Friday, September 2, 2011

Ultimate Spider-Man, Volume 1: Power and Responsibility

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Superheroes (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Ulitmate Spider-Man #1-7
Year: 2000-2001
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis (w/Bill Jemas)
Art: Mark Bagley (pencils)
         Art Thibert & Dan Panosian (inks)


So now that we've got the first entry out of the way and I've shown you that comics can be more than just musclebound lugs in tights, let's show you a... well...  He's not a lug...  But Spider-Man's definitely a superhero.

In the spirit of the recent DC relaunch, Marvel Comics (in 2000) wanted to try making their characters younger and hipper again.  They wanted to (much like DC in this recent reboot) give readers who'd never picked up a comic before a chance to get in on the ground floor with characters whom they probably knew by sight, but that also had years of intimidating history behind them.

This effort to breathe life into the old characters began with Spider-Man in Ultimate Spider-Man #1.

The book we're taking a look at here is the first seven issues of this long-running series (which lasted until 2009).

So, a note in the front of this book reads, "Based on the orignal story in Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko."  And that's pretty much what we get here.  If you know the story of Spider-Man (which many now do with the films and such out), you're really not going to get any surprises here.

The mild-mannered Peter Parker, your average science nerd, is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains super strength and agility, gains the ability to cling to walls and climb around like a spider, and uses his noodle to put together the web-shooting contraptions that he'll later use to swing around the city.

Many of us know the story of Spider-Man, but how many have ever read Amazing Fantasy #15 and the story where the wall crawler swung into existence?  Despite having read comics for 20 years, I haven't.  I could, I suppose.  It's reprinted out there somewhere and easy to find.  How much would it hold my interest, though, having been written in 1962?  How much would it hold a teenager's?

That's one of the things that's great about Ultimate Spider-Man. It's new, it's fresh, it looks like today's comics (especially from the perspective of a teen in the year 2000), and it's got all that legacy, that history, that moral that Stan Lee was trying to get across almost 40 years prior... And it's in this spiffy new comic helmed by a writer who became a legend and a damn fine art team.

Ultimate Spider-Man, Volume 1 gets you right in there.  You don't have to have even seen Spider-Man before.  You experience the fear, the bullies, the high-school life, the discovery of having superpowers right there with Peter Parker.

Bendis' usual wit comes through and he finishes up the book with and action sequence that made me flip the pages so hard, I almost tore 'em out.  A great, stylized, re-imagining of the myth that most of us know, but have never experienced quite like this.

Mark Bagley was no stranger to having drawn Spider-Man at this point either.  The art is dynamic and exciting, yet also conveying deep emotion when needed.  Let's face it, being a teenager is gonna involve a lot of that.  Bagley and crew come through, *ahem* amazingly, whatever the situation.

It was probably no small task to streamline and modernize some of these characters to get that whole "Ultimate" brand rolling.  It was one of the things at least I, as a reader of several "Ultimate" books, have always looked for when picking them up.  It's always cool to see how the new incarnations of the characters are gonna look.  There's no shortage of cool here as they take the Green Goblin from this:

to this:

All-in-all, this one was a fun, exciting, humorous superhero romp, just like we've come to expect from most Spider-Man books and Brian Michael Bendis, and definitely worth at least one flip-through.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 3 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
2 down, 498 to go


  1. First off, thanks for posting a comment on my blog. Super cool.

    How did I miss this last night? Ah well, you must've posted it after I went to bed. Can I make a suggestion? Maybe somewhere within the post put in the chapter/genre that the story came out of...

    Otherwise this is still rolling along very nicely. I think I've loved everything I've ever read by Bendis (which isn't much) and that picture of Ultimate Green Goblin is pretty badass. Keep 'em comin'.

  2. I thought about putting the chapter/genre of the book where each graphic novel comes from, but didn't want to "horn in" on Mr. Kannenberg's book too much more.

    What are your thoughts on whether someone writing a book of this nature minding that I add all that info? Think it'd be a problem or not?

    Either way, bro, I'll be awaiting your reply and thanks for the kind words.

    Tonight may see another entry if I can keep my eyes open. Tomorrow more than likely will, if not. Be sure to keep your thoughs coming! Love it!

  3. Also, yeah, some other things from your posts I forgot to address...

    I DID post this one late last night, so maybe that's why you didn't see it right off.

    And, yeah... Bendis pretty much rocks. I love how he can write a great quality story and still make the reader laugh out loud in parts with some of those one-liners. It seems like Spider-Man is one of his favorite characters to do that with, and there was no shortage of either quality or sudden hilarity in this book.

  4. I think anyone who writes a book of this nature has to anticipate more than a handful of people trying their best to read everything in it. I don't think it would be a problem at all. I'll keep my eyes on the blog dude, great stuff so far.

  5. Thanks again, bro.

    You're, of course, right. I just get a bit paranoid about such things (and EVERYTHING!).

    I think I'm gonna go back and edit the first couple posts to include this info.

    Also, something else I forgot: No problem with the posting on your blog. I'll do that from now on instead of just tweeting you. That'll give your blog more action and add some discussion points to it!

    Thanks for the sound advice!