It’s Wednesday again and that means new comic books. I fared much better (or worse depending on how you look at it) this week than I did last week. There were a mere 3 single issues waiting for me in my account today as opposed to the giant stack of graphic novels and action figures of last Wednesday. It was kind of a relief to drop less than twenty bucks for a change. My wallet needed a break and I still have plenty of reading left to do from last week’s haul anyway. One of the books and figures I got last week was Ultimate Spider-Man.
I’ll quickly recap who and what Ultimate Spider-Man is for the uninitiated. A little over 10 years ago now, around the time of the first X-Men and Spider-Man movies, Marvel decided they needed a fresh contemporary spin on some of their most popular characters. They didn’t want new fans who had discovered the characters through the movies to wander into a comic shop and be scared away by over 50 years of continuity. So they launched a few books that took place in an alternate universe, separate from the well established Marvel Universe. This new Ultimate universe was very similar but the characters were younger versions of themselves with updated costumes and such. In Ultimate Spider-Man Peter Parker was still a high school kid learning how to use his new powers. Instead of being a photographer for the Daily Bugle newspaper, he worked on their website as a student intern. These are the type of modern updates that were made to ease new readers into the series. The series was written by Brian Michael Bendis, a relatively low profile writer. I had low expectations. To my delight the series was actually quite good and I enjoyed reading the adventures of this new young Spider-Man while still being able to enjoy the continuing adventures of the older Spider-Man who I had grown up with over in Amazing Spider-Man.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. After the Ultimate Universe had been around for a decade it no longer served its original purpose of being an easy jumping on point for new fans. In a really shitty impulsive story line called Ultimatum, Marvel killed off a huge portion of the Ultimate Universe characters. A short time later young Peter was killed as well. I was actually misty eyed as I read the death of Spider-Man. If it was the real Spider-Man I wouldn’t have been upset for I know he would come back. But this teenage version of Spidey had outlived his purpose and I honestly believed that this was the last I would see of him.
Almost immediately Marvel began advertising the relaunch of the book now titled Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. It was teased that this new Spider-Man would be an all new character carrying on the legacy of the deceased Peter Parker. The new series was to be written my Brian Michael Bendis, the same guy who had written every issue of the last series and in the decade since taking on that job had become one of the biggest names in comics. It was soon leaked that this new Spider-Man was going to be a black kid named Miles Morales. I new that if anyone could pull off this switch tastefully it would be Bendis but I was still super skeptical. I did not want to like this book. I used to love the Ultimate universe but Ultimatum had pissed me off so much I was looking for a clean break; I wanted an excuse to just walk away.
Well last week I bought the first collection of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man which contained the first 5 issues of the series. I’m not 100% sure I’ll stick it out with this book for the long haul but I’ll definitely come back for the next collection. It was very well done. It was fresh and new yet familiar. And it handled the passing of the torch very respectfully. This book that I really wanted to hate left me misty eyed again. God damn you Bendis for making me care about this kid.
Bendis succeeded where the Marvel Universe sculptors had failed. The action figure I bought last week of the Miles Morales Spider-Man kinda sucks. It’s not horrible but it’s nothing great. The first regular Spider-Man figure I got from this line kinda sucked too. It was too scrawny and felt cheap and breakable. The Marvel Universe toys have come a long way since then and some of the figures are beautifully done like the Kraven I got last week. I got some great new versions of Spider-Man that were released as part of the new movie line that are light years beyond that original figure. The size, sculpt, paint, detail and durability were all vastly improved. So I have no idea why they took such a large step backwards with this figure. He’s really scrawny and bland. It’s hard to put my finger on what it is exactly but this toy just seems to have no personality at all. For a figure this skinny with no accessories (other than a useless backpack that went right in my junk box) I feel like I got mugged paying $16.99 plus tax. If I was you I would suggest waiting until you find him for a discount or better yet wait for them to release a better version. 5 out of 10.