Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1
Evening Elmoochadores! Ever since I started doing these reviews I’ve made an effort to read comics and graphic novels that float just a little outside the mainstream. I’ve had it in me to find new stories and ideas that you wouldn’t typically find in the pages of D.C. and Marvel, and so up until today I’ve avoided reading most of the more popular super-hero titles. Today, though, was different. When I got to my local comic shop, and saw the wall of graphic novels. I had it in me to read a more traditional comic book and so I wandered over to where the Superman, Hulk, and Captain America collections sat crammed together on dusty book shelf’s and searched for something that might hold my interest. As I glanced at the many rows of colorful covers I came across an entire section of Marvel Comic’s Ultimate series. Though I could be wrong it seemed like they had an Ultimate title for nearly every hero ever penciled into the Marvel universe, and since I wasn’t familiar (at all) with the Ultimate line I decided to try my personal favorite of all the Marvel super-heroes, Spider-Man.
According to Wikipedia, The Ultimate line of Marvel comics was a chance for the company to revamp and update some of their older titles for a new generation of fans. Characters were given new origins and costumes and their often confusing, decades old, prior histories were wiped out so that fans could start fresh with issue one. Okay, I’m cool with all that. I really don’t mind a good character (key word being good) revamp and as I cracked open Vol. 1 to Ultimate Spider-Man, I was curious to see what was different. Apparently not much.
I know this series came out years ago, and this is old news for the average (die hard) Marvel fan, but keep in mind that there was this dark, cold, period of my life (college) where I didn’t have the ready funds for, or access to, comic books. So, from the years of 2000 to 2007 (no Tommy boy jokes please, I actually graduated on ’04, but stuck around Northern Utah for …yea gods only knows why…) I missed out on a lot of the comings and goings of the comic industry and it has only been recently that I’ve returned to a vast market of stories. Now where was I? Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Mark Bagley, I found Ultimate Spider-Man to be a dull and unremarkable attempt to re-brand One of Marvel’s most popular characters. The story follows most of the original plot points first created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee way back in the 1960’s. Peter Parker is an outcast science geek who is bitten by a (now genetically altered) spider which gives him new “super” abilities that he later uses to fight crime. Okay, same old same old except now the spider that bit parker was manufactured by Oscorp, owned by the now Lex Luthor like Norman Osborne, Uncle Ben is an ex-hippie with a pony tail (wtf?), and Mary Jane Watson is a smoking hot science geek who has some how befriended the awkward, yet stylishly thin, Peter Parker. Now, you would think (or at least I would think) that if they wanted to bring Spider-Man into the modern era they would confront him with new experiences that challenged both the hero and the reader, but these stories (issues 1 through 12 in Vol. 1) were amazingly insulting to the reader’s intelligence as Spider-Man faced off against the same bulling issues or the same death of a beloved uncle, but this time with hip new clothes and semi topical references to the internet forced into every other line. Which left me wondering if Marvel’s way of updating a character was to not take any actual risks with the title, but instead make a few pop-culture references, stick a cell phone in a few hands, and show a little teenage cleavage. Even the illustration style seemed to be something pulled out of 1992, and though technically good (hell, I’d give a nut, not my own, to pencil like that) was also rather bland when compared to other comics of the same genre. I also feel they missed a huge opportunity to remake the character with some of the choices made by the film franchise that I feel would have greatly improved the comic series. For example, a number of pages are wasted showing how Peter Parker develops his fathers adhesive formula into a sticky web solution to shoot from his wrists, when they could have saved time and paper by just saying shooting webs came with the package of being bit by a very weird spider. If we already bought the premise that this kid could walk on walls and lift cars after a nip from a genetically altered bug, then I also feel we the readers will accept Parker just being able to make and shoot web the same way I make most of my own favorite bodily fluids.
To sum it all up, I don’t recommend this story. Which is a first for the short time I’ve been doing these reviews. I understand that most people will argue that super-hero comics are “just for kids” and shouldn’t be taken that seriously, but I also understand what a load of horse shit that argument is. Comics and graphic novels can (and should be) dynamic and engaging. They should take risks with their characters and not insult the intelligence of their readers. Unfortunately, Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 plays it way too safe by trying to use a sprinkling of pop-culture references and modern style to appeal to the lowest IQ levels of the next generation. Which is a sad use of character like Spider-Man, who I once read Wizard magazine refer to as the “Sienfeld” of super-heroes. What ever wit and depth Spider-Man may have possessed in previous incarnations was absent in this revamp. If Ultimate Spider-Man did have any value it would be to show other professional creators what not to do when crafting a story.
Well, that’s it for me! If by any chance your curious about Ultimate Spider-Man and want to check out the graphic novels then please be sure to first visit your local comic book store. If by some chance they don’t have it there, then please use our Amazon.com link where not only can you find most of Marvel comics Ultimate titles, but also pretty much everything else you ever wanted to find too. By shopping through our Amazon link, not only are you getting a great product, but you are also helping out this site and at no added cost to you. So give it a look, then finish having an awesome weekend.
Of course if you have a different opinion (and can express it in a civil manner) please let us know on the comments section below or on our facebook page.