Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #31

Posted: Monday, December 2, 2002
By: Craig Lemon

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens by showing us that the impostor that has been posing as Spider-Man has decided to move his operation to Atlantic City, but he made the mistake of robbing an armored truck about half-a-block down the street from a hotel that was playing host to a convention of police officers, and as such the criminal is confronted by a small army of police. Meanwhile back in New York we see Peter's bullet wound is still giving him problems, but he receives some help when Nick Fury sends one of his operatives to give Peter some additional medical attention, that has Peter back on his feet and ready to take on the world. However when he returns home he find several police cars are parked out front, but he quickly discovers the officers are there to see Gwen, as her father was killed in Atlantic City during a failed attempt by the police to capture the fake Spider-Man. As Peter tries to calm the distraught Gwen we see he's on hand when Gwen makes it clear that she blames Spider-Man for her father's death. As such when Peter hears a news report about the fake Spider-Man being trapped inside a bank, we see he races to the scene, and this time he wisely decides to avoid the police that surround the building, as he smashes his way in, and finds his double has himself a hostage.

When the Ultimate line first made its splash on the market one of its big selling points was that each title would be freed from the decades of continuity the weighed down the Marvel titles. Now that the Ultimate Universe has been around for a couple years its own continuity is starting to build, and we're also starting to see the walls that had been set up between the Ultimate line of titles starting to break down, as elements from the Ultimates are starting to make themselves known in this title, and next month marks the beginning of the line's first official crossover. Now I'm not going to jump on this and make a case that it's no longer a line that's conducive to newer readers, as Brian Michael Bendis & his fellow Ultimate writer Mark Millar structure their stories into arcs, and as long as you hit the book at the beginning of one of these arcs then you should have no trouble following and enjoying the material. I also have to give Brian Michael Bendis for his ability to work plot elements from the original series into this book, as this issue features the shocking death of a character whose death I really should been better prepared for, as the previous issues had all but telegraphed this situation.

This issue nicely ups the stakes of the fake Spider-Man plot, as we see the impostor is directly responsible for the death of a supporting cast member, and while there is a sense that everything connects to Peter's world a little too conveniently, making the person killed by the fake Spider-Man a fairly key player in Peter's world does add a nice sense of urgency to the plot. It also makes the final page confrontation scene far more important than it might've been, as one can practically feel the rage seething from Spider-Man on that final page, and it should make next issue's battle more exciting than the previous encounters with the Green Goblin & Doctor Octopus. The material that details the death is also well handled, as we are actually clued into the idea that this character has died before we are shown how it happened, and this gives the flashback material a wonderful sense of impending doom. This death also sets up a nice hatred toward Spider-Man by another supporting player, and since it looks like this death might act to bring this character even deeper into Peter's world, it should make for an interesting little scenario, as Peter gets a first hand look at how much a person can hate Spider-Man.

Mark Bagley continues to churn out the issues at a biweekly pace, and if this wasn't impressive enough, his art continues to surprise me with its ability to convey the material. I mean there's a couple sequences in this issue where Brian Michael Bendis doesn't offer up a single line of text, and the art perfectly captures the weight of the scene, as we see the reaction to the news of that character's death, and then it's followed up by a truly disheartening presentation of how this death occurred. The art also does some nice work when it comes to the delivery of the big visuals, as the double-page shot of the fake Spider-Man that opens the issue is a great visual to draw the reader into the story, and the final page shot of Spider-Man finally confronting his double is a fantastic method of ensuring one will return for the next issue. The art also does some nice work conveying Peter's uncertainty as he approaches the mysterious black van, and the surprise factor of the guest-hero is also nicely handled, even if current events occurring over in the Ultimates make this character a poor choice. I did have to smile at the expression on Peter's face, as he spots the needle that is being prepared.

Final Word:
A pretty big issue in that it does feature the death of a supporting player, and this death is sure to make an impact on Peter's world. The issue also does a pretty good job of tying this book to the larger picture that is the Ultimate Universe, as this book gets itself a guest-star from the pages of the Ultimates, and we see that Nick Fury is already actively protecting his future investment. The plot involving the fake Spider-Man also gets a good kick in the pants when it comes to forward momentum, as Spider-Man gets a reason to really be ticked off at this impostor, and the book ends with the two finally getting together. Since next issue looks like it's going to be the final chapter in this latest arc I imagine that we'll finally learn who's under the mask, as while the big money is probably on Mysterio, I rather like the chances of it being the Chameleon. Brian Michael Bendis could also throw a nice twist into the mix, as once they begin fighting I doubt any of the witnesses will be able to tell which one is the criminal & which one is the hero.

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