|With Ultimatum #5 coming out this week, it seemed like an ideal time to do some thinking about something I noticed when reading the last Ultimate Spider-Man collection:|
|Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 21: War of the Symbiotes
By Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade Von Grawbadger
Marvel – paperback, $15.99
Ultimate Spider-Man had a pretty good run, didn’t it? Twenty (twenty!) volumes of user-friendly soap opera and superheroics (or ten if you’ve followed it in the annual hardcovers, my preference until volume ten inexplicably cost the same $40 as the very long volume nine, despite being the shortest volume to date*), with a good share of laughs and “oh shit” moments along the way, illustrated in a clear and appealing, if unexciting, style. This volume is where it starts to come crashing down, and it’s a shame, because it isn’t due to anything native to the book itself.
It’s not Stuart Immonen’s art—this is only the second Ultimate Spider-Man book I’ve read that was entirely drawn by Immonen, and it’s a very different look than Mark Bagley brought to USM’s first 111 issues, but it works for me. Immonen’s is a more frenetic, angular look, but the characters are recognizably the same, while still bearing his stamp, and he brings the same acting chops and storytelling clarity.
It’s not Brian Bendis’s story, which advances the soap opera satisfyingly, catching up with what’s become of Gwen Stacy’s clone while continuing to actually make me care about Venom and even Carnage. Bendis has managed, up through the 128th issue, which this volume ends with, to give nearly every storyline elements that make them personal for Peter Parker without making it seem as though the world revolves around him—while the emotional component is enhanced by the Venom organism’s connection to him, his presence isn’t unrealistically necessary for the threat to emerge. It makes for a compelling read, and feels like a genuine threat while moving the overall story forward in several ways.
So what’s the problem? (more…)