Comic Review: Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 2 #18-19

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #18
Story by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils/Inks by David Marquez
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Happy 2013, Ultimate Spider-fans.

I’m pairing the latest issues of Ultimate Spider-Man together, having given us Marvel 616-Universe fans some time to mourn for Peter Parker (or Peter Parker’s… life… force?). The transition from Amazing to Superior Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #700 went better than the previous transition from Peter Parker to Ben Reilly after the ‘Clone Saga’, but wasn’t as elegant an exit as Brian Michael Bendis‘ one for Ultimate Peter Parker. Dying in Aunt May’s arms after saving his loved ones is better than dying in the body of an enemy and just giving up and moving to the west coast. The change of primary universe status quo, plus some extra time and the issuing of Ultimate Spider-Man #19 didn’t go well for issue #18.

I’ve already blew my wad about how Miles Morales didn’t belong in the ‘Divided We Fall’ event because I thought we were going to get away from all that and discover what Spider-Woman had to tell Miles about their relationship. However, for some reason I can’t put my finger on, we get one more installment in the crossover with Miles wandering around empty fields and fighting a Giant Woman.

When I first read the issue, I was happy to see Miles’ personality shine through his encounter. Both his thoughts and actions are well written and show that Miles is able to keep his sense of humor during the battle. Wit was always what made Peter Parker enjoyable as Spider-Man and it’s why Miles Morales is his most acceptable replacement. He remains a 13-year old boy, and that perspective came to define Spider-Man even though all the current Spider Books of the 616-Universe now have a darker twist (Superior, Avenging, Scarlet Spider, Venom). Miles knows his powers and is smart in using them to avoid doing any real damage to the giant woman as he’s wandering through the wilderness. She’s able to see him as some sort of blur in camo mode, so Miles gets conked out and we check in with his parents.

What I thought would be a brief side-story about Jefferson, Miles’ dad, getting into a tussle with some Hydra agents as a way of mellowing the character out for awhile turned out to be much more than that. When he was offered a gun in #16, he ended up using that gun to slaughter the Hydra agents rather than just walk off like I assumed he had. I guess it seems stupid in retrospect, but Jefferson actually showing any of the balls he says he used to have wasn’t on my radar while this larger, nation-wide conflict was playing out. Turns out Jefferson might have some psyche damage, and a tough couple of issues ahead of him – more on that in a bit.

Back in the fields, Miles upper-cuts the Giant Woman and she falls unconscious, giving us one hilarious panel of Miles in the cleavage of two giant breasts.

Jessica Drew shows up, Miles learns the war is over and gets flown home. Jessica mostly just introduces herself and suggests Miles gets a backpack like Peter used to have. Then she cock-teases the audience with some sort of secret and drops Miles off at home just in time for him to slip in before Ganke has to lie. This is only frustrating because longtime readers of Ultimate Spider-Man know that Jessica Drew is actually a clone of Peter Parker from the ‘Ultimate Clone Saga’ a few years back. Is that the secret we’re going to be teased with for a dozen issues? The one that we already know the answer to? Seems like a crap thing to do to the most dedicated fans, but maybe it’s something else and I’m getting impatient.

The problem with the issue overall is that it’s a bit of a hangover issue from ‘Divided We Fall.’ It has to wrap up the story and it only feels weird because it was distributed after the event ended in The Ultimates, it’s main book, and came after a “Point One” issue – an issue that would have been better had it been #18.1 or straight up #19. I’m all for a break to check in with the B characters, but why take a holiday from ‘Divided We Fall’ to set the prelude to what the cover of #19 tells me is ‘Venom War?’ It’s a mystery, but we got through it, and #19 has some great stuff in it, primarily the return of my favorite Ultimate Spider-Man artist, Ms. Sara Pichelli.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #19
Story by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils/Inks by Sarah Pichelli
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Once again, I give credit to Brian Michael Bendis for filling an issue with dialogue and having me like it more than an action-filled installment. After a nationwide war, I’m happy to get back to where we left off – which was with Miles getting Peter’s web-shooters from Aunt May. He had enough cartridges to save Captain America’s life a few times, but now he’s out of web fluid and embarrassingly crashing into lamp-posts within view of people recording video on their iPad. It’s funny that with media being what it is that we still spend as much time with TheDailyBugle.com staff. Not that a character like Betty Brant wouldn’t try to extort as much money as possible for her incorrect guess as to the identity of Spider-Man, but I’m liking how Ganke gets another purpose in the book by commenting on the New Spider-Man’s media appearances.

The most exciting thing in this book, potentially, is a good look at what I can only assume is going to be the Miles Morales love interest. At the bottom of a two-page smart-phone conversation between Miles and Ganke we get a good look at her pink-streaked hair and curious face. I thought she was wearing glasses before, but that might have been me confusing her with Mary Jane. Either way, this character has been background status for a few issues now and I’m eager to pile on a new character since I’m enjoying the Miles Morales batch so much.

Ganke, for instance, is helping Miles make new web-fluid. He’s a partner in crime, he’s a fanboy and he’s something the original Peter Parker could have used: a completely trustworthy friend. Peter always had to earn that status with Mary Jane or rely on other superheroes to be his besties (up to Iceman and The Human Torch living with him for a bit). A normal friend for Miles that knows how things work in the superhero world is welcome and I like the character as a sort of young Foggy (from Daredevil).

Venom – who we haven’t seen since he was being whisked off to Latveria by Ultimate Beetle quite some time ago – either shows up at or escapes from Oscorp, blowing up the building on his way. He’s more muscular through Pichelli’s hand and has a Todd McFarlane-homage jaw with a segmented tongue. I’m for it! – especially considering Mark Bagley’s version occasionally looked like Hexus from Fern Gully.

Maria Hill and Jonah Jameson show up so Jamison can re-cap for readers who skip “Point One” issues and/or didn’t remember ‘Ultimatum’ happened and Jamison changed his song about Spider-Man after seeing him rescue people from the water outside his high-rise window.

Back in more-interestingville, the Morales family is dealing with the fallout from Jefferson’s murder of Hydra agents being seen as some sort of heroic action. He’s being mobbed by reporters, one of him calls him… Mr. Davis? Is Morales the mother’s name? Did they give it to him so he wouldn’t have to be called Miles Davis? IS HIS NAME JEFFERSON DAVIS? (Quick check of Marvel Wiki reveals this all to be true).

Yeesh. Anyway.

Jefferson yells off the reporters and chases them outside to find out how they tracked him down considering he’s unlisted, only to come face-to-face with Venom!

And – ‘Venom War’ is on! Though we don’t know what that is. We know Venom is after Spider-Man, who we can assume he thinks is Jefferson…sigh…Davis…because he got the information (and the spider) from Betty in #16.1. The question would be – Who is inside Venom? He admonished Betty for profiting off things that weren’t hers then either showed up at or re-spawned from Oscorp.

Either way, we’re back on track after getting e-railed for a bit with the Divided We Fall crossover. Pichelli was the first to draw Miles Morales’ world and her all-digital style gives sharp curves and expressive faces to the Morales team. The ‘Divided We Fall’ artists, though talented, had a lot more crazy multi-battles to deal with and would sometimes get the details of these characters wrong.

Ultimate Spider-Man still shines brightest when it’s Miles learning what all this responsibility means in his life – he’s just about to unveil his best-friend-manufactured web fluid. The core group of characters hasn’t gone stale yet, so we don’t need the distractions of body-swapping, character deaths, or cross-over events. There haven’t even been two-dozen issues yet, and all the best ones feature Miles grappling with a problem that’s uniquely his. I’m interested to see how much this Venom War ties into Parker, considering Bendis’ other opportunity to draw connections between the Spider-Man-That-Was and Miles, Jessica Drew, ended up pulling back on the throttle.

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