Shiny Shelf

Ultimate Spider-Man

By Mark Clapham on 12 June 2002

Here’s a real shocker – an attempt to revive Spider-Man as a comics property that actually worked!

By pairing off fresh, top-notch creative talent with some of Marvel’s most prominent properties, the Ultimate line of comic books has become a brilliantly streamlined and updated version of the Marvel universe, one that can be read and appreciated without decades of continuity baggage. Centrepiece of the range is Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man, a contemporary retelling of Peter Parker’s early years that’s a joy for both long time fans and newbies alike. It’s the perfect comic for anyone who has seen and enjoyed the movie to pick up, and a genuine all ages title that never dumbs down.

Over the last two years we’ve seen Peter Parker gain his powers, discover that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, battle the Green Goblin, the Kingpin, Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter, and get his first kiss. Newcomers with a bit of cash in their pocket could do a lot worse than pick up the series’ first two trade paperback collections. Alternatively, the current storyline which began with issue #22, is a great place to get on board, as it features a lot of characters from the movie, including Norman and Harry Osborne. It’s not quite a follow up to the movie – Peter and MJ are a bit younger than in the movie, and therefore still at high school for one thing – but anyone familiar with the Maguire/Dunst/Dafoe incarnation of the story isn’t going to find too much to rattle their perceptions here. Issue #23, the latest to hit the stands, sees Peter trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, and ends on one of those baffling cliffhangers that leaves the reader with no clue whatsoever as to what twist the story is about to take.

What Bendis and Bagley have done with Spidey is nothing short of remarkable. Bendis’ scripts are teen-movie smart, giving Peter and friends a believable inner-life and making their personal dilemmas as involving as the super-powered fight scenes. With this kind of attention to character, it’s a wonder the producers of Smallville haven’t tempted Bendis away with fat TV cash. Bagley’s art is a match for the scripting – clean, expressive comic book artwork that doesn’t waste time pretending to be anything other than what it is.

Ultimate Spider-Man is that rare thing, a comic that’s accessible to a modern, intelligent audience while still delivering everything they’d expect from a superhero comic. If you’re any of the above, go buy it.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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