Ultimate Spider-Man #22

   It wouldn’t be a comic book if we didn’t have a villain that was presumed dead show up again out of nowhere to battle our hero. This is the case in issue 22 of Ultimate Spider-Man when his ultimate enemy, The Green Goblin, comes back to town.   The fear of bringing a character back in a story like this is the chance of ruining a character you’ve established as a big bad guy. You want to be able to bring back the same level of evil that was in your story before as well as expanding upon it, hopefully making your story and character that much better.

   A brilliant example of this is Star Wars. Darth Vader, when introduced in Star Wars Episode 4, was a standard bad guy. If you think about it objectively, Darth really is just a standard, by the numbers bad guy in that movie. There are seeds there that Lucas and others were able to exploit in terms of expanding the character and giving him more depth but in A New Hope, he was there to kick ass and be the foil for the Rebels. Hell, he wasn’t even the main bad guy. He was the lackey for Governor Tarkin. It wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back that he became the focal point antagonist.

   One thing that concerned me this issue was time. Harry Osborn arrives back at school after supposedly spending time with an Uncle in Colorado. Based on the conversation between Peter and him, it didn’t seem like Harry had been gone long. They describe the Green Goblin attack on the school as if it were pretty recent. My guess is that they are still in the same semester in school. It doesn’t make much sense though because so much has happened during that short period of time that frankly I think it would be impossible for someone to pull off everything Peter has done without anyone knowing what the hell he is doing. Maybe it’s just me but having some semblance of time in a story helps space everything out. When the reader doesn’t have a firm grasp of time, when events are happening in the timeline of the story, it can lose the reader or make them question like I just did how everything in the story could happen in such a short period of time. Not that the story has to notate time like the television show 24 did but some line, something, indicating the amount of time that Harry had been away would have been nice.

   When Peter and Norman were brought into the same room I really enjoyed Norman telling Peter that his time as Spider-Man was over. While we don’t know where it is going yet there was a touch of logic in what Norman was telling Peter. Again, it’s probably the father in me but I found myself agreeing with Norman. Peter should not be Spider-Man. He’s a fifteen year old kid who is in way over his head. Norman was not wrong when he told Peter to stop. Granted, if Peter did stop we wouldn’t have one of the greatest comics in history so I’m glad he didn’t listen but thinking about it, you can appreciate the fact that others would think he is a fool for trying to save the world. Obviously, Norman Osborn has ulterior motives. Yet I think it is a stroke of genius to have him talk to Peter about stopping what he is doing. When you can take a villain and give him some motivation that the reader can relate to or even agree with in some way, you’re giving the audience a much richer character than the standard mustache twirling bad guy.

Bottom Line:

   We’re on the start of something good here. After the disaster of the last story with Doctor Octopus and Kraven, it’s great to finally get rolling with the right way with an already established character that is properly addressing issues from the past between them to start something new. The appearance of Norman is well worth the price of admission to the story alone.

   Mark Bagly’s work this issue is well evidenced by Peter’s walk to Norman Osborn’s home office. The look of dread and trepidation in his face almost negates the need for dialogue because you’re already aware of what is going through his mind. Even with the worst issues in the Ultimate Spider-Man run, Mark Bagly’s art is the highlight of the issue, showcasing action, emotion, and plain simple visual storytelling in a way that is not confusing to the reader at all.

   Really the only thing I would have changed this issue was Aunt May being suddenly open to sending Peter to see Norman and Harry after the events of last issue. The reason I would make a change was because they had her do a 180* with Peter being grounded. While Norman’s assistant was at Peter’s home talking to Aunt May, they didn’t have any dialogue referencing why she had a change of heart, just that she was ok with Peter going to the house. When all is said and done though, if this is the only issue I really had, Bagly and Bendis are doing something good.

Ultimate Spider-Man #21

We come to the end of the Double Trouble story featuring Peter facing off against Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter. At this point Doc Ock has been handled and is ready for the police to take him off to wherever super villains are held. The battle with Kraven starts now.

That is if you can call it a battle. I’ve been holding back on Kraven because I knew where his story was going and that was really nowhere. Kraven is built up as some sort of bad ass hunter, a Steve Irwin meets Dolph Lundgren type, over eight issues of this story and within three pages and one punch to the face Kraven is down for the count.

If you are going to include a character as a villain and build him up as an unstoppable force you have to deliver on the promises you’re giving your readers. The introduction to Kraven in the Ultimate universe was a huge failure. Not that the character is bad mind you. I rather dug Kraven in the original comics and know that he will come back in the Ultimate line a little more dangerous than he is presented as now. First impressions mean everything though and the chance to have a truly modern bad ass Kraven hunting Spider-Man through the streets of New York was wasted on a scene that was more fitting in a Three Stooges film than anything else.

There are times where a failed buildup can be good for the story. I think of Iron Man 2 where Justin Hammer spent most of the movie talking about how great the improvements to the War Machine suit would make it. He talked on and on about various upgrades and the moment they actually get used in the film, they fail miserably. That was perfect for the story because it showed the audience how much of an utter failure Justin Hammer was. It also led to a great comedic moment when War Machine and Iron Man were fighting together and he attempts to shoot one of Hammer’s missiles to no effect whatsoever. The buildup and the subsequent failure of that buildup actually contributed positively to the story.

This issue is the textbook way on how you not to build up to something you’re not going to properly follow through. I would have no issue with Kraven being defeated. That’s the point of comics after all, the bad guy gets his due in the end. The issue all boils down to him being defeated so quickly as well as having him try to slink off before getting arrested. Kraven getting arrested had the same feel of King Arthur getting arrested at the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You laugh at both resolutions but the Monty Python ending was intentionally meant to be funny.

The issue is not a total loss. Peter gets caught by Aunt May after the battle. He arrives home at three o’clock in the morning and Aunt May is up waiting for him. She has no clue he’s Spider-Man. She just has no clue what the hell kept a good kid like Peter out for so long into the night with no explanation. The emotions in the scene were quite real, making Aunt May a more fleshed out character in the process compared to the original version of her. It also goes to show how naive Peter is when it comes to his new powers.

One thing comics don’t do a good job with is how the heroes in question can live full, normal lives on top of fighting crime for hours or days on end. For a fifteen year old boy, how can he fight villains until three o’clock in the morning as well as going to school and having an after school job? The next issue shows Peter in school none the worse for wear. Not even one mention of being tired or needing a coffee. High school for me was my introduction to massive amounts of coffee. Why can’t Peter be sore or tired more often? Like Aunt May, why don’t more people notice that Peter is acting much different than he normally does? I think the only comic I’ve read that has a somewhat believable account of someone able to pull off a normal life and the life of a superhero is Iron Man. Tony Stark was already quite flighty in the comics, locking himself in a room to focus on his latest project so for him to disappear for long periods of time is very much understandable. How Peter is able to pull off Spider-Man without too many people noticing needs a little more explanation as to how he pulls it off.

Bottom Line:

This story has been tough to get through. It has some good moments to be sure, moments that will feature in future issues of this comic series. Yet the fact that we had at least two mistakes that are very much rookie mistakes, the failure to establish a back story between Doctor Octopus and Justin Hammer as well as the failure to follow up on the build to Kraven, lead me as the reader with a bad taste in my mouth. This eight issue story is really a what could have been type of story.

What can writers learn from this issue? For one, it’s important to establish relationships between characters you wish to have some sort of conflict with. You can’t write a comic book series or a book series and just expect to have two characters that are already established in a world to suddenly have a conflict with each other without establishing that they have some sort of connection. Secondly, follow through with your buildup. If you’re going to build up a character as some unstoppable force, you have to either follow through with that buildup or have a way through actions showing that the buildup was all a lie just like the Justin Hammer buildup in Iron Man 2.

The art for this issue was great during the scene with Aunt May and Peter. Mark Bagly is able to express so much emotion in her face during their argument. Concern, anger, despair, sadness, she runs the full gambit of emotions without the dialogue having to tell you how she is feeling.

Ultimate Spider-Man #20

As they say, the second time is the charm. Spider-Man faces off against Doctor Octopus again, this time in front of the eyes of the media.

What I digged in this issue was Doctor Octopus bringing attention to Justin Hammer’s evil experiments at his laboratory. It was quite unsuspected but I liked where it brought the story. I do have to ask though why the media would be dealing with a guy who has been established is a cold blooded killer as carelessly as they are. We’re not talking about an OJ Simpson type of criminal here, someone who despite being accused of a horrible crime still early on had a reputation as someone that you weren’t going to be scared around. Doctor Octopus brutally murdered a lab full of people on live television and the reporters here are treating him as if he were a celebrity. While I can see the reporters wanting to get that big scoop to help their careers, I would think they would at least call the cops too.

While having Doc Ock hold a press conference is definitely an out of left field idea that I find interesting, I have to ask what the end game for him was. While the first reaction as a reader would be that he was hoping to destroy Hammer through the power of the press, up until this point Doctor Octopus has been shown as a dangerous psychotic who has had no hesitations to kill people for his goal. He’s also shown that his memory is not what it once used to be. We also have the situation that up until this storyline we previously had no idea Justin Hammer existed and that he and Doctor Octopus had interactions with each other when Doc Ock was spilling corporate secrets to him.

What is Doctor Octopus trying to accomplish here? Is he someone that through his insanity is finally doing something good albeit in a very bad, messy way? Or is this a storyline that was pulled out of the ether and tried to fit into the existing universe? I choose the latter.

In a comic or book series, you will encounter situations like this further down the line of your creation where you have to create a story that had its seeds sown much earlier in the story. Whether it be one line that could seem throwaway at the time or the inclusion of a scene that details a history between characters that will be explained later, it is important for a writer to establish relationships as early as possible. The importance of doing this is twofold. One, you don’t confuse your reader by having characters that never met seem like the best of friends or the worst of enemies. Two, you’re rewarding the reader that has stuck through from the beginning by diving deeper into a world that the reader has invested themselves in. The reader benefits because it shows them that you’re just as invested in giving them a great story as you the reader are in reading it.

Comics are a unique beast in that especially with the big companies like Marvel and DC, they have to come out with material every month, if not quicker for titles that are released every two weeks. I am quite confident that if this were the second book in a series that Brian Bendis would have found the fact that a story he was looking to create did not have the seeds sown for it in previous issues. The fact that it isn’t addressed really makes this particular story quite difficult to get through.

Bottom Line:

These have been some real tough issues to get through. Maybe it’s because I am looking at this with a more critical eye instead of just as an average reader but the whole issue with the relationship between Otto Octavius and Justin Hammer is disappointing. It could have been one sentence by Norman Osborn expressing concern about a mole in his organization in a previous issue. Something would have been better than nothing. And let’s take into consideration the fact that maybe there is a throwaway line someone in a previous issue that I have simply forgotten about. I’ll admit it. I’m not perfect. If I missed said line, fine. But I still contend that the establishment of a relationship between two characters that are pretty big players in this universe deserves some sort of mention that will be memorable to the reader. Let’s say there is a line for argument’s sake explaining that there was a mole in Osborn Laboratories. The fact that twenty issues in I forgot it tells me that it was not a well done line explaining this history that this particular story hinges on.

Readers will probably have noticed that I haven’t mentioned much of Kraven in the reviews for this storyline much. There is a reason for that which I will address next issue. The buildup to the ultimate showdown between Kraven and Spider-Man is fine. The payoff is about as successful as my first attempts at dating.

One thing that really stands out this issue is the art. A majority of the pages are devoted to the big battle between Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man. With a character that has multiple arms, I can imagine it would be hell for the artist to create fight scenes that don’t get the reader lost. You want to have some semblance of reality when you’re going into a big fight. If Spider-Man is getting hit with one of Doc Ock’s arm’s, which arm did the hitting and from what direction? Mark Bagly does a masterful job of not only being an amazing artist but a good stage director. While it could be argued that Peter defeated Doctor Octopus a little too quickly, the fact that you can follow a multipage fight scene and not be lost as to what is going on says a lot for the art. Plus the little bits of humor Bendis and Bagly toss in during the fight breaks up the monotony with some laughs.

Ultimate Spider-Man #18

   If in Star Wars, if instead of getting his ass handed to him just like what occurred in The Empire Strikes back he swiftly defeated Vader with no effort at all we would have a situation where all that tension, all the buildup for how evil the bad guy was would be all for naught. When you’re building up a villain you have to make them a villain worth defeating so it is wise to have a confrontation with that villain where you initially fail.   Peter fails miserably this issue. Since he survives the ordeal that is not necessarily a bad thing because in failure we can learn a lot. He’s learned some valuable lessons so far but the fact remains that in his particular profession there is still much for someone in his position to learn. Situations aren’t always so black and white as folks may make you believe.

   One big lesson Peter needs to learn and learn fast is to not dive into the deep end of the pool if he doesn’t know what is waiting for him. Even 18 issues in we find him making decisions that are just foolhardy and quite ignorant. If you have no clue the strength of the person you want to face off against, what sense does it make for you to just drop in and start making fun of the guy. Peter learned quickly that Doctor Octopus physically outmatched him in most every way, most importantly with the ability to break his webbing. It’s little things like this that show you just how out of his element Peter is in. Another person would have done what they could to prepare for any and all circumstances that come their way. He should have stress tested the webbing apart from seeing if it could hold his weight. This is a lesson learned on his part for the future and something that he will not soon forget.

   It is interesting seeing the progression of Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe compared to how he evolved in the original Marvel Universe. Up till this point in Earth-616, Peter Parker was pretty much the ass kicking person we all know today. There wasn’t too much of a learning curve for him. One day, he was Spider-Man. That didn’t mean he breezed through every encounter with bad guys like nothing happened. Some challenged him along the way and tested him to his very limits. But there wasn’t much of a learning curve he had to endure.

   The Ultimate Universe has been quite different. While the parent in me is cringing at some of the foolhardy things Peter is doing to honor his Uncle, I appreciate that Peter is learning from his mistakes, even if those mistakes bring him one step closer to death. So far he has not made the same mistake twice.

   We also spend some time this issue exploring what could potentially happen to Peter if others found about him being Spider-Man. Another good element of the Ultimate Universe so far has been the fact that we’ve been exploring the results of actions the heroes and villains meet during their rumblings with each other. As a reader, logic does creep in your head when you’re reading stories like this. You do ask yourself how are people not noticing that a fifteen year old boy appears to be getting beat on a regular basis? He’s a nerd in school so shouldn’t Aunt May be a little more concerned that he has more bumps and bruises than a kid that age should? Wouldn’t teachers or school officials start getting suspicious and consider calling the authorities? You would think that a kid who lives with his Aunt and Uncle and having the Uncle brutally murdered like Uncle Ben was in front of Aunt May would be someone who would be a prime candidate for an elder to lose it and start whaling on Peter for no good reason. Having Peter fight the people he does without bumps or bruises that he has to explain is unrealistic. I am glad Brian Bendis is addressing this by having the closing panel of the issue have Aunt May coming down into the basement where Peter had just been with Mary Jane, who was bandaging him up after his fight with Doc Ock. That panel introduces a level of reality that was missing from the original stories up to this point, 18 issues in. Yes, there is some level of disbelief in these stories and you do have to check your brain at the door because this is not a documentary. But once elements that occur during a normal life happen in ways that we know cannot possibly happen, the reader is left on the outside looking in to a bad story.

Bottom Line:

   We are one more issue into this story detailing Peter’s first real encounter with Doctor Octopus. So far things are coming along quite nice. Are there things to nit pick about? Of course. I do think there are some elements of the story so far that are not up to where they need to be especially when it is coming to the motivation for Doctor Octopus. Why is he doing what he is doing? What made him single out the energy station? What is his end game? What is he working toward? Answering that he is just nuts is the wrong answer. Regardless of his mental state, in a story like this there has to be some motivation for people doing what they are doing. If your villain is doing things just cause, there is not coherence to the story. While it could be argued that I should have a little patience and wait for everything to play out, I argue that there could be a lot more explanation for what Doctor Octopus is doing. We are lacking that and that is making me as the reader a little confused as to why he is doing what he’s doing.

   The art was pretty solid this issue. I really enjoyed the level of scope that Mark Bagly was able to create in this story. When they had exterior scenes, you felt you were outside in a real environment. Internal scenes felt like they were occurring in real buildings that were either big or small. While the artwork can’t always be classic, when the little things like this are done well it goes a long way towards making your reading time enjoyable. This is a lot like the Star Wars Prequels in a way. The story so far has not been the best but there is always something going on that will keep your interest.

Ultimate Spider-Man #16

   When you’re exploring the mind of a madman as a writer, you walk a fine line of making the madness something folks can relate to in some way which makes the character that much more frightening to the reader or you make his ramblings so incoherent that you don’t know what the hell is going on so you end up losing interest in the story. The problem I am seeing with Doctor Octopus in the story two date is a little two fold. One, we don’t have much to base his character on. We had a brief introduction to him when Peter toured the Osborn facility and he stole some of Peter’s blood. From there we see him involved in the explosion at the labs which he spends time in a government hospital for and now he is cuckoo bananas. We as readers are not going to like every character we see but we have to have some sort of reaction to them. For Doctor Octopus, I am not having that reaction. Any sort of feelings I have for the character are more related to his status as a villain in the original Spider-Man universe (Marvel Universe 616 for you nerds out there).   Doc Ock is currently having issues remembering his past which brings him to the home of some other rich industrialist. It is implied that Otto had been giving the person who owned that room industrial secrets from Osborn Labs. That is fine and all but it doesn’t do much to explain what is really going on because again, we’ve not spent too much time with this character to really know what motivates him.

   Think of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The big badass of the film was Darth Maul. A part from having a cool look and being a part of a great fight scene, what do we know about him? No, we don’t need to know his whole life story but what motivates him? Why is he a Sith? What brought him to be aligned with Darth Sidious? We don’t know this information. We’re expected to not like the guy because he’s wearing black and he has horns. That is not the way to give us a bad guy in a story. We have to know what motivates him. Even if that motivation is based on incorrect information of if the guy just loves being evil, knowing the motivation for why they are bad is key to making us as the audience have the reaction the writer wants us to have in the story. In the case of a movie there can be some cheats of course which comics can replicate in a sense two since they both involve visual and written arts together. But making a guy look bad is not the way to set him up for you audience to accept him as bad. They just may think he’s an idiot.

   We get our first official introduction to SHIELD in this issue. Turns out the room that Doc Ock trashed was owned by one Justin Hammer. Folks that are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will recognize that name of course since Justin Hammer, played by the great Sam Rockwell, played a younger version of the character in that movie. This character will end up having the same type of values as the movie version but since we are just meeting him here we don’t know that. He’s just a very important business man that has enough clout that he can discuss top secret information with SHIELD agents.

   It is interesting that our first introduction to SHIELD is clouded. The casual Marvel fan will probably have nothing but good things to say about the organization what with the characters they see on a regular basis like Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Agent May, and others but here we’re not quite sure where SHIELD stands. If they’re talking to someone who has been involved in corporate espionage they themselves may not be an organization that we should trust. I like that they kept the agents appearance so ambiguous.

   We do get a little follow up with Gwen Stacy this issue. Her motivation for pulling the knife on Kong is that no one was helping Peter after Kong kicked him. She wanted to help him out, especially since she stated she thought he was cute. That is nice and all but as I stated in my previous review, her actions are quite ridiculous for what the situation asked for. I mean, she saw that Peter and Kong earlier had been having a conversation about mutants that didn’t result in Kong kicking Peter’s ass so her reaction was quite stupid if you ask me. Not that it is bad that she defended someone but you would think there were any number of ways that she could have responded that didn’t involve recreating the fight scene from West Side Story.

Bottom Line:

   It is my job to critique. Just because I look for things that may not have gone right in a story doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the work. This story was pretty damn good considering some of the areas that I felt Bendis failed with. My biggest issue overall has to do with the sheer lack of information we have about Doctor Octopus. He’s killed a few people so sure he’s a bad guy but as of now we don’t have any motivation apart from insanity that is driving him to do what he is doing. The original Doctor Octopus was very much insane as well after enduring a nuclear accident but you did get the impression that, no matter how wrong his motivation was, that he had something he was working towards. He had a goal. He had motivation. So far, Doc Ock in the Ultimate universe does not have that motivation.

   The art work this issue was nothing to write home about but it wasn’t bad. I would call it average. It didn’t do anything amazing that really stood out but it kept the story chugging along without too much distraction.

Ultimate Spider-Man #13

   The next stop in Ultimate Spider-Man leads us to the type ofrevelation you would not have expected from the original stories. Peter Parker does the unthinkable and reveals his secret identity to Mary Jane Watson.

   What in the blue hell is he thinking? I understand the logic behind it of course. When you have something as amazing as spider powers hit, as a guy of course you’re going to tell every girl you can think of. There has to be some girl out there that would really dig a guy with powers. But the reason in the original comics that Peter kept his identity secret as long as he did was to make sure that no one he knew and care about would get hurt. Yes, by the time he married Mary Jane in the originals, she ended up knowing. They treated that part of the relationship like I am sure a cop and a spouse would what with Mary Jane being nervous every time he leaves.

   The problem here is the fact that they are still teenagers. Peter shouldn’t be telling anyone. Hell, he shouldn’t be as careless as he is because one wrong move and he could be seriously hurt with no way to explain how a middle class teenage punk was off fighting against big time criminals. (Sorry. That’s the dad in me again.) The moment he brings in Mary Jane into the mix with revealing his identity he opens her up to danger the moment people figure out who he is. Even taking into account the fact that many many issues into the future Peter Parker does die at the hands of the Green Goblin, you would think that any criminal finally learning the identity of the kid who foiled so many of their plans would love to exact their revenge on the family of the little guy. North Korea has a policy of not only jailing and killing dissidents to their little empire, they will jail and murder family members as well as a form of punishment. You would think that there has to be some criminal mastermind that would do somewhat of the same thing as well. I know I would because I am a vengeful bastard.

   But let’s talk about the positives here. The trust he has that Mary Jane will one, not freak out, and two, not tell everyone she knows what he told her speaks volumes of the type of relationship they have. It also does a lot to show Mary Jane as a character. I absolutely loved her reaction when Peter told her the news. She went from complete disbelief to fear to elation that he was damn near a rock start for having powers that would make him so cool. And the attraction the two have speaks for itself when she asks him to take her out swinging around. She later admits that she thought he was going to ask for a kiss which he was oblivious to.

   I really get the impression that Peter, while certainly attracted to her, thought that she may be out of his league so he didn’t really want to try. Not every guy, or gal for that matter, has the ability to read how someone thinks about them in that special way. I know I failed at that when I was single. I fail at that now and I’ve been married almost thirteen years now so him being a little oblivious is very much a real thing that can happen. How they get from just studying to almost kissing feels really natural in the story as well. It doesn’t feel like Anakin and Padme’s relationship in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy which was horribly written and felt forced. The best compliment you can offer any scene, whether it be in a movie, book, comic book, audio play, etc., is that it felt that it could happen in real life. No matter the genre or the characters involved, when you feel a scene could happen for real or you think about how something similar happened to you at some point in your life, while you may be dealing with a story with four armed creatures on the planet Remulac, you will still find yourself relating to the story because the writer created a scene you can relate to.

   The art work is great. This issue takes place entirely in Peter’s bedroom but Marc Bagly finds a way of making everything interesting. From Mary Jane’s facial reactions to the pauses she would give when she was waiting for Peter to respond, if you took the words out of the comic and just had the art you would still have a pretty good idea of what it happening in the story which is great. For a visual medium, that ability to have the pictures do the talking for you can made a bad story tolerable and a good story great. With Brian Bendis and Mark Bagly together, it makes a great story amazing.

Bottom Line:

   I really loved this issue. My concerns with Peter being Spider-Man at all, much less involving anyone else in on what he does withstanding, the fact that they took a whole comic that is set in a teenage kids bedroom and made a full complete story about it speaks well to the talent of all involved in the creation of this story. For what it does in furthering the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, this is a can’t miss issue in my book. My concerns have nothing to do with the story. Yeah, I am not comfortable with Peter choosing to do what he does but that concern is more about my comfort than it does about the choices the character makes. Everyone makes choices that others would question or not feel comfortable about. Everyone. My discomfort with his choices does not make his choices necessarily bad plus it makes me more concerned for the character when he gets into tough situations. I’ve said before that if I were reading this when I was single and in my twenties I would probably have a much different reaction to the story. I would probably wish I were Peter and could swing around town fighting crime while getting hot chicks. As a parent, I worry about a young kid making choices he should not be making.

Ultimate Spider-Man #12

   What strikes me about this issue of Ultimate Spider-Man is how utterly stupid Kingpin is. I mean, the relative ease it takes for Spider-Man to steal the DVD’s that store the videos Kingpin made in his office makes me wonder how truly effective Wilson Fisk is. When you’ve spent the first half of your story trying to make your villain appear to be such a bad ass and it ends up that a fifteen year old with an Internet account and some web fluid is able to take him down with relative ease, you don’t have a villain that is truly dangerous. You have a villain who is a villain simply because the author says he is.   I can’t tell you how disappointed I have been with the Learning Curve story. There has been so much potential to make Kingpin such a bad ass that was wasted simply to move the story along. As a writer, it made me think about how easy it is to write yourself into a corner. I remember when I was writing my first novel (which is now available on Amazon Here) I encountered a scene where I wrote myself into a corner. I ended up writing pretty much all the active characters that I was using at the time into scenarios that they could not escape from. They had nothing really to do because I wrote them into scenarios where they had nothing to do. I sat on the story for a couple weeks before I realized what I did and ended up rewriting the scene all together.

   Here, Brian Bendis gave us the impression that Wilson Fisk was such a badass. He’s the head of all real crime in New York. He’s supposed to be Don Corleone who also has the ability to squeeze your head off like it were a grape. Yet when we have Peter discovering quite quickly that he has a video system set up in his offices that records absolutely everything that happens there as well as stealing the recordings in question and releasing them to the media within a couple days time, you have to ask how Wilson Fisk can be so dangerous for so long if a fifteen year old can bring his empire down so quickly. What does that also say about other criminals who meet up with Kingpin that they never noticed or acted upon the information that Peter discovered.

   What I would have liked to see was the issue with Kingpin be revealed over time. Peter resolved this way too quickly. Now yeah, this is a comic and Wilson Fisk will be back in order to try and get some revenge. That’s what make comics such fun. But to set up a villain who is supposed to be king bad ass in such a horrible, lazy way is disappointing. If there was time for Peter to make the discoveries he did as well as learning from his mistakes with other villains before he takes down Kingpin than you’d have no complaint from me. The fact that in five short issues Peter goes from naïve novice to making all the right moves to defeat a criminal mastermind makes you wonder if the criminal in question is really such a mastermind.

   One good thing that happens this issue is the humor. Spider-Man is known for mouthing off to the people he fights. The big showdown between Spider-Man and Kingpin was great. The fact that Peter took the time to write down insults on index cards just to read them off to Kingpin was funny and fit his character to date. It didn’t seem forced.

Bottom Line:

   There will never be an artist you encounter where you like absolutely everything they do. I love Brian Bendis’s work. As far as comic book writers go, there is second to none out there today. The fact is that with the sheer amount of work he has to produce on a monthly basis, not every story will be a winner. This issue was not a winner. It has some great moments to be sure but the execution for this whole Learning Curve story was bad. Not that it was a bad idea for a story. The seed for the story is fine. It could have been played out so much better. I think they could have stretched this out but hey, what do I know?

   I did love the art for this issue. Very reminiscent of the Silver Age work of Steve Ditko with a modern flair to it. One drawback of how comics used to be drawn was the fact that with four colors to work with, they could only do so much. (For folks that may not know, ink costs money. Comic book companies back in the day used to limit the artists to four colors to work with. They could mix them up as much as they liked to produce the color they need but they only had four to work with. With computers, that is becoming less of an issue today especially for bigger companies like DC and Marvel.)

   The love that Kingpin is drawn with should be acknowledged. With any other artist, it is possible that Wilson Fisk could be drawn as just a big fat guy. While he certainly has considerable girth in this issue, you can’t help but experience the fear that Peter must feel seeing the guy. Mark Bagly successfully conveyed the strength of Kingpin through his facial expressions and body language. Bagly to this point has been great with showing the most subtle of emotions in a realistic way.

Ultimate Spider-Man #8

I am just finishing up an unofficial holiday and boy does it feel good. Sometimes folks need some time to unwind, relax, and do much of nothing. Thanks to my day job, I find myself quite stressed at the end of the day, who doesn’t, and writing these reviews have been a great way to unwind while still keeping the ol’ noggin active. It’s also been a great way to study stories themselves, ones that work great and ones that fail miserably. At the end of the day, until I start making enough money writing these reviews (and boy would I love to but you have to balance realism with hope.) this is just a writing exercise for me. By writing and reading every day, I keep up good habits that one way or another will pay off.

Well, the holiday for me is over so back to the ol’ grindstone by talking about the next issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. This issue deals with Peter being impatient. He feels that if he can find out the main cause of crime in his city he’ll be able to put an end to it. Unrealistic to be sure but we are talking about a fifteen year old. Even at that age, kids are naive enough to think that every single damn one of them can change the world. That may sound cynical on my part and it is pretty blunt because while a housewife for example may not change the course of human history in her life, she can certain change the world for the better for her family. In this case though we’re talking about a fifteen year old kid who improbably is able to fight crime in one of the biggest cities in the world. Even if Peter is able to take down one crime head, there will be others that pop up to replace them. And while that will lead to future issues which is not a bad thing, it is a demonstration on Peter’s part on the outset that he doesn’t realize what he is getting himself into.

Peter wants to make it up to his Uncle Ben. He feels responsible for his death. I get that. I find it silly though for him to think he can do this on his own. Maybe it’s due to be being 39 but that naivete is just something I can’t relate to anymore. There are so few instances of one person making a difference on the level that Peter wants that it makes his goal here kind of hopeless.

We do get the start of Peter Parker working for the Daily Bugle. It’s set up similar to the original Spider-Man story in that there is a reward for a picture of Spider-Man that the paper offers. Where it veers off is when it brings modern technology into the mix.

It may seem silly to a modern audience that is used to everything being on the internet but there was a time where big companies didn’t know their ass from their elbows when it came to their online presence. In the story, Peter is low balled by J. Jonah Jameson on the pictures he brings of Spider-Man. Just as he is about to leave, Betty Brant yells about the Daily Bugle webpage not working as it should. Peter, with a couple key strokes, is able to get the page back up and running properly. JJJ hires him on the spot to run the Daily Bugle website.

As I said, to today’s audience that may seem unrealistic. While it would be unrealistic for a fifteen year old to show up at the offices of the New York Times and get a job the same day running their website today, there was a time where companies were more than willing to toss the keys to some unproven talent simply because they had no clue themselves on how to handle a new piece of technology. So Peter getting the job like he did this issue I can completely buy.

Bottom Line:

This was a pretty good issue. While it isn’t one that is filled with tons of iconic action, it is important because it sets the stage for Peter Parker’s future adventures. It also sets up J. Jonah Jameson a little differently. He’s still the same sour puss you find in the original comics mind you, it’s not an earth shattering difference. But they make this JJJ a little pragmatic when it comes to how he thinks of and deals with Spider-Man. The original comics gave JJJ a little twinge of jealousy with how Spider-Man saves the day. This JJJ wants to sell papers. So far I don’t get the impression that he has thoughts about Spider-Man other than what story he could tell that would sell the most issues. We’ll see if future issues change that.

The art work this issue was pretty pedestrian. When you have someone as good as Mark Bagly drawing your comic, his version of pedestrian is someone else’s masterpiece. What really stood out to me was about halfway in the issue when Peter is in school. The previous scene had him waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare. The look on his face in school is steely determination. It’s reminiscent to when he first came across the guy who killed Uncle Ben. Before he realized who it was, he very well could have straight up murdered the guy. You see that in his face when he is at school, the anger and determination. While nothing much stood out this issue, scenes like that really bring you into the emotion of the story unlike other artists out there.