Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #118

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This story is part of an Arc: "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Recently Peter and MJ got back together following the events of the Clone Saga. Teenage angst ensued when Peter's ex-girlfriend, Kitty Pryde, started to attend his high school. Spider-Man just witnessed the death of the Goblins (Harry and Norman Osborn). Norman killed his own son, Harry before allowing S.H.I.E.L.D. to kill him (for a recap see Ultimate Spider-Man #117). However, all is not doom and gloom. Spider-Man and the Human Torch have become best buddies.

In Detail...

Ultimate Spider-Man #118
Mar 2008 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends"
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils:  Stuart Immonen
Inker:  Wade von Grawbadger
Cover Art:  Stuart Immonen
Staff Only
Issue
Review

The issue opens with a quick montage of Peter trying to study for school. However, the events of last issue stick in Peter's mind. Another quick montage shows Kenny Kong attempting to get in shape. Kitty is dating him and he wants to make the relationship work. He knows that Peter is Spider-Man. He wonders about Kitty and Peter's earlier relationship.

There's a third montage involving Mary Jane and the daily drudgery of her job as a cashier at a mall food court. She catches up with her best friend, Liz Allan, before her boss orders her back to work. It turns out that Liz isn't feeling herself. Our fourth montage is devoted to Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch of the world famous Fantastic Four. His inner monologue loathes the vapid personality of his celebrity date.

The fifth montage belongs to Kitty at Midtown High. She hates that people look at her differently for being a mutant. She phases into the quietude of the school's gym, thereby shocking cafeteria onlookers.

We return to Midtown High with the montages over. Peter and MJ prepare to enter school. Johnny surprises them with a visit. Peter is worried that his secret identity could be in danger if people see them interact. In contrast, MJ is quite pleased to see Johnny. The trio catches up and Johnny inquires about Liz Allan. Johnny then spots Kitty. He asks about her situation with the disbanded X-Men. Johnny quickly connects the dots between Peter, MJ, and Kitty. Tensions cool off until Iceman shows up, thereby souring Kitty's mood (they dated in Ultimate X-Men). Iceman just wanted to tell Kitty that everyone misses her at the Xavier Institute and that he apologizes for the break-up.

Johnny's attention is diverted when he spots Liz in the crowd. He catches up to her and apologizes for how their first encounter ended up. Liz still isn't feeling well. Johnny asks if they can try again. The look on Liz's face tells you all you need to know.

Meanwhile, Kitty is still raging over Iceman's appearance. The pair makes peace with each other much to the dismay of Kong. Iceman produces note from Wolverine addressed to Kitty. The personal note makes Kitty cry. Johnny suggests that they all go to the beach that night. Kitty persuades Kong to come.

At the beach, the boys hang out in the sand while the girls gleefully frolic in the water. Peter, Johnny, and Bobby discuss movies. The conversation leads to a mention of Nick Fury who has been M.I.A. ever since the events of Ultimate Power (see Ultimate Power #9). The girls interrupt the conversation and order the boys into the water.

Later that night, the party hangs around a bonfire. MJ and Peter share a loving moment. Liz begins to say something to Johnny but bursts into flames.

In General...

Issue #118 is obviously an attempt to lighten the direction of the book post- Death of a Goblin arc. In general, Bendis uses these short arcs as transitional fodder. This is not to suggest that they are bad. We usually get greater insight into Peter's thoughts as well as attention on Peter's strong supporting cast.

Montages all beginning with an obligatory "AAARRGGHH!!!" set up each character's motivations. Peter is clearly grieving but trying to return his life to a semblance of normality. While this issue does not go nearly into depth about peter's feelings, it does make the reader sympathize with him.

Kong's efforts to make himself a better man are commendable. He's come a long way from simply being Flash Thompson's lackey. Bendis writes him as another normal guy to root for. It also gives Kitty a stable person to lean on. Although it is kind of strange that Kong in many ways resembles Bendis (who has repeatedly stated his undying love for Kitty in interviews).

Mary Jane is fed up with all of the minor irritations in her life. However, all of it is rendered moot by the fact that she and Peter are together again. The inclusion of Liz into her narrative shows that she does have a life away from Peter. Bendis is quite careful to never make MJ simply an accessory of Peter.

Kitty's portrayal has never been stronger. One would be hard pressed to find someone who does not like Kitty. It was a wise decision to remove her from Ultimate X-Men and have Bendis develop her. She has a nice rapport with Peter and his supporting cast. Her connections to the Ultimate U make the book part of a larger world. And on that note, I was happy to see Iceman who provided some closure from events over in UXM. Hopefully, Bendis will be able to use him more down the line.

I was actually shocked that the initial set-up dialogue stated that Spider-Man and the Human Torch were friends. Sure, they have interacted in the past and shared some friendly moments. But good friends? I'm not so sure on that account. I like to think of them more as friendly rivals. Perhaps I will change my mind after this arc is done. However, as it stands currently, I feel that Peter and Johnny are being a bit forced to be best buddies by the story's plot.

Stuart Immonen continues to amaze me. He has a wonderful sense of teenage anatomy that sets him apart from many other artists. His teenage women are definitely attractive but are realistically rendered. Immonen also proves he can do lighter scenes as well. There does not have to be an obligatory fight scene in USM to realize Immonen's talent. Immonen's greatest strength may be his ability to render great facial expressions using a minimum amount of line work. In this regard, his Liz Allan is particularly well-done.

Overall Rating...

This was a great set-up. I am impressed with nearly every aspect of the book. Bendis and Immonen are a great duo for this character. Also, the cliffhanger is exciting and provides a new twist to the "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" motif. I can't wait for the next issue to come out.

Footnote...

"Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" was a popular animated televison series from 1981-1983. It featured Spider-Man and the mutant duo of Iceman and Firestar. Firestar, aka Angelica Jones, was an original character for the show. The show depicted them all attending Empire State University and living at Aunt May's house with a pet dog dubbed Ms. Lion. Memorable storylines often involved other Marvel heroes and heroines including Iron Man, Captain America, and various X-Men.