Saturday, 2 July 2011


This review first appeared on Amazon UK (but they don't get the pretty pictures).

Ultimate Spider-Man has been one of my favourite super-hero titles since it started. It's (that is: Brian Bendis's) alternate world take on the character made Spidey fresh again. Coupled with the wonderful art of Mark Bagley, it was just irresistible. But then the powers that be at Marvel decided to shake up the Ultimate universe and, after artists Bagley and the short stint of Stuart Immonen, we found Peter Parker struggling with a houseful of orphaned teen super-heroes which just didn't really work. The book was retitled as Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and started from No.1. It was also lumbered with artist David Lafuente's sketchy-cartoony style which couldn't have been a greater contrast to Bagley (and Immonen) and not to its benefit. More recently Lafuente has been succeeded by Sarah Pichelli which is an improvement but not by much. It's also, with the second chapter of this volume, reverted to the old numbering so here we have collected issue 15 and 150-155, the latter following on from the former. It also has the subtitle of Death of Spider-Man: Prelude, so you can guess what the next one will be about even if you haven't been reading about it online.

Personally, I think the death of you-know-who is a gimmick but I can also see a good reason for doing it. Bendis has written himself into a corner, partly the fault of rejigging the Ultimate universe, but I'm sure he went along with it willingly. As a result, our hero's life has become cluttered and confused, with the cluttered artwork not helping. And this volume is the perfect example of it with too many supporting characters jostling for space and getting in the way of what once was clean narrative. Despite some good moments, it feels stifled and clumsy compared to pre-Ultimatum volumes. It isn't bad per se, just poor compared to what it used to be.

It featuresThe Ultimates, the Black Cat, a teen super villain joining Pete's class, more Mysterio, Kitty Pryde, and what J. Jonah Jameson does now he knows who Spider-Man really is, and some of this is fun. But it should have been ilustrated by Mark Bagley not drowned by Lafuente and Pichelli.

So, next time the death of Spider-Man, followed by the new Spider-Man, probably followed by the marvellous return of Peter Parker somewhere down the line. Hopefully this means the title will get better again and, despite my better judgement, I'll still be here reading it. 

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