Shiny Shelf

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 16 September 2011

You know, as a comic book fan, this is one of the most exciting times  to ever strike the industry.

No matter what side of the fence you fall on – whether Marvel, DC, or indie – there’s plenty of stuff to enjoy right now.

DC has relaunched their entire brand, Marvel is relaunching their Ultimate Comics line as well as engaging in storylines such as ‘Schism’ in the X-Men realm and ‘Fear Itself’ for their as their current general crossover event, and there’s always something good to find in the indie track (such as Image Comics’ various series).

There has been so much hype around some of these series that it’s usually difficult to really match up the reality with the expectations – as my recent review of ‘Justice League’ #1 showed. But then there are other series that arrive and blow away your expectations (‘Stormwatch’ and ‘Animal Man’ come to mind).

And then there’s the new ‘Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man’ series.

As most comic book fans (and some non-fans), the new Ultimate Spider-Man series begins the tenure of Miles Morales, as a 13-year old half-Hispanic, half-black student who has taken on the mantle of Spider-Man in the wake of Peter Parker’s death. Just how that happens is the story Brian Michael Bendis, with artist Sara Pichelli, aim to tell in the initial storyline.

I feel like lately I have only been reviewing #1’s. Some have been successful at kicking off their series and others not so much. Bendis and Pichelli do a fine job with making ‘Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man’ fall into the former.

Bendis is no noob at this. After 160+ issues of the original Ultimate Spider-Man (plus various annuals, tie-ins, and guest appearances in other series), Bendis knows how to delve into a character, pick them apart and show them from twenty different angles.

What makes this series a bit exciting is that Morales is a complete unknown. It must be gratifying to re-inject mystery into a well-known property, and Bendis takes great care in slowly building up just who Morales is and what makes him tick. We get a glimpse into his family life, with his loving parents taking him to an opportunity to get into a charter school so that he can have an opportunity to make something of himself. We see the tension between his father and uncle, for reasons yet to be revealed. And we get a glimpse of some of Morales’ new abilities, which are not what you’d expect.

This decompressed approach – which Bendis is known for – works here. It gives us enough to stay hooked but doesn’t give the game away. It features Morales front and center and gives us the cause of his powers (although I have an issue with that revelation; that bit seemed a bit too contrived for my tastes. Just how often are young men bitten by spiders and given powers? One would be fine for suspension of disbelief, but two? And that spider made like a hobo on a train to get to Morales? Naaaahh, but I’ll forgive it).

It’s typical Bendis, and while I wouldn’t say he is my favourite comic book writer, Bendis is often entertaining and knows how to spin a good story. He does it again here and it’s, frankly, fun and refreshing.

I really enjoyed Pichelli’s artwork. It’s dynamic, she draws a good menacing face in Osborne, and her characters vividly come to life. I love her art in this series and I hope she will stick around for a while. Justin Ponsor’s colors also deserve praise, as their richness provides a unique feel to the issue. Again, hopefully this dynamic team will remain together.

And I have to say, I love the new Spider-Man costume. To bits.

I think the concern people had with Morales being too young sort of misses the point. While reading this issue, I thought back to when I was 13 and couldn’t help but ask myself, what would I have done in the same circumstances? There’s a certain nostalgic escapism that comes with having a protagonist being so young, and works for both teens (someone they can possible relate too) and adults (wistfully thinking back to those years and indulging in those escapist fantasies of youth).

‘Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man’ is a fun read, and while clearly the perfect jumping on point for people new to Spider-Man, should be given a chance by old ones. This is the start of a whole new journey, and it looks to be an interesting one.

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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.

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