Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #41

Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens at the house party as we see the gathered teens are celebrating the idea that they've just seen someone blow up a car, but Peter finds he doesn't have to step in to deal with this potential threat, as the police have arrived on the scene. As the various party people vanish into the night, we see Peter manages to hook up with Mary Jane as they catch a bus home, and the two have a conversation that makes it clear that in spite of recent difficulties they still have feelings for each other. We then see a conflicted Mary Jane hands Peter an envelope after she makes him promise that he won't read the letter inside until he's back home. Given the letter contains a heartfelt outpouring of emotion in which Mary Jane openly states that she loves him, we see Peter races over to her place, and the two share a passionate embrace. We then join Peter the next day as he looks to be in good spirits thanks largely to the fact that he's back with MJ, and we see he's bound and determined not to let his life as Spider-Man intrude upon his happiness. However, when he learns that the young mutant that blew up a car at the end of last issue is going on a rampage at his school, we see Peter suits up in a halfway finished costume that Mary Jane had started, and he rushes off to save the day.

The debut of a new, never seen before villain was what was the preview material latched onto, but it would appear that this was simply a means to draw attention away from the more important dealings that are playing out in this arc, namely that Mary Jane & Peter look to be getting back together. Now the villain does play a role in the book, as his actions last issue prompted the rather amusing "run for your lives" moment as the sirens announce the impending arrival of the police, and the last page has Peter preparing to rush into battle against this villain, who has decided to go on a rampage in the middle of a school day. However the story itself almost treats the villain as an unwanted intrusion upon the main story, as Peter & MJ's attempts to reach an understanding make up roughly two-thirds of the issue. Now speaking as a fan I'm glad to see the two have managed to work things out, as frankly I didn't feel Brian Michael Bendis was able to really draw much interesting material from having these two at odds with each other. In fact he spent far more time getting them back together than he did examining the reasons why they broke up. Plus, following on the heels of the rather grim Venom arc, it's nice to see Peter have a spot of good luck, as it was getting a bit difficult to embrace his devil-may-care super-heroics antics, when his out-of-costume life was in such a mess.

This series also continues to have some fun with the realization that its cast is largely comprised of young adults, as one had enjoy the opening exchange where the group is discussing what vehicle Geldoff should blow up next, and then rats fleeing the sinking ship response when the police arrive on the scene. Sure it's a rather obvious bit of comedy, but it's the type of "living in the moment" behavior that one expects from young adults. There's also a nice sense of awkward communication in the scene where Mary Jane hands Peter the note, and the scene where MJ offers up her thoughts on the outfit she was wearing in the opening half of the issue was also rather cute. The note itself is also quite believable as one can see it was written by Mary Jane while she was conflicted about her feelings toward Peter, as there's almost a hesitation to back up her opening profession of love, as it's clear the reasons for why they broke up are still playing a role. The issue also offers up a wonderful two page sequence in which we see Peter trying to organize his day, or at least shuffle things around so that he can focus on things he wants to do, rather than the things he feels he's required to do. There's also another odd encounter with Flash Thompson, as it's clear he has something he wants to talk to Peter about, and right now I'd be reluctant to even make a guess as to what it might be.

Mark Bagley is an artist whose work has always impressed me with its ability to convey high-energy action, but during his time on this book he's slowly emerged as an artist who can hold one's interest visually when there's nothing playing on the page beyond two characters talking. I mean this is a skill that all artists who are working on a Brian Michael Bendis title have to master, as it seems like there at least one conversation in every issue that will play out over several pages. Still, Mark Bagley's work is especially good at capturing the conflicted emotions of our young cast, as the scene where Mary Jane holds the note in her hand one can almost see the internal debate that is going on inside her head. There's also a cute scene after Peter reads the note, as we see him speed his way over to her house. The scene where the two finally commit to their relationship with a passionate kiss is also nicely done, though the book does convey a slightly seedy voyeuristic tone when it moves outside the window. There's also some cute little details like Mary Jane has gone back to wearing the little spider braids in her hair now that she's back with Peter, and the ill-fitting Spider-Man costume was also a rather cute visual. In fact my only problem with the art on this book continues to be the rather unimaginative covers, as they look nice enough, but there's a degree of sameness to them that has gotten rather boring.

Final Word:
The material involving the new villain isn't exactly grabbing my interest, but then again Brian Michael Bendis hasn't actually ventured too deeply into this plot, so I'll reserve judgment until he actually starts sending some more attention its way. This issue is far more interested in the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane, as the two manage to mend their fences, with Mary Jane taking up with olive branch that Peter offered up a couple issues back, and making it clear that she loves him. Now I must say that I do think Brian Michael Bendis could've dug a little deeper into the reasons why the two broke up in the first place, as MJ almost is almost jovial about the idea that her life was threatened simply because she knew Peter, and given the hell that Peter has been put through recently involving Eddie Brock, it did strike me as a little strange that two would raced back into each others arms. Still, Brian Michael Bendis is a masterful writer when it comes to dialogue, and this issue is a shining example of this talent.

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