Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #23

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Spider-Man's latest bout of PLS (Parker's Luck Syndrome) found our fledgeling hero grounded for coming home at 3AM. A lunchtime Spider-outing also made him late for Science Class. His gig at the Bugle, his relationship with Mary, even his superhero career seem like they'll have to go on hold. But wait! All of a sudden, Peter and Mary's close friend Harry Osborn is back! Maybe things aren't so bad, right?

Wrong. For you see, his Big Bad Daddy Norman is back too. For those of you who don't remember, Norman (who knows Peter's secret) transformed himself into this hulking Goblin menace that took out a chunk of Midtown High the last time he showed up. But now he's back, and he's made Peter a dinner invitation the webslinger can't refuse. A terrified Peter instructed to enter Norman's office, where Mister Osborn kindly informs Mister Parker that his webslinging days are done. Osborn proceeds to transform himself into an intelligent manifestation of the Goblin.

In Detail...

"Responsible"
Ultimate Spider-Man #23
Aug 2002 : SM Title
Summary: Norman Osborn Attempts to Control Peter/Spider-Man
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils:  Mark Bagley
Inker:  Art Thibert
Cover Art:  Mark Bagley
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Komikai Ultimate Spider-Man (Promo Reprint) #23
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Ultimate) #4
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Spider-Man Reprints (Hardcover) #2
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Tales Flip Magazine #12

This issue begins in sharp contrast with the last one, with Peter Parker, Spider-Man, swinging triumphantly over Manhattan. That is, until he loses his lunch over a building.

Flashback to twelve minutes ago, when a Goblin-fied Norman is called by an out-of-office Harry. The Green Goblin tells Peter that he, more specifically Doctor Warren (!) has been hypnotizing Harry into thinking that the Osborns are a happy, Goblin-free family. The Goblin injects himself with another syringe and transforms back into his human form. Back to Peter, Norman says "..from this day forward, you belong to me...Your future in this world will be a fine one. One worthy of your budding intellect and power." . Cue the obligiatory threats to Peter, family, and girlfriend if Peter doesn't comply. A horrified and silent Peter merely listens to his life being shaped by this evil man.

Norman and Peter exit the office and watch a video of Norman, alongside his son, being interviewed. His return All the while, Norman's hand is on Peter's shoulder as Harry watches himself on TV. Peter's cool has long since gone, and he bolts out of there faster than Quicksilver.

Back to now, Peter returns home and is visibly upset. After a few questions from Aunt May, Peter breaks down and hugs Aunt May. Once in his basement sanctuary, Peter gets a call from Mary, which is interrupted by a rapping on the cellar door. Turns out to be Gwen Stacy, who's harboring some suicidal tendencies, though not at the cost of her sense of humor. Gwen's mom abandoned her family. Peter informs Aunt May of this, who springs into action, wrapping her robe and telling the boxer-clad Peter to don some pants. One plate of Aunt May's eggs later, Captain Stacy shows up to retrieve his daughter.

The next day, Peter relates the Gwen-related events of the evening to Mary, but before he can get into the Goblin bits, Gwen Stacy tackle-hugs her " own personal super hero" Peter from behind. Gwen says everything's cool now, thanks to Aunt May and her sidekick Peter. Mary's face sinks a bit during this exchange, especially when Gwen tells him to hold on to Peter. Gwen goes off to seek Harry, but before Peter can tell Mary about the strangehold Norman's acquired over Peter's life, he's called away by the P.A. to room 222.

In room 222, Dr. Bradley (who we remember from way back in Issue 10 as the "grief counselor" with a seeming Agenda), drops the bombshell that she knows about both Norman and Peter's secrets. Peter freaks out, and then Dr. Bradley calls in her seeming superior, as a window starts to warp. Peter sees who it is, but we don't. He doesn't seem terrifed though, so maybe that's a good sign.

In General...

Awsome on so many levels. Norman takes his game to a whole new level of badass. Gwen makes a huge transition from peripheral bad girl to front line player, as noted by the art showing Flash and Liz Allen as mere background characters. Also, the Aunt May we see in this issue is far from the doting grandmother-like figure we've seen in the Core Titles, but is played as the adult, a source of stability and order when Peter's whole life has been turned upside-down (and only Peter knows is). She's the real hero of this issue.

But Peter's terror is convincingly played out, more through Bagley's art than Bendis's dialouge, though Bendis writes a damn scary Goblin, a convincing troubled teen in Gwen, and a Gung-Ho Aunt May, finally written as the adult and guardian as opposed to the Core Aunt May, who left Peter to his freedoms. The art also conveys the dark shroud on Peter's life, followed by the light that comes with Gwen's gratitude, and what seems to be a possible ally for Peter. Also, that little mystery upps the fanboy speculation factor. Is it S.H.I.E.L.D? Doctor Strange? Mysterio? Probably something even better, if I know my Bendis!

Overall Rating...

Supporting characters just as complex as the main one. A diabolical and truly evil, yet worthy, villan for Spider-Man. And, for once, the women in Peter's life actually have distinct personalities! All written and drawn extremely well. This title is called ULTIMATE Spider-Man for a reason. Accordingly, Five webs.