Comics : Spider-Man: Ultimate Picture Book #1

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Published by Big Guy Books, this is a 10 ¾ by 9 ½ inch 48 page paperback using text to tell the story but dominated by photographs wonderfully embellished by a "3D and Special Effects Digital Illustrator".

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Ultimate Picture Book #1
Year 2002 : SM Title
Find ISBN 1929945221
Publisher:  Big Guy Books Inc.
Writer:  Kathleen Duey
Storyboards:  Rain Ramos
Photographer:  Robert Gould
Digital Art:  Eugene Epstein
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Review

The plot essentially follows Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man. Pete gets his powers at Osborn Industries, Uncle Ben has a ponytail, Norman Osborn experiments on himself and turns into a big green monster. All of that. The fight with Crusher Hogan and the Burglar he could have stopped and didn't and the murder of Uncle Ben. All of that, too. The text is written from Peter's point of view and it does its job very well (so, kudos to writer Kathleen Duey) but, let's face it, none of that is the important thing here. We all know the story backwards and forwards. This book is all about the pictures.

It works a little bit like this. Actors were hired to play all of the different characters. A fellow named Raphael Arcuri plays Peter Parker. Mark Flanagan plays Norman Osborn. Hayley Jean plays Mary Jane. And so on. The actors are photographed in labs, on the street, on the steps at High School and other locations. Then Eugene Epstein, the aforementioned Special Effects Digital Illustrator, embellishes the pictures. As soon as you open to the first page and see Stan Lee playing the head scientist at Osborn Industries, you know that this is a labor of love. I thought the parts were wonderfully cast but, even if you don't agree, you can't deny that you can tell at a glance who everyone is. (Even Kong makes an appearance.) The details are marvelous with everything from Peter's photo on the book shelf in his room to the Arachnid text on a computer screen to the Crush logo on the floor of the wrestling ring to Norman Osborn's angular somehow creepy company symbol on his tiepin.

How does the real mesh with the digital? Well, it's not like you can't tell the difference. In the Crusher Hogan fight, Spider-Man is obviously illustrated. The battle with the Green Goblin is essentially drawings matted over photographic backgrounds. But instead of looking silly, Epstein has artistically stirred it all together to create an entirely different looking world altogether. Some of the images are true gems. I particularly like Peter's spider-sense on page 11, Peter climbing on his ceiling and walls on pages 16-17, Pete lifting a car at night in a junkyard on page 20, and Pete staring at his mask in the moonlight on page 48. It is neither the look of the movie nor of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book. It has a look of its own and that look is successful enough to highly recommend this book.

In General...

I went to two of the biggest comic book stores in New York City asking for this book. Not only did they not have it, neither of them had even heard of it! I'm not sure what that means but if you have a hard time finding it, it looks like you can order directly from the publisher at www. bigguybooks.com. The cover price says $8.95 but it looks like it goes for $15.95 on the website

Alternatively, follow the link next to the thumbnail to find it for $11.17 at Amazon (all prices subject to change and availability, naturally).

But at either price, it's an essential addition to any Spider-Man collection.

Overall Rating...

Five webs.