Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Peter and Mary Jane recently got back together. Their relationship is thriving despite Peter's daily travails as Spider-Man and the presence of his ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde at Midtown High School.

In Detail...

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3
Dec 2008 : SM Title
Summary: Mary Jane Watson
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Artist:  David Lafuente
Staff Only
Issue
Review

Peter and Mary Jane lie in bed together thinking about their relationship. Mary Jane wonders if they should go to the next level. The scene ends before we can get Peter's thoughts.

The next day there is an obvious rift between Mary Jane and Peter. Kitty and her current beau Kong meet up with Peter to discuss what is wrong with Mary Jane. In frustration, Peter storms out and dons his Spider-Man costume for a patrol through the city, wishing he could hit something. Peter's luck is in fine form as a speeding car trailed by numerous police interrupts his thoughts. Spider-Man manages to save the day in spectacular fashion, actually earning the praise of the police.

The next day, Jessica Jones huddles with her high school newspaper staff. They discuss the car chase in depth. Mary Jane is worried when talk turns to Spider-Man's secret identity. Jones figures that Spider-Man goes to their school and that the newspaper staff will devote their attention to his exploits.

Mary Jane breaks the ice with Peter at lunch break. Instead of their relationship issues, Mary Jane broaches the subject of the car chase and Jessica Jones's interest in Spider-Man. Peter recounts how the police praised his actions. It turns out that the car chase was a classic distraction. The catch being that a robbery occurred after the getaway. The police have identified a pattern and a suspect they dub Mysterio. Mary Jane, oblivious to Peter's discomfort over their relationship talk, vows to solve the mystery of Mysterio.

Later that day, Mysterio meets with a cop on the take. They discuss the interference of Spider-Man. Mysterio determines that he needs to lie low until he can resume his criminal activities. Naturally, Spider-Man breaks up the clandestine meeting along with the police. However, Mysterio is more than he appears sprouting an intensely bright mist from his head. The building bursts into flames while Spider-Man and Mysterio engage in a brief battle. The villain escapes while the police help Spider-Man escape from the doomed building.

Peter goes to Mary Jane's bedroom after his ominous encounter with Mysterio. Mary Jane's theory of an inside job in the police force was correct. Talk turns towards their relationship. Mary Jane loves peter and feels that they should go all the way. However, Peter feels differently, stating his reasons for not pressuring Mary Jane. They both agree if they weren't fifteen that they'd marry each other. Peter and Mary Jane share a loving kiss as the night goes on...

Meanwhile, Mysterio plots his revenge on Spider-Man.

In General...

Brian Michael Bendis promised in numerous conventions and interviews that he'd address the thorny topic of Peter's virginity in this annual. The short answer is that Peter hasn't done anything with Mary Jane. The long answer is a bit more complicated and makes Bendis's rationale for Peter's holding back dubious and far-fetched.

Mary Jane is the one who actually wants the relationship to go all the way. She seems overly eager, not really befitting a fifteen year old girl. I may not be a teenager any more but I have to believe that most teenage girls are not clamoring for a night of intimate embrace with their boyfriends.

Furthermore, I don't buy Mary Jane's dialogue as even plausible for a fifteen year old, even in the realm of superhero comic books. Let's be honest, Peter and Mary Jane are right for each other. But let us not bring up marriage. Frankly, those lines were disturbing and I would run away if I were in Peter's shoes. It has already been established time and time again that Peter and Mary Jane's relationship is unique. There's also a weak attempt at ambiguity by cutting off the scene at the kiss.

David Lafuente was an odd choice for the annual. The dramatic scenes where Peter and Mary Jane discuss their feelings are made even more implausible by his art. I am not saying that Lafuente is a poor draftsman. I am saying that he is the wrong choice for a premise built on small intimate exchanges between our two main characters. Some of cutesy abstractedness distracts from what is being said. Mary Jane even appears to have gigantic hairy feet in one of the panels. Lafuente works far better where Mysterio is concerned.

And here lies the sole strength of the issue...the Mysterio subplot saves the issue from being a waste of $3.99. Ultimate Mysterio runs circles over his 616 counterpart in actual creepiness, villainy, and motivations. There are no elaborate ruses, only carefully thought out distractions on Mysterio's part. Here, Lafuente's strengths as an artist shine, particularly where the redesign of the infamous fishbowl head look is concerned. Bendis writes him solidly as well, obviously saving him for a future story arc.

Overall Rating...

Mysterio's presence saves an otherwise horrible attempt at addressing the intimacy of Peter and Mary Jane's relationship. Real teenagers don't act and talk like they do in this annual's pages. Let's actually give them some credit. Skip the Mary Jane – Peter scenes and read the Spider-Man – Mysterio scenes. It all adds up to 2 and a half webs.