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 #7

You will never forget your first time with that special someone. That someone who ends up taking over all aspects of your life, that someone whose every movement you memorize. The yin to your yang. This issue brings us the introduction of Spider-Man to his special one. No, not Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy. This is the first major battle Peter has with The Green Goblin.

While the previous issue saw Peter Parker spring into action as Spider-Man for the first time, this is the first time we really get a chance to see him test his skills out under pretty stressful situations. This is like Luke Skywalker in Episode 4 when he’s in the X-Wing fighter battling against the Death Star and Obi-Wan Kenobi through the power of the force guides him to do the right thing and blow up the evil fortress of the Empire. He takes the first step from ordinary joe to hero and frankly he does pretty darn good.

I appreciated Peter’s inner dialogue during his fight with Goblin. While he was his usual smart mouth self with the villain, his internal reactions to what was happening at any particular time felt quite realistic under the circumstances. When Goblin drops him high in the air and Peter, in an effort to save himself, uses his web shooters to build a trampoline, he’s hoping to all that is holy that his plan will work because one wrong move and he’s a street pancake.

One thing I didn’t care for was how the webbing was used in this issue. Yeah, I know. What a thing to complain about. For something that is supposed to be quite sticky and can hold the weight of multiple men at once at least during an hour period before it dissolves, when Peter creates the webbing to save himself he bounces off like it’s nothing. Similar to Doctor Who and the Sonic Screwdriver, I’ve begun to notice that the webbing has no consistent use apart from what the writer, Brian Bendis, has for whatever is going on at the moment. Again, this is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things but not staying consistent in a story can throw some people off. Doing it once or twice is forgivable especially in the heat of action. The more you do it however, the more your audience will begin to notice that you as the writer had to pull something out of your ass to get our of a corner you put yourself in.

My other complaint about this issue has to do with Harry Osborn. We dive a little further into his whiny story here. But hey, you may be saying, he saw his mother brutally murdered by a big green guy and now that same creature is attacking his schools. How would you react?

For one I wouldn’t head back to school in what seems like the day after my Mother was brutally murdered. Two, I would be doing what I could to tell the appropriate authorities what the hell happened and to search for a big bad green bastard who must have shown up on security footage in the home of a Fortune 500 CEO who runs a military armament company. If this were some kid of a local grocer who stole some money and beat his wife, that’d be one thing. I could take the level of hysteria Harry has in this issue. For everything he’d gone through, I just don’t buy it. I admit, this opinion is purely subjective. This is not a comment on the writing at all, more of the writing not really hitting me where Mr. Bendis intended it to.

One thing I really enjoyed was the last page. Comic book movies, up until Marvel had the good sense to start making their own, had a bad habit of killing off the one person who got people into the theater to see get their asses kicked. The bad guy. Similar to pro wrestling, without an effective bad guy, it doesn’t matter how great the hero of the story is, you can’t take him or the story seriously. He’ll either defeat the weak bad guy so fast that you feel stupid for actually watching the movie or you sit there questioning yourself as to why you sat through the exploits of the world’s dumbest hero for having to deal with such an ignorant villain. It also ruins the fun when, after watching a great movie you see the hero take out the villain for good. You think about all the wasted opportunities that the two characters could have had in future films. The original Batman from 1989 was ludicrously stupid for killing off The Joker. Imagine the Joker breaking out of Arkham and making Michael Keaton’s Batman go through hell to defeat him again? That would have been much better than the putrid garbage we got in Batman Returns. (Michelle Pheiffer in a leather outfit was a pretty good consolation prize.)

Comic books however don’t have to worry about future films in a franchise. While I would have loved to see Jack Nicholson play the Joker over and over again, when he had a contract that ended up netting him over $50 Million Dollars for one movie, it’s hard not to see why producers went with another villain. Nicholson was far too expensive to bring back. In comics, the only thing keeping a villain out of a story is low ink in an artist’s well or lack of story ideas from a writer. When The Green Goblin fell into the river, the authorities presumed he was dead. Bubbles coming from the water indicated otherwise which more than teases a future return which I am already excited about.

Bottom Line:

I was harsh with this issue at least on the surface but don’t take that for dislike of the story. This is an important story in the Ultimate Spider-Man universe. This is Peter Parker’s first major fight in public against a villain and the seeds are already in place for his legend to grow and prosper. While there is admittedly not much going on this issue, you’d be a damn fool to miss it.

What can I say about the art work? Fight scenes are really hard to draw. Sometimes there is a lot going on, so much in fact that the artist ends up having a tough time telling the story in a way that will be totally clear to the reader. The artist in question here, Mark Bagly, does a wonderful job in visually telling the story, which can get pretty complicated at times, in a way that allows us as the readers to fully understand what is happening. This is another issue you can’t miss.

Spider-Man: India #1

Spider-Man India

The Good:

While I certainly love the main characters everyone thinks about when they think of comics, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, there are also many more stories out there concerning characters we never heard of before. Then we have variations on stories we are already familiar with like this. Called Spider-Man: India, it speculates as to what the Spider-Man story would be if Peter Parker were from India.

At first glance I can see where some folks may shake their head and wonder why a story like this is needed. If a story is told well the first time, why do we need to say it again albeit from a different perspective? I contend though that while we are interested in the adventures of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, seeing how someone else would react to some of the same circumstances is much like seeing a new actor tackle a familiar character. There may be a lot of overlap in regards to how the character is presented but being that the character is ultimately different they can take the story in different directions.

I liked how the story was able to blend the familiar with the new location. Make no mistake, this is not a Miles Morales take on Spider-Man. This really is the Indian version of Peter Parker including having the names of the characters in the story sound almost phonetically the same as the characters we know. Sharad Devarajan did a good job of presenting pretty much the basics of the story we are familiar with in a new setting without making the characters seem out of place. The danger in a story told like this would be having characters that no one can relate to. Admittedly I don’t know too much about India. While I probably know more than most Americans, compared to the rest of the world my knowledge of that country and it’s culture is still laughably small. The writer though did a great job of blending in the familiar that I know, the Spider-Man story, and weaving it into almost seamlessly into a culture I know next to nothing about. The best stories are told in a way that regardless of where or when you read it you can find something about it that you can relate to. Like the original Stan Lee Spider-Man story. Going back further, like Mark Twain or Charles Dickens stories. While I am not comparing this story to the authors I just mentioned, Sharad deserves accolades for telling a story that does not require you to know about Indian culture to understand.

The same I’m sure can be said in reverse. I could see where someone growing up in India may not necessarily be able to fully relate to a teenager growing up in New York City. But Stan Lee and the other authors of those stories throughout the years have written Peter Parker in a way that I feel regardless of where you live you can relate to. Who cannot relate to feeling like an outcast? Who cannot relate to wanting to do the right thing? Who cannot relate to being awkward around the opposite (or same) sex? This author was able to tap into that sense of relate-ability in order for anyone picking up this issue could understand and care for the characters.

The art work was well done. While drawn in the classic style I really loved how they were able to draw such amazing environments. As stated, I have never been to India. The art though gave me the sense of familiarity that really helped get me lost in the story which is a great thing. I also liked how when Pavitr Prabhakar is first given the Spider-Man suit, it’s a blend of the suit we’re familiar with along with clothing that is native to India. It was drawn beautifully, nothing felt forced about it which did a lot to keep my interest in the story. If he suddenly dressed like the American Peter Parker I think I would have probably been thrown off. Basically, why would a teenager from India decide to dress like a teenager from New York especially when it’s been established that this teenager is from a small village. He’s incorporate the suit with his clothes. The results are perfect.

The Bad:

This story went along much too fast. I get that they probably knew from the outset that this would be a limited, four issue series and that they couldn’t go too in depth as much as they would have liked. But when you give a total of two pages to the reveal of the Green Goblin and give no further explanation as to how or why the action we were seeing was going on, it was easy to feel a little lost. I’m sure the other issues will dive into it more but I do think the intro of the big bad of the story deserves a little more attention than what they gave it.

It’s also established that Pavitr Prabhakar is a genius of some sort but you don’t know why. You’re just expected to accept it which if we’re reading an origin story, regardless of whether this is an original story or a different take on a story we are familiar with, we have to know what makes him special. People saying he’s special just doesn’t cut it for me. In both the original and Ultimate versions of Spider-Man, his work and interest in science is easily established without having to take three issues to explain it. They were able to show why he was special and not just have to tell people he was. I wanted to see what made him special and just didn’t see it.

I also think the story expected us to just accept that magic helped this happen. Why was Pavitr Prabhakar chosen to be Spider-Man? Magic. Why was Nalin Oberoi able to turn into the Green Goblin? Magic. The next issues I am sure will get into why things are happening more but the fact that we’re just expected to accept what is going on by just being told about it is frustrating.

Bottom Line:

I love different takes on stories. I love it when artists get creative and choose something we didn’t anticipate in order to get their story out there. Sometimes it can fall flat on its face. Sometimes, like Daniel Craig being chosen to be James Bond, it can reward you immensely.

This is a flawed story. It tells you a lot about what it going on when it should be showing you much more of the how and why things are going on. But for what this comic does right makes it a great read. The fact that me, as a 39 year old American white guy can instantly related to a young Indian teenager without knowing much about India or its culture is a great piece of writing. We’re all human at the end of the day but where we grow up can be quite different. To be able to break through the environmental differences and connect with the reader emotionally is some great work. I give the story an 8.

The art work is frankly amazing. While I won’t say it’s on the same realm that Kirby and Ditko inhabited, the fact that the artist could seamlessly meld the visually familiar along with elements American audiences may not be familiar with is just amazing. The Spider-Man suit alone is a great example of this. I give the art a 9 for being able to help bring in readers from anywhere into a world that, though they may be unfamiliar with it at the start, they instantly feel connected to and love by the end of the story.

 

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #1

MM Spiderman

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Miles_Morales:_Ultimate_Spider-Man_Vol_1_1

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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.

Bottom Line:

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.