Page 45 Review by Jonathan
Kid, tell me. Is Peter Parker dead?
Im welling up again! I shed a few tears reading THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN arc covering as it did the very sad and untimely demise of the Ultimate Universes Peter Parker, and I dont mind admitting I was struggling to keep a dry eye during this too, in several places. Errr... pretty much throughout, if Im honest.
Ill freely admit that I winced when I initially saw this solicited in Previews. I figured it was going to be a textbook example of the typically pointless car crash event that Marvel loves to wheel out up at least once a year, but actually its easily the best thing which Bendis has written recently. All you really need to know plot-wise is that the regular Marvel Universe Peter Parker unexpectedly finds himself in the Ultimate Universe, and quickly learns that his younger, Ultimate counterpart is no more. But this book really isnt about what occurs to cause that dimensional hopping or indeed the stereo web-slinging action sequences that stem from it, entertaining as those are. No, this is all about the conversations which are inevitably going to arise from such an occurrence. Peter and Miles... Peter and Gwen Stacy... Peter and Aunt May.
Its abundantly clear that the Ultimate Peter Parker and Miles Morales (as well as the regular Peter Parker whom Bendis just loves writing witty non sequitur dialogue for in NEW AVENGERS) have a very special place in Bendis heart. Here, he has crafted a tale that is all heart. We know, gimmicks aside, Marvel will never, ever kill off the mainstream Peter Parker. He is one of the bedrocks upon which Marvel itself is built, part of the veritable spandex firmament. I guess therefore we all presumed that the Ultimate Peter Parker would enjoy comparable safety of tenure.
During THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN arc, even after the Punisher had accidentally shot Peter, even as Osborn was ruthlessly beating him down, I figured there was going to be the inevitable happy ending. Or that the title would somehow mean that Peter would retire as Spider-Man, maybe continue as another character for a while, then probably come back. In other words, just another story arc. I never actually expected Bendis to kill him. Even now, I wonder, jaded as I am by the endless cycle of superhero death and inevitable resurrection, whether it is indeed the last we have seen of Peter. As much as I miss him, I hope we dont, because Bendis achieved a gravitas and dignity, particularly covering the aftermath of Peters passing, that I just never expected to see in a superhero comic. He wrung emotion from the most unlikely and unexpected places, such as J. Jonah Jameson. But at the epicentre of all the grief, as you would expect, was Aunt May.
Ah, bless her, the Ultimate Universe Aunt May. If the mainstream one is a tough old bird, then the Ultimate one is a veritable battleship. Liberated by her knowledge of Peters arachnid activities in the Ultimate Universe, she always fought Peters (and her other charges) corner like a ferocious tiger. Even so, when the Marvel Universe Peter rocked by what he has learnt and not knowing where to turn decides he needs to pay her a visit, its quite, quite understandable shes more than a little disturbed and indeed initially disbelieving, about just who it is she sees before her. What follows as everyone sits down inside Aunt Mays house is so incredibly moving, as she finally gains some sort of closure, and begins to understand more than ever that her Peter was a very special person indeed. But that conversation wasnt even the most tear jerking for me! No, that was reserved for Gwens over-excited grilling of an understandably wary Peter...
Hey! Wait! Is there... is there a me.... a Gwen in your world??
Is she cool?
But... but older. You know, uh, my age.
Okay, well, wow. Can I ask a question without sounding weird? Are you dating her?
You didnt let me answer if you could ask me something without sounding weird. And its... boy, uh, its a whole thing.
Youre dating MJ arent you?
Is... is there an MJ here?
Oh you better believe it...
Like, your age?
Yikes. Is she a model yet?
In my world shes kind of... a supermodel.
SUPERMODEL??!! Are you kidding me? A supermodel with red hair and glasses?
Well, she wears, yknow, contacts.
She gets to be a model? What am I then??
Whew... In terms of dialogue this book is the perfect example of how to write engaging, moving, dare I say, profound conversations. Marvel really should hand this work out to every single new writer, and more than a few of the existing ones, as the example to follow. As I mentioned, whilst the real content of this book are the people, there is still a superhero story to be told, and Bendis tells it with aplomb and relish, working in Nick Fury and the Ultimates for good measure, plus even finding time to finish up with an absolute killer of a cliff-hanger that leaves no doubt whatsoever there will be a sequel to this tale. Im looking forward to that already! Ive just realised I havent even mentioned Sara Pichellis art, which is superb, just the perfect foil for Bendis on this title. I could easily wax lyrical about it for several paragraphs as well. Instead Ill leave the final words to Peter and Miles who are of course, a natural comedy double act...
Its your super villain retirement party!!