Ultimate Spider-man Vol 1: Power and Responsibility – Review

Ultimate Spider-man Vol 1 Power and ResponsibilityHello interweb, Nate here.  Sorry I didn’t post anything Monday but hopefully this will make up for that.  So I’ve said several times in the past that I like Miles Morales/Spider-man more than the current Peter Parker/Spider-man, and I still have that opinion.  Many people say that Spider-man comics has been going downhill since the terrible storyline that is One More Day but I don’t really know how true that is since I haven’t been reading comics for that long.  With the lack of really good Spider-man stories recently, I decided to check out the Ultimate Spider-man comics starting with the first trade (consisting of the first 7 issues): Ultimate Spider-man Vol 1: Power and Responsibility, which retells the origin of Peter Parker, aka Spider-man.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Mark Bagley

Before jumping into the review, I should probably give you guys a little background on this comic.  Ultimate Spider-man is part of Marvel’s Ultimate 1610 universe that is separate from the main Marvel 616 Universe.  The universe was created in 2000 with the first issue of Ultimate Spider-man and was originally used for two reasons: 1. to make it easier for new readers to be introduced to the comics without worrying about decades of history, and 2. so writers can come up with new and creative stories and even change some of the characters a bit without ruining the established continuity.  While I’m not the biggest Ultimate Marvel fan (only have read the first three trades of Ultimate Comics: Spider-man [featuring Miles Morales as Spider-man for the first time], the first trade of Ultimate X-Men, and-well-this) as the universe have made some very…bizarre choices (Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s incestuous relationship, making Mister Fantastic a villain, and having Ultron be created when Scarlet Witch flirted with a robot and accidentally used her powers on it), the concept is pretty interesting to me and this title specifically drawn me in the most considering that it brings us back to where we love Spidey the most: in high school.  The comic feels like it knew what we liked about Spidey to begin with and focused on those qualities about him.

Like I said earlier, this is a retelling of Spider-man’s origins so you can mostly guess from the get-go what the story is about.  You might look at this and think that seven issues is quit a lot of story to get through just to re-learn how Peter Parker becomes Spider-man as we all know the story already, but I personally like the drawn out story.  Now this is mostly in regards about the movies, but a lot of people seem to be complaining about writers retelling the well-known origin stories of superheroes such as how people wished Man of Steel wasn’t an origin story (although imo the problem with the movie wasn’t the rehashing of the story) and the upcoming Marvel/Disney Spider-man movies has been confirmed to not start with an origin story.  The thing is, I like Origin stories, especially the ones that takes its time.  I like watching the hero discover their powers and becoming the hero we all want them to be.  So the fact that the writers decided to take their time with Spidey’s origin and not just toss it all into the first issue is awesome.  Heck, he doesn’t even officially become Spider-man until issue six.

The first issue is called “Powerless” and is about twice as long as a normal issue, although they could have easily split this into two separate issue.  The first half establishes the characters before Peter Parker gets bitten by the genetically enhanced spider created by Norman Osborn while the second half shows off some of his newly acquired powers.  This issue does a good job to show is that Peter Parker is a weak yet intelligent nerd before the spider-bite so we get to easily see the transformation taking place.  They also show Norman Osborn and establishes that he’s a somewhat crazy scientist who wants to perform morally  questionable human experiments but is unable to find anyone who will volunteer before he can safely use them on himself.  This does lead to him sending people to spy on Peter once he learns that Peter gained powers from the spider bite.

Issues two, three, and four shows us how his powers are affecting him emotionally as well.  He accidentally breaks Flash Thompson’s hand in issue two which results in Flash’s family making Peter Parker’s family pay for the medical bills or they sue.  This leads Peter into making a makeshift costume to hide his identity (witch doesn’t resemble is classic costume at all) and goes to wrestle for cash anonymously in issue three.  At the end of issue three, the manager of the wrestling ring gives him his classic red and blue costume (minus the webbing on the red and the spider symbol on the chest) because quote: “‘Cause no offense kid– –with the get-up ya got… …you kind of look like a dork.”.  I actually really like that explanation for how he got the costume.  I mean think about it, that costume isn’t cheap and he’s just a kid.  I actually don’t know why nobody thought of this in the past.  The issue ends with Norman performing an experiment on himself that ends in an explosion.

Issue four is when he becomes the most arrogant.  Usually I wouldn’t like seeing the protagonist act this way as he comes off as being quite rude, but he learns his lesson later on and sees his errors so I can kinda forgive him.  After the manager lost some money and blamed it on Peter, Peter ran off and took that frustration out by letting a guy who robbed a nearby deli escape (hmmm, I wonder if this guy will play an important role later on).  Soon after this, he has an argument with his aunt and uncle and runs off.  When he returns home, he sees police surrounding his house and it is revealed that Uncle Ben dies (well I never saw that coming!).  We also see glimpses of the Green Goblin looking for Peter but hes in the shadows so you can’t make out that much of him.

Issue five has him looking for Uncle Ben’s murderer to take revenge.  Once he finds him its revealed that it’s the same guy who robbed the deli.  this leads him to start becoming a hero.  Issues six and seven ends the comic and we get our first big fight between Spidey (who now has web shooters and the complete costume) and the Green Goblin.

Spider-man in this is the kind of Spider-man I love the best.  He’s relatable and you understand what he’s going through.  He is pretty arrogant in this version, but it’s not completely out of left field as they establish ahead of time that he was bullied really badly at first so the fact that he’s now strong enough to stand up to his bullies results in him going overboard and becoming irresponsible.  However the irresponsibleness (yes, I realize that that’s not a word) not only makes sense but also results in consequences that develops the characters further.

Ultimate Universe Green Goblin

Ultimate Universe Green Goblin

616 Green Goblin

616 Green Goblin

Norman Osborn also makes sense to be the first villain he encounters since the spider was created by him.  Once he learns that his genetic experiments are safe on humans (and by “safe” I mean it won’t kill them) he uses it on himself to become the Green Goblin.  Green Goblin in this is much different than the 616 counterpart in a number of ways.  The 616 version is human size, has the personality of Joker (classic Joker not modern super-psycho Joker), and flies around on his glider throwing pumpkin bombs.  In this version he’s about 12-feet tall, looks less like a goblin and more like an ogre or an orc, doesn’t talk a lot, is more brute strength, and produces fire balls instead of throwing pumpkin bombs.

The rest of the characters are done fairly well.  Mary Jane and Peter is shown to be friends but there are hints that there may be more between them.  Uncle Ben and Aunt May are very likable and it’s actually kinda sad when we learn that Uncle Ben dies (although it’s Spider-man so what did you expect?).

If there is anything to complain about for me it’s the lack of set up for his other villains.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that this is still in his early years and as such he shouldn’t have a huge rogues gallery yet, but some of his other villains should’ve at least made a cameo so we know they’re there.  The only rogues gallery in comics that really rivals Spider-man’s is Batman’s, so a few should’ve appeared.  Norman Osborn/Green Goblin was the main villain and Dock Ock did appear for one short scene, but I would’ve liked to see more.  Take the Spectacular Spider-man cartoon for example.  The first episode introduced us to: Adrian Toomes (Vulture), Norman and Harry Osborn (Green Goblin), Otto Octavious (Doctor Octopus), Kurt Connors (the Lizard), Eddie Brock (Venom), Flint Marko (Sandman), and Alex O’Hirn (Rhino), but the only one of them that actually became a villain that episode was Vulture while the others became villains later in the series.  I feel like there was plenty of opportunities for some of his villains to at least make cameos.  Like Sandman and Rhino could’ve made a cameo in at the end of issue five where he’s not officially Spider-man yet but he was starting to fight crime.

The art in this comic was a hit-or-miss to me.  It seemed pretty cartoony and it kinda works for Spider-man, but there are a few panels that just looks odd to me.  Like sometimes the artist will draw a close up on someones eyeball when there’s  three people in the room and so you can’t tell whose talking.  On the flip side, it is pretty colorful and the color pallet works for whatever mood is appropriate for the scene.  It also has the energy needed for the fighting scene between Spidey and Green Goblin.

Overall I think the comic deserves a 4.5/5.  It does an awesome job at establishing the characters, gives us a believable approach to the origin of our friendly neighborhood superhero, and shows us why we liked the character to begin with (which the modern comics have forgotten a while ago).  I was actually originally going to read this story and be done with it, but I’m actually quite intrigued about what happens next.  So do you guys want me to read and review the second story in this title, or do you want me to review something else next time?

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10 comments

  1. Sounds like a fun collection. The zooming in on an eyeball sounds like a lol moment, but I definitely know what you’re talking about. I’ve read comics where the author did “epic” zoom ins like that and it does make it hard to tell who is talking at times. It’s something that the writers should really be careful about. I was never a huge fan of the Ultimate Universe either as it made too many mistakes, but I really liked the concept behind it. This was a fun way for new readers to jump in with a simple plot. The problem was that some writers went way too far with their new creative freedom like with the Ultron origin and Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver relationship. Ultimate Spiderman, from Peter Parker to Miles, seems to be one of the few Ultimate series that has actually been decently good to even very good at times. I read a few Ultimate Fantastic Four issues a long time ago and thought that they were decent, but that may have even been over 10 years ago so I don’t know how well they hold up today.

    As for the One More Day arc being the turning point, I would actually agree with the fans that it signaled the beginning of the end for the Peter Parker who was actually a good character. That arc crushed him as a character and just made him extremely unlikable. You could say that there were already signs of his character deteriorating, but that arc was the giant boulder that sealed the deal.

    1. the 616 universe will probably always be my preferred Marvel Universe, but the idea behind the Marvel Ultimate Universe is pretty fun. I’ve only read this trade of the series so far (although based on the end poll and how much I liked it I’ll probably read at least a few more), but if this ends up being better than the current 616 Spider-man comics I wouldn’t be surprise. The only thing that kinda confuses me about OMD being the straw that broke the camel spider’s back (lame pun is lame) is that the 90s Spider-man comics (based on what I have heard) was a pretty bad era for the web-head with the Clone Saga and all that. Again I haven’t consistently read ASM that much so I don’t know if the comics in the early 2000s where good or what but it seems that Spider-man has been having trouble long before OMD came about.

      Frankly Ultimate Spider-man seems to be the only Ultimate comic I’m really interested in right now. I’ve never cared for the 616 Fantastic Four that much so I feel like there’s no reason for me to like the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, I’ve read the first trade of Ultimate X-Men and I felt very “meh” about it, and the Ultimates sounds like terrible comics with Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver and Ultron. So I’ll probably not dive into the Ultimate universe that much beyond this title.

      1. I’d say that the Ultimate Run is already beating the current Spiderman comics. Unless it takes a big dip in the next few volumes, it should keep the lead.

        It’s certainly a matter of preference and I know that people really didn’t like the Clone Saga and the 90’s comics, but I personally thought that they were downright great! I haven’t read the actual Clone Saga, but I checked out some of the issues that led up to it and read a bunch of Spiderman’s 90’s adventures. I personally enjoyed them a whole lot and while they are not for everyone, Peter Parker was certainly in character from what I saw and the comics had a whole lot of nonstop action. I really haven’t read anything from the early 2000’s so I can’t say much about him during that point. Critically, he was probably doomed for a while, but at least Spider-Man himself was a really good character for a while. His marriage to Mary Jane kept him from flirting with all of the heroines that he met, which is partially why I don’t like him in the current comics as he is always hitting on Black Cat, Ms. Marvel, and anyone else that he happens to meet.

        I nearly checked out the big Cataclysm event that Ultimate had, but I flipped through the graphic novel and it looked pretty bad so I just put it back down and walked out of the library. For the most part, I’m definitely sticking away from Ultimate as well. If I happen to come across one that looks good, I’ll check it out, but I won’t go out of my way to look for one.

      2. I personally never liked Black Cat but that was mostly because she was less of a love interest and more of a sex object. The only time I kinda liked Black Cat was in Spectacular Spider-man but that’s mostly because it’s a kid show and so she was toned down a lot. Spider-man is known for his love life and all that, at this point it’s less of a love life and more of a sex life. I recently heard that he’s getting remarried to MJ (written by Dan Slott so…) so I think the mindset is that the only problem with Spider-man right now his that he’s not married to her. If that’s the case, than I hope that they find a new writer ASAP. Kinda sad really considering that Spider-man’s not only my favorite Marvel superhero, but he’s probably Marvel’s most popular superhero.

        I hope that Bendis continues to do well with USM. In fact maybe Bendis should right the 616 Spider-man. I know he’s busy with X-Men at the moment but with Secret Wars and all I don’t know if he’s gonna continue X-Men or not.

      3. The thing about the remarriage is that it’s likely temporary although hopefully it stays. In Keep Your Vows #1, it seems to have been a good move although I wasn’t crazy about the writing for Venom.

        I know what you mean about Black Cat and that is the problem. She’s good in shows like Spectacular Spiderman and the 90’s show where the writers didn’t go overboard, but in the comics she really is just there for fanservice. Spiderman was able to resist her for a while when he was married to MJ, but once that left, he takes every chance to get with her. It’s definitely sad. I agree that Slott’s got to go and Bendis would certainly do a much better job. He is pretty busy, but from what I’ve seen of Spider-Man in the New Avengers series that he wrote, it’s a dramatic improvement.

      4. The worst part about it is that Spidey’s a popular character among adults and kids. While Comics nowadays isn’t really for kids anymore (mostly thanks to Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns), I would be pretty angry if I was 30 years older and I read the good comic books of the past and the crappy modern comics.
        I haven’t read much of New Avengers so I don’t really know much about it, but I wouldn’t doubt that Bendis is a better writer than Slott.

      5. It is sad that so many comic titles aren’t kid friendly anymore. Comics used to be aimed at kids and adults alike as everyone could enjoy them, but dark and violent are the new trends for comics and when you throw in the Black Cats and Starfires that are present, it makes comics much riskier for the new generation . I also agree that the older comic books were typically of a higher quality as well. Luckily, there are still good comics out there, but for every 1-2 good ones, there is a bad one as well.

      6. To be fair I feel like 90s comics was the most embarrassing era for comic books, but today still isn’t exactly the golden age it used to be. Comics started getting darker and edgier in the 90s thanks to Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns so guess we can blame them. I guess if they make comics more superficially adult (making them more sexual and violent) than they could sell them to adults with jobs.
        I’m actually reading Dark Knight Returns for the first time and will probably review it by Friday. If what I’ve heard about the comic is true (it being pretty mature but also being one of the greatest Batman stories written) than I’ll probably have pretty mixed feelings about it.

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