Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #2

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Issue two in Marvel's exciting new series featuring a young Peter Parker. Last issue Peter was bitten by an OZ-infused spider, causing him to miraculously develop some pretty cool spider-like abilities. Norman Osborn, determined to cover up the existence of his secret wonder-drug OZ, has been trying to have Peter killed.

So far, due to the onset of Peter's new powers, that hasn't worked. Perhaps Osborn needs to try a different approach...

Welcome to the "Spidey Recap" - a distinctly Linux Gnome inspired screenshot of what happened in the last issue. This is nice, will appeal to the target audience and is actually quite useful to refresh the memory before embarking on the new issue. I hope it's a feature that Marvel continue in future issues. It also leverages off the fact that Marvel have published the entire Ultimate Spider-Man #1 on their website. My only gripe here is the fact that the word "Previously" appears 3 times around the page. We get the idea, guys!

In Detail...

"Growing Pains"
Ultimate Spider-Man #2
Dec 2000 : SM Title
Summary: Regular "Car" Cover
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Co-Plot:  Bill Jemas
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils:  Mark Bagley
Inker:  Art Thibert
Cover Art:  Mark Bagley
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 Reprinted In: Komikai Ultimate Spider-Man (Promo Reprint) #2
 Reprinted In: Marvel Must Haves #8
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Ultimate) #1
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Collected Edition (Reprints #1,2,3)
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Spider-Man Reprints (Hardcover) #1
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Tales Flip Magazine #2

It's another school day and the same teacher from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is alive and kicking at Midtown High! He's in full swing with a history lesson, and the students are anything but interested. Even Peter Parker, usually such a conscientious student, can't concentrate. His body is coursing with new energy that he can't control. Suddenly, every muscle contracts and Peter shatters his desk like it was made from matchsticks!

Peter retreats to the toilet block to recover. He can't understand what's going on at all. Then he notices that his biceps are bulging like never before. He's changing folks!

Later that day, it's gym class and Peter is again the object of scorn, even from the gym coach. Flash starts to make unwanted advances to Mary Jane, and Peter fires a basketball at his head like a cannonball! Flash is furious and vows to get even after school. Cut to the fight scene - Flash just can't seem to land a blow. Peter's ducking, he's weaving, he's untouchable. Suddenly Peter's had enough, he blocks a powerful punch from Flash, breaking Flash's hand!

Later that evening, Kong is paying a visit to Harry Osborn. He's just gotta spill his guts about Peter breaking Flash's hand in a fight. Norman Osborn is listening to the conversation, and asks Harry to bring Peter by the Lab.

Cut to the Parker residence in Forest Hills, Queens. Pete's in trouble for fighting. The Thompsons want Ben and May to cough up $2500 for the hospital bills to fix Flash's hand. They don't have the money. Much later that night, Peter is again subjected to an episode where his body springs into action, waking him from his fitful slumber. He leaps out of his upstairs bedroom window clad in black, and heads over to an abandoned warehouse. Cutting loose, he leaps to the roof, adhering there with his fingers and toes. There's an old car wreck rusting away in the corner. Peter hoists it above his head and tosses it across the warehouse!

The next morning, Peter joins Uncle Ben and Aunt May for flapjacks. He apologises for his outburst the night before, and May notices that he doesn't have his glasses on anymore. Seems Peter's eyesight has improved along with the other changes.

After school, Peter and Harry Osborn pay a visit to Osborn Industries, as requested of Harry by Norman earlier. We meet Dr Otto Octavius for the first time, he's one of the head scientists at OI. Octavius manages to take a blood sample from Peter against his will, which he analyses and compares with the previous sample they obtained last issue. Octavius reports to Osborn that Peter is now stable, healthy and has a vastly increased metabolism. Osborn makes plans to repeat the spider bite on another person...

In General...

Here's where I have to mention my trepidation. You see, right after Peter threw the car in the old warehouse, one of his wrists swelled up. I hope I'm wrong, but this looked to me an awful lot like Marvel are hinting that THIS incarnation of Spider-Man will have biological web-spinners.

If you've followed the progress of the upcoming Spider-Man movie, you'll know that director Sam Raimi is apparently going to have Peter develop a pair of large spinnerets on his wrists, shooting web made of Peter's own bodily fluids. I'd hate to think Marvel would be willing to change such an integral part of their premiere comic book hero simply to better tie in with what a movie portrayal will depict. Surely it should always remain the other way around! I hope this isn't where the story is headed, especially after showing us early rudimentary plans for the web fluid currently in development by Peter.

The pace of the story-telling is moving nicely though. Back at the beginning of the issue, in the scene where Peter spasms and destroys his desk, you can clearly see some doodlings on his notepad. The early designs for the Spider-Man costume are taking shape! Peter's got the spider motif sorted, and the distinctive eyes are present on the mask!

I still think Brian Michael Bendis is having Peter lose his "geeky school nerd" image a little too fast. In just two issues, fellow students have witnessed Peter perform a smackdown on huge Kong, smash a steel and timber desk to smithereens, hurl a basketball with enough force to knock Flash down, and break Flash's fist in a fight. All this after they saw him bitten by a honking great spider! I know that the idea is to make Peter Parker attractive to new younger readers, but a crucial part of Peter's appeal has been the fact that we the reader share Peter's secret identity. We feel the quiet satisfaction Peter feels when Flash disses him in front of his peers. I trust Bendis, he just better know what he's doing is all!

I'm performing an anthropological experiment myself with Ultimate Spider-Man. I have bought a second copy of these first two issues and handed them to my 14 year old kid brother, who hasn't really collected comics actively. So far, all signs point to YES!

Overall Rating...

I wanted to give this comic 4 webs. I really did. The artwork is excellent Bagley at his best, the story pace and detail superb. So why didn't I? Those pesky organic web-spinners! Even though it's by no means definite, just the thought that Marvel would cowtow to Sony like this drops the book a half-web in my estimation.

[Editor's note - with the subsequent clarification that Peter's shooters are not organic, we figured we had to give that half-web back again!]

I'll get over it, and I'm sure you will too. Enjoy the series, Bendis and Bagley are putting out an excellent title here.