Ultimate Spider-Man #4


Responsibility. The whole theme of Spider-Man can be boiled down to that word. When we are given responsibility, how do we react? Do we follow through on what we’ve been given responsibility for or do we avoid doing anything with it?

Peter Parker getting powers is something that it goes without saying doesn’t happen to everyone but in a way that’s not the point. What Spider-Man shows to the average reader is that when you are given responsibility large or small, you have to do something with it otherwise you end up regretting it. This issue introduces that regret with Uncle Ben’s death.

This is a powerful issue much like it was when it was first introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15. It adds so much weight and sadness to the story that a writer would have to be trying to find a way to screw this up. I really love how it goes down. Peter is confronted by his Aunt and Uncle for having his grades slip while he’s playing basketball and wrestling. Peter runs out and heads to his new teammate Kong’s house to crash. Kong ends up having a party where not only does Liz Allen come onto him drunk, Mary Jane sees Liz make a grab for Peter and he bolts. He cries it out on a rooftop but finally decides to come clean with his Aunt and Uncle about his new powers. Than he arrives home and sees the cop cars.

Powerful. It makes me think about times when I’ve had major responsibility. I have three that are sleeping now, my children. As a parent, you have no clue what the hell you’re doing half the time. Especially with the older ones you’re winging it half the time and hoping the younger ones make the same type of mistakes so you know what the hell to do. If you happen to have a boy and a girl even worse because both sexes get into their own set of silliness that you have no clue how to do anything about. But you have to plow ahead. Will you make mistakes? Of course. But this is not a game you play on your iPad where you can force quit the damn thing and start over. (Well, you could but there’s that whole burial, cleaning up a murder scene, fleeing from the authorities, and finding the right woman who’ll give you more babies despite that little baby killing hobby you used to have with your ex.)

It’s great that Bendis has found a way to show us that Peter is not taking the new powers well. By the time he gets to Kong’s house he’s mostly a different person. Kids are funny that way. When they can’t come up with the words that something is wrong they tend to act out. They’re looking for attention, hell, they’re looking for you to kind of interpret what the hell is going on because they have no clue what is happening but they will let you know something is up by how they act. It’s been established that Peter is a good kid so to see him shun everything that has brought him happiness as established in the story so far, his Aunt and Uncle, Mary Jane, school, to have him shun all that in order to get the approval of people he didn’t seem to care too much about it is quite telling.

We also see the aftermath of Norman’s experiment. A lot of people are either dead, injured, or about to be thanks to what we see next. A big creature is stumbling down an alley mumbling ‘Parker’. While I would have liked a scene showing how Norman escaped or some panel of him in the midst of changing, getting is to this point is fine. While it could have been better, we still see the birth of The Green Goblin.

Bottom Line:

This is a can’t miss issue. You’re caught in a middle of a story here so taken out of context, if this was your first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, maybe you don’t like it as much because you do have a lot of people in this issue that could be lost on a first time reader if they didn’t have a chance to read the earlier issues. While that is a bit of a problem, I’ve found the Ultimate comic line has been pretty good for the most part in not shoving so much down your throat so that it gets you lost. It’s kind of like the original Star Wars. George Lucas threw you into the deep end of the pool and if you didn’t swim, you were going to be lost no matter what type of life support he gave you.

The art work it should be noted was stellar, especially with the reveal of the police at Peter’s home at the end of the issue. The third to last frame in particular is just a shot of Peter’s head with a street light in the back ground. It’s like the light represents his dawning realization that something quite horrible has happened. The level of fright in his eyes in the last panel is understandable and, given Bendis’s wonderful work in making us care about Peter and his friends and family up to this point, that fright is painful to watch. But you have to read the next issue. Brian Bendis snared you.

I finished his book Words For Pictures recently and he talks about cliffhangers in comics. He said his goal was to not only have a big cliffhanger at the end of the issue but have a cliffhanger, either big or small, end every page. He wants to give readers every reason to continue on with the story and in this issue in particular he does a great job. Writers would be wise to study his work to see what he does to get folks to get to that next page. Regardless of what you write, you have to keep your readers interested for every page. You can’t have a great beginning or ending while neglecting the meat of the story, the building and resolution of your story. Again, not every cliffhanger as Bendis puts it is going to be big. It’ll be a small beat like in the comic where Uncle Ben attempted to pick up Peter from Kong’s house only to have Peter run away again. The look on his face, you could feel the emotion there. It made you want to turn the page to see how Peter fixes this because you like Uncle Ben. He may be a bit of an urban hippie but you like the guy.

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