A review by Scott Bachmann.
Ultimate Spider-Man #23 “One Year later” Review
Brian Bendis does does it again. Seriously. How does he do it?
People love or hate Bendis, and based on sales and clout, most love him. But even is his worst detractors will admit USM is great. Over a decade of reinvention and brilliance and t’s still good. After the Ultimate universe tried to destroy itself, killing the X-Men and Peter Parker in the process, I was sure this book was done. Not happy with one big bang, they blew up the Ultimate universe even more by dividing up the U.S. with Hydra and Cap as president, and… and… you know, I just didn’t care. The Ultimate universe to me was a place where you fell in love with characters and saw them destroyed, and dead is dead in the Utlimates.
Then came Miles Morales and Sarah Pichelli. Miles was the new Spider-man thanks to a left over spider from Norman Osborne’s lab. He was mixed race, he was younger, he was scared, and he was as socially nerdy as Parker used to be in the sixties and seventies. He didn’t look like Peter, or act like him, or think like him. People cried foul to the highest hills – but it was good.
So what did they do? They dragged Miles into the middle of the Ultimates mess and gave us months of WTF is Morales doing in this mess, what’s going on, and why should we care? It ended with Ultimate Venom crawling out of some hole and attacking the new Spider-man, which Venom mistook for his dad. It ended with his mom finding out who he was, her being killed, and dad crippled. Morales had had enough, and hung up the suit for good. He didn’t ask to be Spider-man, and he chose not to be anymore.
Story over right? Nowhere left to go. Sarah Pichelli moved on, so no more gorgeous art right?
First panel. Splash page. “One year later.”
Ok, story jump, we’re going to be confused, it’s going to suck because that’s what happens with time jumps. Nope.
First off, the art is phenomenal. Dave Marquez steps up with art as brilliant as anything in this series, and the digital colors by Justin Ponsor are the best I’ve ever seen. I marvel at the views outside windows in the background. Shadows that are as much about light filtering through as they are about light being blocked. Flashbacks that are faded in a way to feel old, but still beautiful.
But the story? This is Bendis at his best dialogue in ages. He’s been killing it on X-Men, but his others titles have lacked the conversational charm he’s great at. Here he hits with both barrels and never lets up. Every line feels real, and not wasted. This is banter that feels like real conversation, but has story to tell. We learn Miles is dating Kate Bishop (Ultimate Hawk Gal?) and his best friend Ganke is still collecting Legos. They are still in school, a little older, a little taller, and not much has changed. Then S.H.I.E.L.D tries to drag him back in, he tells them no. We feel the wound still fresh in Miles’ mind. Being Spider-man destroyed his family and life, nothing is worth ruining what’s left of it.
He goes out to dinner with his dad instead. They end up in a Chinese restaurant and, of course, run into Gwen Stacy as a waitress. She tries to console him, but he says back off. Dad sees a girl who likes his son. Dad confesses he knows about Kate, and dad likes seeing evidence his son is a player. He tells his son he’s happy for him, though for a while he and his mom thought he had a thing going with his friend Ganke. Which was fine by them if true. That one scene of acceptance is all the stronger because his father does not accept super beings taking the law into their own hands. He could accept his son as gay, but not as Spider-man. All done in dialog that makes me want to listen to son and father chat for hours. Hats off to Cory Petit for making conversation that steps on each other, very easy to read. That’s no small trick.
The issue ends with Ultimate Cloak & Dagger bursting in with a tease for next issue. I was almost annoyed to see them. I didn’t want the ride to end. But then I noticed Dagger was wearing more fabric than the last three of her 616 costumes combined. She looked like a hero, not a stripper, and that’s a good thing.
After they burst in, Miles checked on his dad, then ran right to the trouble. We know he’ll put the mask back on, and I’ll be happily along for the ride. It’s also a perfect jumping on point if you need one.
Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Dave Marquez
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterist: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Marquez & Ponsor
Scott Bachmann writes his own comics and novels over at Scottcomics.com