Monday, January 12, 2004

Ultimate Spider-Man #52 - 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

Reading through the latest issue of USM, I have two questions; what happened to Brian Michael Bendis and does CrossGen know that Chuck Dixon broke his exclusive contract to ghost write this issue?

Believe it or not, those rhetorical questions are complementary. This issue breaks the usual mode of Bendis’ writing style, reminding me of Chuck Dixon’s work on the early issues of Birds of Prey. The sharp dialogue and wise-cracking, self-depreciating monologues we all expect of a Spider-Man book are still there, but not in the usual high volume.

And what fills up the rest of the volume you ask? The title says it all…cat fight. Elektra and Black Cat, to be exact. And for several pages we are treated to the sight of two sweaty, gorgeous, leather-clad women struggling, grinding against the pavement and each other, lithe muscles…

Yes. Well, you get the idea.

Peter doesn’t say much while this is going on, proving the old saying that “women and cats do what they do and there is nothing a man (or a Spider-Man for that matter) can do about it.” That’s Heinlein, incidentally, for those who care.

After an anti-climactic scene where Peter is thrown off a roof, Peter finally gets an extended monologue too big for word balloons and returns to the scene of the fight to find both girls gone. And no sooner does Peter chide himself for the stupidity of sneaking out in the middle of the night to meet a criminal, a shocking cliffhanger on the final page shows that even with one woman out to kill him, a professional thief crushing on him and his being implicated in several thefts, there is no situation in Peter Parker’s life that cannot get worse.

Bagley’s art is given a stronger focus here, with the brief dialogue taking up so little space that we get to see that in addition to being a mean “eye” artist, Bagley is no mean background artist. The fight scenes are well illustrated, with appropriate close-ups and unlike most comics featuring girl-on-girl fighting, this one doesn’t feel posed or exploitive for a second. Quite a change from the Greg Horn and Terry Dodson images of Elektra and Felicia, I must say.

Overall, this issue is different but not bad. Bendis isn’t playing to his strengths, but this book is far from bad and doesn’t seem like filler despite most of the book being taken up by one long fight scene. The art is, as always, wonderful, and all the characters who are supposed to be teenagers actually look like teenagers.

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