Our pubescent protagonist Peter Parker just put the hurt on both Ultimate Ock and Kraven the (Crocodile) Hunter in back-to-back butt-kicking sessions. Granted, Ultimate Kraven apparently has no super powers and was knocked out in one punch. Also, Justin Hammer died of a heart attack during the Issue-20-long Ock/Spidey melée.
Spidey gets a huge PR boost out of all of this, though. Following a round of applause by the locals, our hero comes off looking great after the televised battles and subsequent interview. But, the old Parker luck strikes again as he returns to the homestead at 3am to a worried-angry Aunt May. "Finally... big time super hero... and I'm grounded." - Peter.
|Writer:||Brian Michael Bendis|
|Cover Art:||Mark Bagley|
The latest band of crooks Spidey disposes of are tazer-weilding X-Games rejects complete with a spiffy mantra ("Twice as sweet as money earned") and riveting Gen-X catchphrases like "Booyaah!!" Equally unimpressed as the reader, Spidey informs them that the would-be robbers are not in his league. Postive crowd reaction aside, a late-for-class Spidey high-tails it back to school, suffering the indignities of the hot school roof and making a smashing (literally) entrance into Chem class. Naturally, Peter the Science whiz nails all of the teacher's questions about moles and avogardo's number.
After class, Mary informs Peter that Kraven's show has been cancelled. Peter, in turn, informs Mary that he's indefinitely grounded and will likely have to ditch the Bugle gig and hang up the webs for a while. Just as Peter and Mary are about to commit to some makeout time, who should show up outta no where but...Harry Osborn! Harry breaks off his friendship with Flash Thompson (who couldn't find the time to keep in touch with poor Harry) and meets Gwen Stacy in the process. However, the real shocker comes when Harry informs Peter that his dad, Norman, has invited Peter over for dinner. Apparently, Harry's convinced that everything he said about his dad being The Goblin was an episode induced by his mother's death. Not only that, but Harry claims his relationship with his dad is great, which is the total opposite of what we've last seen between them. A noticeably worried Peter declines the invitation on account of his being grounded.
On the way home, Peter realizes that Norman Osborn knows everything about him and his powers and uses his punishment as an excuse to lay low for a while. But laying low becomes impossible when he sees a limo parked in front of his house. Inside the Parker homestead, an impressed Aunt May informs Peter that he has a one-night respite from his grounding. Peter has no choice but to follow Ms. Brooke, Norman's assistant, into the limo and into Manhattan, where the Osborns live.
On their arrival, Harry greets Peter and talks in the elevator about double-dating. Looks like Harry's got a thing for Gwen Stacy. When the elevator gets to the Obsorn Penthouse, Harry goes to a meeting with therapist, leaving Peter at the door of the office of the man who holds Peter's entire life in his hands. Worried but resolute, Peter enters the door into Norman's office, where a clip of yesterday's battle with Doc Ock is playing. Laughing, a smiling Norman tells Peter he's watched the clip so many times that he thought he'd burn a hole in his Tivo. Norman informs Peter that his illustrious but brief career as Spider-Man is over. Norman then willingly injects himself with a syringe prompting his transformation into an evolved version The Goblin in front of a terrified Peter.
Note: This issue also featured Part One of "Jay Leno & Spider- Man: One Night Only." This god-awful serial which brings back repressed memories and chunks of the anti-drug themed "Fast Lane Marvel Insert from a couple of years back , only without the benefit of a socially redeeming message. Zimmerman delivers a no-yuk story of Jay Leno trying to get a hero (the story could have used any hero, it just happens here to be Spidey) to do a commerical or some jazz. Needless to say, this story does NOT affect the rating of the actual story in here.
We've now had almost two years to adjust to the remarkable artwork and top-notch dialogue that Ultimate Spider-Man has consistently delivered. As such, the beginning of this new arc doesn't initially seem as groundbreaking or riveting as the others. And the suprises really weren't all that suprising. The Spider-Man movie came out this month, so we know the Green Goblin was bound to make an apperance. Harry's return is just a happy by-product. Then again, I may have just gotten used to the higher standards now that we have Jenkins and Strazynsky to compare Bendis against instead of Mackie and Byrne.
However, the genius of Bendis is not the use of plot devices and bombshells, but rather his expert characterization and execution of plot. You wonder Bagley and Bendis would waste the valuable pages of a double-issue on Rocket-Racer wannabees of villans until you realize the condescending attitude Peter had towards them was the nsame Osborn employed towards Peter. And Harry, who spent much of his time in the core titles in and out of therapy, now finds himself being convinced that his father is NOT the Goblin nor is their relationship tumultous. Since you get the idea that Norman's messing with his son's head, his bad-ass level rises significantly.
We also see an escalation of the feelings between Peter and Mary, from the teen crush level we saw in the Kingpin arc to a deeper affection that I'm sure the old Spider-Man fans hope will grow into outright love. Of course, Harry's return having interrupted a Peter-MJ makeout session may well be foreshadowing. Having Harry move in on Gwen is also a fascinating move, as it may fuel a bit of jealousy in Peter. And hats off to Bendis for writing an Aunt May that's simultaneously contemporary and classic in her unwittingly and gleefully ushering Peter off to possible doom despite her stern discipline and geniune hurt of the last issue.
Hm, when do you think Flash will finally come out of the closet? Ok, so maybe this wasn't critical review so much as fanboy speculation. But good enough a work will fuel interest in asking these kinds of quesions in even the most critical of minds. Add the consistently fine art of Bagley and inks of Thibert and you have yourself a four-web start to what will hopefully be another memorable story arc for what's arguably the best Spider-book around.
Four webs out of five.