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Spider-Men s/c

Spider-Men s/c back

Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli


Page 45 Review by Jonathan

“Kid, tell me. Is Peter Parker dead?”

I’m 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 Universe’s Peter Parker, and I don’t mind admitting I was struggling to keep a dry eye during this too, in several places. Errr... pretty much throughout, if I’m honest.

I’ll 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 it’s 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 isn’t 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.

It’s 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 don’t, because Bendis achieved a gravitas and dignity, particularly covering the aftermath of Peter’s 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 Peter’s arachnid activities in the Ultimate Universe, she always fought Peter’s (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, it’s quite, quite understandable she’s 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 May’s 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 wasn’t even the most tear jerking for me! No, that was reserved for Gwen’s over-excited grilling of an understandably wary Peter...

“Hey! Wait! Is there... is there a me.... a Gwen in your world??”
“Is she cool?”
“Insanely. But...”
“But... but older. You know, uh, my age.”
“Okay, well, wow. Can I ask a question without sounding weird? Are you dating her?”
“You didn’t let me answer if you could ask me something without sounding weird. And it’s... boy, uh, it’s a whole thing.”
“ You’re dating MJ aren’t you?”
“Is... is there an MJ here?”
“Oh you better believe it...”
“Like, your age?”
“Yikes. Is she a model yet?”
“A model?”
“In my world she’s kind of... a supermodel.”
“SUPERMODEL??!! Are you kidding me? A supermodel with red hair and glasses?”
“Well, she wears, y’know, 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. I’m looking forward to that already! I’ve just realised I haven’t even mentioned Sara Pichelli’s 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 I’ll leave the final words to Peter and Miles who are of course, a natural comedy double act...

“It’s your super villain retirement party!!”
“Good one.”
“Thank you.”
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