Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Peter Parker finding out that S.H.I.E.L.D. is well aware of his life as Spider-Man, as he finds himself having a meeting with Nick Fury. As Peter struggle to process this rather shocking revelation, we see Nick Fury lets Peter know that S.H.I.E.L.D. also knows all about Norman Osborn's connection to the Green Goblin, and the threats that Norman has made toward Peter. We then see Nick Fury confess that S.H.I.E.L.D. obtained this information in an illegal manner, and as such they can't move against Norman until he commits a criminal act. However, given that Norman's first criminal act is likely to involve the murder of someone that Peter cares for, Peter isn't exactly won over by the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants him to refuse the Green Goblin's offer. As Peter leaves the meeting in a highly conflicted state we see him return home just in time to prevent his Aunt May from accepting a dinner invitation from Norman Osborn. We then join Peter, later that night as Spider-Man meets with the Green Goblin and refuses to work for him, but we see that Peter soon has cause to regret this action.
The opening conversation between Peter & Nick Fury made for a fairly engaging read, but I do have to openingly question why Fury is so concerned about playing by the rules given the sheer volume of proof that they've seemingly collected on Norman Osborn. Now, I'll concede it does make sense from a dramatic standpoint, as Peter's frustration over S.H.I.E.L.D.'s inability to help him is nicely conveyed. However, when Fury states that it isn't illegal to turn into a monster, and that they have no proof that it was the Green Goblin that attacked the school, I felt Brian Michael Bendis glazed over a fairly key area. I mean looking back on the Green Goblin's first appearance I seem to remember that in addition to Spider-Man's pursuit, the Green Goblin was being chased by police helicopters. I also seem to recall that the police inside these machines were attempting to arrest the Green Goblin, and when he resisted they pumped him full of lead. Now, it seems to me that all S.H.I.E.L.D. would have to do is keep tabs on Norman, and wait until he changes into his Green Goblin persona, and then they would have cause to move against him, as they have police witnesses who would testify that yes this Green Goblin creature was a threat.
This issue does lay the groundwork for a fairly interesting future for Spider-Man, as Nick Fury makes it quite apparent that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to come a calling once Peter is no longer a minor. Since his Marvel counterpart has been little more than an occasional guest-star over in the Avengers, I must confess I'm quite excited by the prospect that in the Ultimate universe, Spider-Man's membership in the Ultimates is all but assured once he turns eighteen. This issue also ends with a fairly intense cliffhanger, as while I can convince myself that Brian Michael Bendis isn't going to kill off Mary Jane, the simple truth of the matter is that this book can go down roads the Marvel books never even considered. Now I can tell myself that Brian Michael Bendis wouldn't kill the golden goose, as the conversations between Peter & MJ have provided some of this title's most memorable moments, but I'd be lying if that final page didn't have me very concerned. Spider-Man a member of the Ultimates! Mary Jane taking Gwen Stacy's place as the person that the Green Goblin kills! This month's issue is full of potential deviations from where I expected this book to take us.
Another issue where Mark Bagley is called upon to deliver an issue that is roughly two-thirds talking heads, though the high energy of the final seven pages more than makes up for the opening fourteen. Now Mark Bagley is a pretty solid artist when it comes to keeping dialogue heavy scenes visually engaging, as his characters are fairly expressive, and he moves the camera around a fair bit, though he does seen to prefer close-ups & straight on head shots. Still, Peter's frustration at being told that S.H.I.E.L.D. is fully aware of the problem but can't move in until Norman acts to harm someone Peter cares for is nicely presented. There's also a fairly nice double-page spread, as Nick Fury explains the history of Norman Osborn to Peter, and the scene where a distraught Peter runs from Harry & MJ in the hallway is an emotionally charged scene thanks largely to the art. However, Mark Bagley's best work is the closing third, as we see Spider-Man races toward his confrontation with the Green Goblin, and that double-page sequence is a great showcase of Spider-Man moving through the city via his web-lines. The final page also does a great job evoking memories of Gwen Stacy's death.
This issue nicely plays up the idea that in the Ultimate universe, Brian Michael Bendis can take Spider-Man in an entirely new directions. I mean the basic elements are there, as we have Peter Parker, the hard-luck hero trying to balance a normal life with an almost crushing sense of guilt that won't let him stop using his power to help others. However, this issue also makes it clear that the book can wander where the Marvel titles never did, as this issue has Peter learning that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been keeping tabs on him, and that if he wasn't a minor, he would likely have been drafted into the Ultimates program. This issue also ends with a cliffhanger that is sure to have older readers flashing back to the death of Gwen Stacy, as the Green Goblin swoops down and grabs Mary Jane off the street, while Spider-Man is able to do little more that watch in horror as his girlfriend is dragged high above the streets by a crazed villain.
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