Editor's Note: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #8 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 10.
"Crossroad: Part 2 of 2"
The second chapter of this two-part arc of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man sees Brian Michael Bendis take the book's central concept to extreme lengths, telling the story of a normal teenager gifted with cosmic-level powers who begins to come to terms with his cosmic-level responsibility. Rather than Peter Parker, it's Ultimate Rick Jones who is the central character here -- although Spider-Man, Iceman and the Human Torch are on hand to give him the benefit of their experience as they guide him towards his heroic destiny.
Happily, Bendis manages to make Spidey & co. feel like more than mere supporting players, giving each character plenty of dialogue and preventing the focus from shifting onto Rick Jones too completely. There's some fun banter in the first half of the issue as the group discusses superhero code-names and costumes, after which the tone shifts slightly, throwing the quartet into a super-powered conflict that revisits certain elements of the Ultimate Power series from the issues of that book that were written by Bendis.
Takeshi Miyazawa's artwork is a little more uneven than it was in the previous issue, with some panels looking a little rough and sketchy whilst others are beautiful (particularly some of the shots of Rick Jones in his new form on the last few pages). The attempt to reconcile the highly sexualised look of the Greg Land-designed Ultimate Serpent Squad with Miyazawa's more innocent manga style results in some slightly odd-looking character dseigns, but it doesn't detract from an exciting and colourful fight sequence.
This issue isn't quite as much fun as the previous chapter: the humour is a little more predictable, the talkiness is a little more gratuitous, and the revisitation of Ultimate Power feels like a bit of a sidestep that exists only to fill time before Bendis can brings things back down to Earth for Rick Jones at the end of the issue. Also, the reveal of Jones's superhero name is slightly disappointing, tying him directly to an existing Marvel character when it might have been preferable to leave his regular MU counterpart ambiguous. Still, it's fairly enjoyable teen superhero stuff of the kind that Ultimate Spider-Man has always done well, and I'm happy to see that the book hasn't deviated too far from its central themes even when dealing with a slightly more fantastical character concept than usual.
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