Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David LaFuente, Sara Pichelle, Joelle Jones, Sunny Gho, Jamie McKelvie, Skottie Young
After the Chameleon debacle ending with Spidey’s public profile tarnished more than usual (followed by a short and sloppy villain fight to open the issue), Carol Danvers and S.H.I.E.L.D. finally decide to step in and do something. What that something is, Danvers doesn’t know, so she consults three of the top super heroes of all Ultimate Marveldom, all of whom conveniently just so happen to have short tales of recent encounters with our young Spider-Man on hand to tell.
Using short stories to exemplify the character is an old stand by for anniversary issues such as this. It’s a sort of shotgun approach in presenting as much as you can so that the readers can enjoy at least some aspect of this celebration that is otherwise interrupting the pace of the monthly story. Fortunately, that isn’t the case with these shorts, all written by Bendis, play into both the underlying issue story and the overall book as the threat of S.H.I.E.L.D. intervention has loomed over Ultimate Spidey’s life from early in the title.
The shorts feature Iron Man, Captain America and Thor as they encounter Spider-Man in their average adventures. Each develops a different impression of the young web slinger, and Bendis does a good job maintaining the same smart and brave, yet young novice character while putting him in a variety of scenarios to naturally develop these impressions.
The only real disconnect here is one I’ve often had with the title. Peter Parker never grows. The book has been out for a decade, and he’s maybe aged one full year? That’s with the in-story six month gap between Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. Peter acts somewhat childish towards the end that seems like should have been over years ago (although that may be some artistic exaggeration to be discussed further down).
The overall issue has plenty of Spidey action for the action enthusiasts, and it’s taking the character in an interesting direction that even his 616 counterpart (the original) never has the opportunity for at the same age. There’s not much to it depth wise or character wise, but that for after this turn. For now, it’s an entertaining enough read (although not worth $6)
Each different part has a different artist, and their styles are plenty varied. Series regulars David LaFuente and Sara Pichelle start off the book. LaFuente has gotten better with the character with a fight against a gimmicky robber, compared to when I reviewed Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 in August 2009. Pichelle doesn’t get to show off in action scenes, and while her characters are generally ok, I just can’t get over how young her Peter Parker looks. The supposed 16 year old looks prepubescent 13-14, getting lectured by parents who, to quote The Fresh Prince, “just don’t understand” when Carol Danvers lays down the law.
The guest artists pick up the work for the Iron Man, Captain America and Thor team-up tales. Joelle Jones and Sunny Gho’s work on the Iron Man story is decent. The detailing is good, and the stylized angular design is neat, but the coloring looks a bit faded, and all the characters look oddly short. Not to mention the action pacing is off with some bits missing a panel and others with too many.
Jamie McKelvie does some clean work on the Captain America story, and it looks fine. The art feels pretty static and motionless at times, particularly with some awkward Captain America jet pack flight moments. McKelvie also commits one of my Spider-Man pet peeves and has one of Spidey’s lenses on his mask wince like an actual eye. Tsk tsk.
The Thor story by far has the most interesting artistic style that I would like to see in a compilation such as this, thanks to Skottie Young. It looks like a children’s monster story, with a cool roughly drawn look and simulated printing dots. Scale is thrown out for exaggeration and simplicity to get the story across of a young teen and a god fighting a giant monster in what looks like could be found in the children’s section of your local library.
Most everyone does a decent enough job, but flaws here and there (too young Peter, bad pacing, static art) stack up to knock off points. Young does a new and neat interpretation of the art style, but no one else is as inventive, nor does anyone else particularly bring out their A game for this anniversary issue.
This would have been a decent book at $3.99 (or at $2.99 if Marvel got off their high horse and joined DC in dropping their regular titles’ prices), but this is an extra large $5.99 issue. And what does it have inside to pump up the cost? A reprint of 2002’s Ultimate Spider-Man: Super Special #1. It’s a fine issue on its own. Like this current issue, it too told a single story through several shorts with guest artists. However, considering that there’s more of this simple reprint in this book than there is of the actual issue itself (the centerfold of the book doesn’t even happen until several pages into the reprint), it’s a cheap rip-off of $6 from readers who wanted more story and less rehashing what many may have already read (I know I did back in 2002).
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10