If you haven’t read in the news, aren’t a comic reader or you haven’t listened in on our podcast this week (shame on you if you haven’t), the death of Ultimate Spider-Man storyline finishes today marking an end to the 160 issue epic of Peter Parker as our favorite wall crawler. This may seem like nothing to a cynical comic reader who’s been trained over time to expect nothing from an event such as this because we usually suspect the character to show back up once sales start slipping or a movie gets made. I’m not saying that’s not going to happen in the future of this book and that’s not even what this article is going to be about. This article is going to be a celebration of what I feel are the best 160 issues of comic that has ever been made and how the death of this character has truly impacted not only my life as a nerd, but also my understanding of what it means to tell a powerful story.
In the year 2000, Marvel comics started up a new comic series featuring a brand new universe that they titled, Ultimate. The idea behind this was that most of Marvel’s staple characters were created in the 60’s, and while still relevent, they had around 40 years of continuity that made it very difficult for new readers to jump onto. The solution was to craft a world where these classic characters were in a sense rebooted as if they were created in the year 2000. It was a whole new sandbox for creators to play in where they could not only modernize the characters, but try things with them that can’t be done in the regular Marvel universe because of fan attachment or past history. The first book to come out of this was Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.
When this launched I was a Junior in high school. When I was younger I would have read any comic that I could get my hands on, but after stories like Heroes Reborn, The Death of Superman and the Spider-Man Clone Saga, I had grown pretty cynical to superhero comics. I still loved them and I read X-Men out of sheer loyalty, but I had grown cold in general towards what I call, my gods. When I heard of this Ultimate Universe I was like most people convinced that Marvel was after what little sheckles I had from working part time as a dishwasher and nothing more. I made fun of the idea and assumed that the books were going to be angled at little kids with little insight to what someone my age was really looking for in a story. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I didn’t buy the comic initially. After the first few issues came out, Marvel released a magazine that featured the first few issues along with the first issue of Ultimate X-Men. I figured I might as well give it a try since I loved The X-Men and there wasn’t really much else I was reading at the time. It was quite possibly the best literary decision I’ve ever made. I was a little more than a year older than Peter Parker at the time, struggling with high school, girls, family, a job and I found it really hard to honestly have friends. I could really connect to Peter now in a way I couldn’t growing up. In the real Marvel Universe he was married, had a real job and dealt with adult problems. While I could read it and enjoy it, I couldn’t connect to it. On top of that, Ultimate Spider-Man was more compelling. It wasn’t just retelling his origin, it was a reimagining of the character. I wasn’t getting spoon fed the same Stan Lee stories from 40 years ago, but something completely different and unexpected.
This was the first story that I ever had the chance to get into on the ground floor. The X-Men were going for 30 years when I finally discovered them, Batman was over 60. For the next 11 years I got to feel what Peter felt as he was feeling it. I got to see how the character grew up as I grew up. I got to learn lessons from him when I needed them most in my life. I didn’t really have a close relationship to my family growing up so in a lot of ways Peter was almost like a father figure to me.
So here we are 160 issues later and the fate of my friend has been spelled out on the last few pages of the issue that drops today. Whatever happens, Peter is no longer going to be Spider-Man. The person that I’ve related to most over the years (aside from fighting people with metal arms or mutated goblins) is going to no longer be standing up for me or setting an example. As corny as it sounds though I feel like that’s the point. I feel like I’ve been shown the type of person I should strive to be. The person that no matter what happens will always do the right thing. Now as an adult I look back and realize I’ve learned more about the person I want to be from a fictional kid in spider tights.
All of us over here at CotN have read issue 160. I will not spoil the ending, but one thing that’s been shown throughout this entire series is that this character sacrifices so much to do what’s right, and this last story arc (especially the last issue) is no exception. There are moments that make Jesus look like he just had a splinter in his hands. You’re going to end this amazing run genuinly feeling for this character.
The book is still going to continue on. Who the new Spider-Man is has yet to be revealed or even hinted at. All I know is that with Peter gone a little piece of me is going with him. I honestly don’t think I can say that about the death of any other character in any of my favorite series.
We’ve said it many times on our podcast, but Ultimate Spider-Man truly is the best series I’ve ever read. All of it is written by Brian Michael Bendis and most of it is drawn by Mark Bagley with Stuart Immonen and David Lafuente stepping in for a few story arcs. In fact, Bendis and Bagley hold the record for longest run of a creative team on a single book beating out Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four. If you’re looking for consistency (which is something the comic industry truly lacks) it’s in this book. Peter’s run as Spider-Man may be ending, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give this book the shot it deserves.
You can pick up the first trade paperback here for only $3.99: http://www.tfaw.com/Profile/Ultimate-Spider-Man-TPB-Vol.-1%3A-Power-And-Responsibility-Nick-%7Cand%7C-Dent___272348
But I highly recommend getting the hardback which collects the first two story arcs, is 10% bigger and loaded with extras that put DVD’s to shame (Interview with Bendis, art, scripts, etc). Get that here: http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Spider-Man-Brian-Michael-Bendis/dp/078510898X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308762965&sr=1-1
Keep reading the book. It’s been my experience that Bendis doesn’t do something without great reason. I’m honestly excited to see what’s next on the horizon for the new web head and what this is all going to mean for the Ultimate Universe.
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