weave in that back story without it being a crutch to you as the reader. You’re not punished if you do not know absolutely everything that is going on.
I love how Miles has a support system of friends and family of Peter Parker to rely upon if he is unsure on what to do next. The big focus of this particular issue is Miles questioning himself as to whether he should reveal to his girlfriend that he is Spider-Man. Who else to ask whether that is a wise decision than a young lady who would probably know more about being a girl in that situation than anyone else, Miss Mary Jane Watson. While she certainly encourages Miles to tell his girlfriend, she also cautions him that a secret of this nature is not one given out lightly. She tells him to think about whether this could be a simple crush or something more because a secret of this nature will bind people together for life. Even after Peter Parker’s death, Mary Jane is still bound to Peter and doing her best to honor his legacy.
There are two big reveals in this story, both involving characters long believed dead in the Ultimates universe. The first is Norman Osbourne, the Green Goblin. It is revealed that SHIELD, after Galactus has been defeated, has been disbanded. One little secret Nick Fury had was the fact that Norman Osbourne was alive and well. We don’t know much more than the fact that he lives and escapes. He’s also crazy as fuck, much more so than the Norman Osbourne in the regular Spider-Man line of comics which is great.
The second big reveal is a bit of a shocker. It’s only on the last page of the comic but after starting with issue 1 of Ultimate Spider-Man and getting to this point, seeing that this person who we thought was dead turns out to be alive (Maybe. After all, it is a comic.) is quite the shocker. That person is Peter Parker. As to what the hell is going on I don’t know yet. I’m definitely intrigued and after I write this review I’m reading issue two in order to find out what is going on.
The artwork is as solid as ever. One thing the Ultimate line has got right is the art. It’s not sloppy in the least and evokes the Golden Age of comics past with a bit of a spit shined, modern look to it. Characters emotions flow from each line on the page. Another beautiful marriage of art and words that only comics can bring you.
I’m playing devil’s advocate with this one here but I still think I’m right. As an avid fan of the Ultimate Comics brand I’m quite knowledgeable as to what is going on in the universe that Mr. Bendis has created. What I can see happening though is some of the overwhelming back story that this line of comics was meant to alleviate. We’re expected to know a LOT of what is going on up to this point. While this is a continuation of the Miles Morales story this is the first issue in a new comic line so I think it would have been wise for them to not necessarily start over but create a story that essentially reintroduces you to this world. A new reader may not know that Miles’ father left town after Miles revealed that he was Spider-Man. They might not know who the hell his girlfriend is. They might not know who the hell his friend is and why he’s so goofy. A comic like this has to walk the fine line between pleasing long time fans like myself and fans who may be starting their journey in this universe with this issue. In this case I think the story did more to please people like me and I can see that as a bit of a hindrance.
The Ultimate line of comics is a great place to dive into the deep end of the Marvel Universe. The movies themselves have cribbed a LOT from this line of comics so if you’re looking to get a bit of a heads up as to where the movies may be heading next, what better place to start than here. I also love that these comics take some pretty daring chances. I mean, they could have easily kept Peter Parker alive and not introduced Miles Morales at all and still have had a successful run of comics. They chose the brave option and we the reader are better off for it. While I do think more effort could have been made to ease in the reader who may be starting their journey with this issue this should still be mandatory reading for comic fans. I give the story a 9.
The art is well done here. When someone is able to make the words of a story mean more by their artwork you know you have a master artist on your hands. Comics are a collaborative medium. It doesn’t matter much if the art is good if the words suck and vice versa. In this case the art pulls you into the story just as much as the words. I give the art an 8.