Ultimate Spider-Man #36

Background

While Eddie Brock and Gwen Stacy dance the night away at a reggae concert, their mutual friend Peter Parker sneaks into a university lab to take a sample of a refrigerated black liquid.

But this isn't any ordinary goo. The stuff was the final work of Peter's dad and Eddie's dad. The liquid, Eddie told Peter, was meant to form a "suit" over the wearer, curing said wearer of any disease, and enhancing his existing strengths and abilities.

But, as with many other things in Peter's life, the attempt to take his own sample for testing goes awry as he accidentally spills some on his hand. Sure enough, he is encased in a black, protoplasmic bodysuit that exponentially increases his strengths and abilities.

And when you're Spider-Man, this comes in quite handy. At first, Peter is exhilarated by the rush of such power, dispatching both a band of kidnappers and the nefarious Shocker with the greatest of ease. But when the suit nearly drives Peter to kill a burglar, Peter has to wrestle it for control.

When he inadvertently leaps into some power lines, he manages to zap the suit clear off. And, when we last saw Peter's smoking torso, it was resting on the gravesite of his parents and uncle.

Story 'Today'

Eddie and Gwen are hanging out in Eddie's dorm room, when Gwen notices that Eddie is giving the very same "five years from now" speech that he gave Peter some time back. Eddie moves in for a kiss, but Gwen cuts him off. She tells him that she didn't come here to fool around. Gwen storms out, leaving a sullen Eddie to turn on the TV.

The news is on, and he sees Spider-Man saving the day, all day...in a black costume! Eddie immediately rushes to the lab, only to find Peter hovering over his refrigerated locker. When Eddie sees the footprints on the walks and the open ceiling window, he demands to know what's going on. Peter insists that they destroy the black liquid. Eddie makes a grab for the beaker, only to be picked up by Peter. And then Eddie demands to know what's going on.

...And so, Peter explains EVERYTHING, and then goes into a rather long speech. He feels that they aren't smart enough to keep such a dangerous thing out of the wrong, slimy hands. Again, he insists they get rid of it. Eddie protests that it's all he has left of his father, but Peter says their parents would want them to destroy it. Seemingly reluctant, Eddie lets him take it.

Peter takes off and finds himself atop an industrial chimney. Peter drops the black liquid into the fire, looking much like his father when he does it, and watches the dream burn. Once he comes home, he finds Gwen home on the couch. She tells him May is at a PTA meeting, perhaps to discuss Peter's apparent lack of focus. Then, Gwen angrily reports the whole incident with Eddie, decrying him to Peter as "dirtbag," a "scuzball", and a "herb." Eddie was told that Gwen's father just died, and he still made a move for Gwen. Peter tries to say Eddie's not all bad, but Gwen insists, trusting her "almost superhuman sense about these things," that he's a bad guy.

And, Eddie makes a strong case for this label. After Peter left, Eddie talks to himself, cursing that "fifteen year-old mutant" for taking the sample. But all is not lost. Eddie merely opens up another locker containing the sample: "Separate, so you can keep the figures straight... guess they didn't get to that in high school bio yet."

Eddie reaches into the black liquid.

General Comments

Eddie Brock IS a herb. He's a bitter, resentful, manipulative, condescending little urchin whose advances on Gwen are as inappropriate as his skeevy little soul patch. He rashly writes off Peter's warnings a bit more quickly than he should, which mirrors the rashness Peter demonstrated took the sample in the first place. He'll probably wear the black suit with somewhat less poise.

He's not as clear-cut a jerk as mainstream Eddie Brock is/was, though. Again, I'll say, he's a great mirror to hold up against Peter, seeing what another set of circumstances could have done to a nephew of Aunt May.

Using Gwen to expose Brock was a masterful touch at the hands of Bendis. It also throws us all for a bit of a loop. The wild-girl exterior Gwen seems to flaunt would make it seem like she'd be a bit more willing to go with a "sophisticated" college guy. Suddenly, she's broken out of a stereotype many readers placed her in, and emerged from it with a bit more complexity, which she'll need to stay in the story as often as she is.

Strangely enough, the only character that seemed a little out of his element was Peter himself. I was not convinced that this long speech about the suit's destructive potential was being given by a fifteen year old who just got zapped by who knows how many kilowatts of electricity...even if that zapped teen happens to be Spider-Man. Of course, that may be the point...that somehow, Peter is channeling his own father's reluctance, trying to pry another Brock from the brink.

Good art, as always, particularly on the pages where Peter, who looks a lot like his father on the fourth panel, dumps his inheritance down an industrial chimney. Also, Eddie looks much more evil in this issue, as well he should, since he sounds and feels a lot more evil. The shadows are rich, perhaps to prepare us for the darkness to come in this story.

This makes some of the artistic pitfalls of the book all the more disappointing. The exchange between Peter and Gwen boasts the same shifts in facial features as the "Ultimatum" issue. Unless, of course, the point is to make Peter look younger and younger as Gwen explains how Nice-Guy-Eddie pulled the wool over his eyes. But I don't buy this explanation, so I'll take points off.

Overall Rating

I don't think there are any faults so glaring that this issue deserves less than 4 webs. For the most part, we see great art, and strong characterization for Gwen and Peter, but especially Eddie, whose exterior ugliness will match his outer ugliness. This issue did it's job: making Eddie enough of a piece of garbage to hate without being so one-dimensional that we lose interest. Next issue, we'll likely see Spider-Man and Venom duke it out. Thanks to this issue, I can say: "Bring it on."