Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with a frantic Mary Jane tracking down Peter at school to show him the news report of a massive, mechanically enhanced super-villain calling himself the Rhino, who is tearing a path of destruction through midtown Manhattan. However, Peter's effort to slip out of school are impeded by all manner of encounters, as we see him pulled into a parent/teacher meeting that his Aunt May is having with his math teacher, he narrowly avoids a run-in with the principal, stumbles across a distraught Gwen Stacy, and manages to get Flash Thompson & his gang of bullies chasing after him. Of the various encounters, we see Peter's able to successfully deal with them all, though Gwen's problem required more time than Peter was able to spare, and as such he ends up looking like a grade A heel, when he hurried off. However, we see that all these encounters served to delay Peter, so that when Spider-Man arrives at the sight of the Rhino's rampage, he discovers that Iron Man of the Ultimates has already dealt with the situation. The issue ends with Spider-Man getting an earful from a local merchant for taking his sweet time arriving at the battle.
I'm sure everyone can relate to the central idea that Brian Michael Bendis has fun with in this issue, as it does seem that when one is in a hurry to be somewhere, a cosmic force comes into play to come up with all sorts of time killers to insure that you'll take forever getting there. From the "out of order" elevators, to the ever popular vanishing car keys, I've come to realize that the only way to avoid being subjected to this unseen force is to never be in a hurry to get anywhere, which of course never works, but I'd like to pretend that it does. This issue has Peter racing to make his way to a battle with the Rhino, but first he has to run a gauntlet of obstacles that seem to be solely designed to keep him from making it to the fight. This issue features pretty much every single element that could slow him down, from his being sucked into a parent/teacher meeting that Aunt May's having with his math teacher, to a tearful Gwen Stacy who has discovered her mother is leaving, to an encounter with the roving bully patrol that is Flash Thompson & friends. In the end the final couple pages acted as the perfect payoff to this story, and Brian Michael Bendis gets to offer up the ideal done-in-one issue.
This issue does reveal that Mary Jane's little encounter with the Green Goblin hasn't really impacted her friendship with Peter, as except for a brief flicker of a scene where we see her reaction to a particularly devastating attack the Rhino inflicts on a school bus, it does look like Mary Jane still enjoys the thrill of being in on Peter's secret. Truth be told with the Marvel Universe's Mary Jane being a regular killjoy when it comes to the idea that Peter is Spider Man, it is rather refreshing to see the Ultimate version of the character looks to be quite unfazed by the idea, even after she's received a nice kick in the pants to show her that it isn't all fun and games. Supporting players like Mary Jane are actually quite rare, as at the moment only Dian Belmont from the pages of "Sandman Mystery Theatre" springs to mind, as a character who actually embraced the idea of her significant other rushing into the line of fire. Most writers prefer the more angst producing material that can be generated when the wife, girlfriend, sister, husband, boyfriend, brother, or Aunt May are worried about their hero meeting a grisly end. Plus one has to enjoy the confidence that Mary Jane has in Peter's abilities.
First off, while it's a minor detail, I have to say that I loved the fact that Mark Bagley put the little spider barrettes in Mary Jane's hair, as it's a perfect little touch that nicely reflects MJ's personality. I also enjoyed his work on the Rhino, as that double-page shot of the character in full rampage mode is very impressive, and the new design isn't half bad either. This issue is also a very strong display of Mark Bagley's highly expressive art, with the look of delight on MJ's face as she imagines Spider-Man kicking the Rhino butt, and Peter continued surprised reaction as he finds himself confronted by a parade of elements designed to keep him at the school, being two strong examples. The art also nicely captures the emotional intensity of the scene between Peter & Gwen, with Peter's reaction when he realizes that his rush to get to the battle is making matters worse for the upset Gwen being particularly effective. As for the action scenes, which are Mark Bagley's greatest strength, we do get a nice two page sequence where Spider-Man is rushing through the city to the battle, and the last page has fun presenting its big idea, as we see Spider-Man efforts were unnecessary.
A charming done-in-one issue, where we see Peter discovers that there will be times when his life as Peter Parker will keep Spider-Man on the shelf. Now I will admit that Mark Bagley did such a strong job on the Rhino, that I was a bit disappointed that Spider-Man missed a chance to engage the villain in combat, but Brian Michael Bendis does such a nice job of placing obstacles in Peter's path, that my disappointment was easily dismissed. The issue also manages to add some nice fodder for future issues, as we learn Peter role as Spider-Man has made an impact on his school work, though I'm sure most teachers would write it off as being largely due to the death of his Uncle Ben. We also see Gwen Stacy's home life is a bit messed up, and I'm sure that Peter's attempt to extract himself from this situation is going to backfire, as Gwen looks like someone who will emotionally attach herself to Peter, much to the annoyance of Mary Jane.
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