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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Ultimate Comics: Spider-man #25

As the previous issue of Ultimate Spider-man proved, you don't even have to focus on Miles Morales or Spider-man for the comic to still be great.  Brian Michael Bendis poured his all into the introduction of the Ultimate Marvel U's Cloak and Dagger, giving them an origin that was tragic yet beautiful.  While their actions in the present of that issue were questionable, it was hard not to fall in love with the take on the two often forgotten characters in what was one of this series' best issues ever.  Sooner or later, however, you have to return to your main characters, and that is what this issue does.  The question going into the latest Ultimate Spider-man, then, is whether or not Bendis could keep setting the bar even higher after reached new heights just a month ago.

Ultimate Spider-man's version of Spider-man No More continues with this issue as see Miles truly struggling with whether he should continue to act as if he does not have super powers.  Miles' inaction in the recent conflict with Cloak and Dagger at a Chinese restaurant burned many of his bridges with Ganke and Gwen.  After a surprise visit and confession from Jessica Drew, however, Miles finally makes a decision that puts the greater good in front of his own well being.

On some levels, it is a bit disappointing that this is an issue without much story.  After jumping forward a year, this comic has taken a bit of a slower pace, wanting to look at where these characters are at now in their lives and where they are headed.  The only real amount of story we get in this issue once again involves Cloak and Dagger, but, also once again, the characters are so dynamic and well-written that this is hardly something to complain about.  Bendis has not been subtle at all in his set-up over the past several issues that the Roxxon Corporation is going to be a major antagonist very soon.  Not only do they have some connection to the appearance of Venom, but they have also been revealed to been the creators of Cloak and Dagger.  The two normal teenagers were used in a series of cruel experiments by Roxxon to study how normal humans could be given super powers.  It is also probably not too far of a stretch to assume the spider which gave Miles his powers is also associated with Roxxon, meaning that his eventual conflict with that company will be a real full circle moment for this title.  Although such a development could be quite worrisome considering the bleak future of the Ultimate Universe (more on this in a bit).  Overall, though, the lack of story in this issue is not much to falter it with as what story is replaced with is even better.

Instead of giving a broad story as we received last month, Bendis takes the time to develop a great number of his characters with this issue.  While Ultimate Spider-man has been a comic which has told some pretty engaging stories in the past, its greatest strength has always been its character development.  Last month's origin of Cloak and Dagger would not have been nearly as powerful without the emotional investment involved, which is exactly what is played on in this issue.  Miles, Ganke, Gwen, and Jessica all receive large amounts of development in this issue.  With Ganke and Gwen, this development all consists of showing their arguments of why Miles should continue to be Spider-man.  These two characters become embittered with Miles inaction, but it is not due to dislike for the guy.  Something that has been an integral aspect for both of these characters is their passion for seeing Miles come into his own as Spider-man and be a hero.  Ganke has always been the lovable sidekick in this comic, so it is great to see him get a little bit more depth here.  Jessica Drew, or Spider-Woman, is probably the character to get the most development in this issue, and it is something which has been a long time coming.  For a while now, Spider-Woman has been a character who we have seen with her mask on, making her a faceless tormentor of sorts for Miles.  This time we see Jessica with her mask off, allowing for us to see the emotion in her face and to add to the turmoil she describes.  It is an impassioned moment which is written exceedingly well.  You may not like Spider-Woman going into this issue, but you will most definitely love her coming out.  If for nothing else, this is going to be a run on this title that will be remembered for the emotional bonds Bendis has been able to allow us as readers to forge with these fleshed out characters.

The main theme which drives this particular issue is why we need Spider-man.  Each of the characters who receives a lot of development in this issue expresses some sort of reasoning for why Spider-man should exist.  As can be expected, the old stand-by of great power and great responsibility is touched on briefly.  It really makes for an issue that allows the reader to sit back and think about why Spider-man is important to them.  With titles like Superior Spider-man, where the character is such anti-hero it is impossible to root for him, Ultimate Spider-man is really the only title in that family which gives us Spider-man stories filled with hope and promise.  This is why it is dis-heartening that, with the impending arcs Hunger and Cataclysm, it seems the Ultimate Universe may be coming to an end.  Although such a move would certainly have its merits, it is almost something to mourn for because we need Spider-man.  We do not need a Spider-man who is so filled with hate and ego that he looks nothing like the principles the character should stand for.  We need a Spider-man who stands for what is right and gives us hope.  In short, we need this Spider-man.  We need Miles Morales.

It is a little sad that Sara Picheli is no longer drawing this comic, but her work will undoubtedly continue to be fantastic on Guardians of the Galaxy.  On art duties we have Dave Marquez, who does a decent enough job of blending into the style which Picheli made common place on this book.  Marquez does his best work, however, when he is able to draw things which Picheli was not doing, namely anything involving Cloak and Dagger.  These are the moments in the issue where Marquez really gets to put his stamp on his run on the title, and these characters are as beautiful in their design as they are in their writing.  Hopefully Marquez stays on this book for the foreseeable future.

When this run of Ultimate Spider-man comes to an end, this will easily be one of the issues to come back to and show people why this comic mattered.  Not only is it a brilliant demonstration of the way the comic developed its characters, but it makes a thematic statement about the importance of Spider-man that is touching.  Any time a Spider-man book does a Spider-man No More story, we all know it is destined to be short-lived, but if that narrative move is going to be made, we have to hope it is done to remind us why it is important to have Spider-man around.  Although the same cannot be said for every time Peter gave up the costume, Bendis does an astounding job of showing why it is pivotal that Miles return to the costume.  In the process, he also reminds us why this is the type of Spider-man comic we should always have around.

Rating: A+

Summary: Ultimate Spider-man #25 is light on story, but filled to the brim with character development in an issue which reminds us why we love Spider-man and why we need him.
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  1. Well said. Miles made me care about the Ultimate Universe again, and to have it potentially digested by Galactus is... disheartening. I want Miles to have a long legacy of his own. If the rumors are true and he ends up in the main universe, I feel a major part of his uniqueness would be gone.

  2. Thanks! I completely agree, I think moving him to 616 would take away too much (though I appreciate that it shows Marvel cares about him too). You can't move just Miles, you would also have to move the people who surround him, and it would just all be too much.


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