Editor's Note: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #7 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 10.
"Crossroad: Part 1 of 2"
The first thing that I noticed about this issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is that it's the first since the title's relaunch to not be illustrated by David Lafuente. Whilst that's a shame--as I've enjoyed his distinctive take on the book--his replacement, Takeshi Miyazawa, proves to be a more than adequate substitute.
I only know Miyazawa from his work on Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways some years ago, but I'm aware of the fact that he's also been the regular artist of the teen/romance title Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (which I haven't ever read). His experiences on those teen-oriented books seem to have stood him in good stead for this one, especially given that Ultimate Spider-Man is now heavily focused on the group of "stray" teenage superheroes who live under the roof of Peter Parker’s Aunt May.
Miyazawa's work isn't quite as heavily stylised as that of Lafuente, but he retains similar manga influences (big heads; wide eyes; regular use of motion/impact lines) that help to smooth the visual transition between the previous story arc and this one. Whilst his depiction of the out-of-costume teen superheroes is perfectly decent, it's with the in-costume action scenes that Miyazawa really impresses, with some brilliantly illustrated sequences involving Spider-Man, the Human Torch and Iceman later in the book (I particularly like the way that Miyazawa draws Bobby Drake's icy tendrils).
The issue's story sees Brian Michael Bendis return to one of the loose plot threads from his Ultimate Origins miniseries, picking up the story of Rick Jones six months after we saw him struck with a mysterious golden beam in the closing pages of that miniseries. It's nice to see Bendis begin to make the meaning of that scene clear--and he even manages to smoothly weave a flashback to one of the key scenes from that miniseries into this issue, so that any Ultimate Spider-Man readers who didn't read that book won't feel as though they're missing out on important information.
As it turns out, the appearance of Ultimate Rick Jones in this book feels perfectly natural, given that Rick's story is one of a normal teenager being gifted with mysterious powers that he doesn't understand, and struggling to learn how to live his life in his new condition. It might sound like a slightly cliché plot, but it's really an ideal story for a book like Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, which has always been as much a teen soap-opera/drama as a superhero book. Bendis writes the story very well, creating a sense of believability in the way that other characters relate to Rick's condition (I liked the idea that everyone simply assumes that he had a drugs problem), and using the situation to find some interesting things to say about other characters: Aunt May yet again gets a lot of attention from the writer here, and it continues to give more depth to her characterisation than we've seen in any other depiction of her.
Of course, the revelation that Rick Jones has cosmic powers also allows for some visually interesting action scenes. I particularly liked the visual effect that's used when Rick travels long distances, and the scene in which Spider-Man realises that he's travelled a lot further than he thought is a nicely played bit of light comedy.
In some ways, this feels like a fill-in story that exists as much to give David Lafuente the chance to get a head-start on the next arc as anything else. There's no reference to the scene from the end of last issue in which Kitty was revealed to be the Ultimate Shroud, and the reprise of the Rick Jones/Watcher subplot from Ultimate Origins feels rather sudden and abrupt. However, none of that really matters, because the heart of the story (teen superheroes try to help another super-powered teen to come to terms with his abilities) is so well-suited to the book and so comfortably handled by Bendis that by the end of the issue, you'll probably be finding yourself wishing that this arc was longer than just two issues.
What did you think of this book?
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