Monday, 26 September 2011

Books: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (2010 - 2011)


Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man
Vol 1: The World According to Peter Parker
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente


Available now from Islington Libraries
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Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man
Vol 2: Chameleons
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente and Takeshi Miyazawa


Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

In 2000 Marvel launched their Ultimate line of comics - I think I've said this at the start of every Ultimate comic post: but basically - they thought it would make sense (business-wise and story-wise) to mint a fresh universe that begun every one of their superheros again right from the start - so new readers come jump on without worrying about 50-plus years of back-story. Or in the parlance of our time: they rebooted.

The Ultimate books were all fairly successful - especially in their early runs - even if some of them did tend to go off the rails a bit and turn all stodgy (Ultimate X-Men I'm looking at you): but the problem with fresh starts is that they only last so long and - well - after 10 years of superhero high jinks the powers that be decided that they needed to give their fresh start - a fresh start. Or - even better: they rebooted their reboot.

And so: 'Ultimate' has now been replaced with 'Ultimate Comics' and (thusly) 'Ultimate Spider-Man' becomes 'Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man.' In terms of change that means we're back to #1 and Volume 1: and a brand new artist in the shape of David Lafuente but for those who've been following from the start we still have the evil brilliance of Brian Michael Bendis behind the writing wheel and the same motley crew of hormonal school-faring teens (most of whom have super-powers of one kind or another) and 21-Volume-Long saga keeps on trucking... Only now there's a big sign hanging outside saying "New Readers Hop On Here."

So. Does it work? Well... Without meaning to brag too much () I've read the whole of the Ultimate Spider-Man run - so it's hard to tell how confusing some of the stuff in these books is gonna be to any lay-persons who come wondering in: and tricky to judge how much is going to make sense. Obviously everyone knows all the basic parts of Spider-Man legend (mmmm "legend" - that's a word that seems to fit - but then I wonder how accurate it is in the etymological sense...? oh well): but Bendis has added and re-fitted a lot of parts: and there's one surprise (Johnny Storm's girlfriend) that will shock anyone who's new to game - but counts as old news to past readers: although nothing that stops both parties being able to enjoy it. I could say more about the set-up: but what could be taken for granted here is a revelation when it happens in Ultimate Spider-Man so I'm going to keep schtum.

My big recommendation is - if you get the chance - is to read Ultimate Spider-Man before this - and not only because it's a damn fine superhero book (yummy) - but - well - because I'm a sucker for starting things at the start because it means that things make sense and you can know what's going on instead of groping around in the dark(which looking at other people's random and hap-hazard comics reading patterns makes me feel something like a minority). Plus - I should also say: that there's some stuff in Vol 2 that will be clearer if you've read Ultimate Origins - so I would say you should check that out too. Don't worry so much about Jeph Loeb's Ultimatum which this book immediately followed: you don't want to read that because it's really really stinky - and all you really need to know about what happened in it is that Magneto made a really big wave and totalled New York with it and so now no-one likes mutants at all (even more so than before).

In terms of the books themselves. Well I prefer the new guys to Mark Bagley (the main artist from the earlier books): who made things look a little bit too pre-school. David Lafuente has a slight manga-thing going on with big fat heads and tiny little mouse-like facial features - but it suits the book well: and his round-headed little Spider-Man is pretty damn adorable. But in terms of tone - it retains the bouncy fun of before: mingling action, drama and tense and exciting adventures. It's a high school soap sprinkled with all your favourite superhero sugary bits.

Links: Forbidden Planet Blog Review of #1, Sean T Collins Review of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1Alec Reads Comics Article: Those Issues of Ultimate Spider-man I Didn’t Read | Part 1Newsarama Interview with Brian Michael Bendis, Newsarama The "Ultimate" Brian Bendis Interview, Part 1 / Part 2.

Preceded by: Ultimate Spider-Man.

Followed by: Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (2012).

Further reading: Ultimate Origins, Ultimate Comics: Avengers, Ultimatum, Ultimate Comics: DoomsdayTakio.

Profiles: Brian Michael Bendis.

All comments welcome.

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