Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #28

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Norman Osborn and Peter Parker, Spider-Man and the Goblin respectively, go at it for several issues. Here are some highlights:

Mary gets tossed off a bridge, old-school style, but survives.

Norman gets pumped full of bullets by S.H.I.E.L.D., but survives and goes to his place to regroup.

Spidey gives chase, and ends up fighting a Goblin with about a half- dozen or so Goblin-formula injections in him. Harry stumbles into seeing this go on, and it just so happens that half of Peter's mask has been blown off. Harry joins a society whose ranks include Mary Watson, Nick Fury, and that creepy shrink-lady: he knows Peter is Spider-Man. Valiantly, Harry picks up a piece of wreckage and stick it straight into his father's back to save his best friend's life.

Nick Fury and the boys at S.H.I.E.L.D. do cleanup on Aisle 10, Harry's off to get de-wired from all of Dr. Warren's "hackwork hypnotherapy", and Fury let's out a bit of a bombshell with future ramifications:

"You're an illegal, unnatural genetic mutation. You turn eighteen-- you belong to me. That's the way it is." -Nick Fury.

So, having gone from Osborn's would-be underling to Fury's will-be underling, bolts, and finds Mary, who's quite upset that she was not informed about ANY of the Osborn business. Things don't look good for our teenage wastelander.

In Detail...

"Sidetracked"
Ultimate Spider-Man #28
Dec 2002 : SM Title
Summary: Rhino Appears
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
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) #28
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Ultimate) #5
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Spider-Man Reprints (Hardcover) #3
 Reprinted In: Ultimate Tales Flip Magazine #15

So, Peter's in the library when his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, bursts in, almost excited, with news that the Rhino on the attack in Manhattan. Mind you, this isn't your father's Rhino, but rather a metal-armored menace that chucks cars, and even school buses, at cops with his horn. So Peter floors it to his locker to get his Spider- duds, but, as the title suggests, the everyday gets in the way of the heroic here. Turns out Aunt May's here for a Parent-Teacher conference.

Mr. Depalma, Peter's math teacher, calls aunt and nephew in to discuss how distracted Peter seems lately. Peter makes up a lie about how he's supposed to be helping a foreign-exchange student and is free to go. Peter dodges that bullet just to find the Principal at the exit, so Peter bolts again. Peter tries his luck at the Cafeteria, slipping into the kitchen and getting an update via the chef's TV. Turns out old Rhino's pissed at the cops for some reason.

So, dig this: Peter's outdoors and about to do the Spider-thing, but finds none other than Gwen Stacy Hhooray! She's back!) crying next to a dumpster. Gwen's mom is leaving home, and Peter clearly wants to comfort her, but needs to get to the Rhino scene, so he promises to find her after school. Peter yells at MJ, who's looking from a window, to get Gwen and talk to her.

Peter takes off yet again, but his early-warning Spider-sense goes off. Peter suffers a ten-point hit to the back of his head by a foot, thrown by your favorite jock/jerk/possible closeted homosexual and mine, Flash Thompson. Peter clearly has no time for this and throws the football far above the school. Flash and his fellow jock-ocrats (including Kong) chase Peter, but Peter turns a corner, and, in classic Spidey-style, when Flash & Co. turn that same corner, Peter's gone!

Finally, Peter's in costume and rushes from Forest Hills to Manhattan to get to the scene. Naturally, by then, Iron Man has neutralized the Rhino's threat. One of Spidey's "adoring" public asks him where he was. And, for once, Spider-Man is at a loss for words. But at least he tried.

Note: Sorry I haven't been around to cover the second Spider-Goblin arc. I'll make it up to the millions and millions of my fans next month, when I review not only the current Ultimate Spider-Man issues, but the arc as a whole! Be here in 30, true believers!

In General...

A one-shot after such a huge story arc is nothing new, but usually welcome. It not only gives the old reader 22 self-contained pages of story to reward his loyalty through the arc, but is usually a great jumping-on point for new readers.

Particularly, in the second respect, this story succeeds. We are introduced to our brainy hero, his girlfriend (Mary), his doting Aunt (May), his troubled teen friend (Gwen), and the bullies that harass him (Flash & Kong). In other words, sans Osborns, all the major players in Peter's life. Also, Bendis lets Mark Bagley draw the frustration and worry on Peter to relate it to us.

But character development is not the name of the game here. Nothing's here's really all that different from the status quo of Issue 21, except for Gwen's troubles at home, which hopefully get more time in future issues. In fact, props for including such an underused character here after four straight issues of action. But, other than her, May still worries (though doesn't seem nearly as naive as her Core-Titles counterpart was early on), Flash and Kong are still jerks, and girlfriend Mary is the only person of consequence in Peter's everyday life that's in on his secret. If anything, I'm a little upset that the tension between Peter and Mary at the end of Issue 27 wasn't explored at all in this ish.

Rhino's as good as any Supervillan to use. Wasn't developed a great deal, and didn't really need to be. And having Iron Man get to him was a nice touch, acknowledging that this Peter Parker truly lives in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. I like the look of Ultimate Rhino, too, thanks Bagley and Thibert!

The art's as strong as ever, as I said. Particularly, in one panel, we see the look on Peter's face after he gets hit in the back of the head with the football. He knows it's Flash before he even turns around, and you don't even need the "Ten Points" hint there. Bagley rocks, people!

Overall Rating...

Entertaining, but nothing special. It's greatest strength is that it's a great jumping-on point for new readers. Too bad it doesn't do a whole lot for the current ones.