Thursday, June 12, 2003

Ultimate Spider-Man #42 - A Review

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Mark Bagley
Inked by: Art Thibert
Colored by: Transparency Digital
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Peter Parker really cannot catch a break, can he? No sooner does he finally get back together with his girlfriend, something comes up and keeps him from the wonderful afternoon of face-sucking they had planned. He has to drop everything to deal with a superpowered delinquent blowing up cars on the other side of town and finds his patience sorely tested as he tries to explain why “with great power comes great responsibility”.

That’s the core of this issue and the best part about it. Rather than jump into the situation and start throwing punches, Peter tries to reason with Geldoff; an exchange student in denial about his mutation, who starts using his powers as a road to acceptance with the in crowd. After all, nothing impresses the cheerleaders like making things explode. Believe me, I know that from personal experience… but I can’t talk about that until after the trial.

It’s a situation that Peter tries to be sympathetic towards. After all, he did become a basketball star for a while before Uncle Ben’s death. And the majority of the issue deals with the two just talking and trying to understand one another. But before I scare you off completely, let me assure you this isn’t an ABC After-School Special. This is not a tear-eyed intervention, complete with hugs and melodramatic “I love you, man” moments and Brian Austin Green appearing at the end telling us that blowing cars up with our mind is just plain wrong.

There are no revelations. Geldoff is unable or unwilling to grasp Peter’s explanation for why it is important to help people. This is well conveyed, as is Peter’s barely repressed annoyance at having to give up time with Mary Jane and his lack of a proper costume and his very real annoyance at Geldoff’s obliviousness to Peter’s message. And despite having little room to talk about early reactions to getting superpowers, it’s hard to argue with Peter’s assessment that Geldoff is an idiot.

Still, this isn’t a superhero/supervillain smackdown story. This is about two teenage guys who are trying to find someone who can relate to what they are going through. Sure, they both have super powers but that is incidental to the story. And it is putting this kind of real characterization into a story that has made Brian Michael Bendis a favorite of critics and fans alike… not to mention yours truly.

But good as it is, the writing doesn’t steal the show. The powerful pencils of Mark Bagley and the incredible inks of Art Thibert equal it. (Alliterative Adjectives Absconded from the Stupendous Stan Lee!) The characters are all uniquely illustrated and both the comic and dramatic moments are conveyed with equal skill. And it should be noted that Bagely draws some of the best explosions to be seen anywhere and gets ample opportunity to show this throughout the issue.

All in all, I can’t think of any reason why anyone shouldn’t be reading this book. The writing succeeds as a traditional superhero story, despite being anything but traditional in execution. The artwork is gorgeous for those who prefer art over writing. And if you have a preference for superhero teams over single-acts, you should pick this issue up for the extremely surprising guests on the final page.

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