Hello 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.
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?