Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #39

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens by looking in on S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury as he's informed that he's being followed, and upon learning his tail is Peter Parker, we see Fury is quick to make contact with the young hero. We then learn that Peter has sought out Nick Fury as he wants to be rid of his powers, and he's sure that with the resources Fury has access to there has to be some injection or chemical spray that will remove his powers. As Nick Fury refuses the request, and asks why Peter is so eager to get rid of his powers, we see Peter relates his recent encounter with Eddie Brock, which effectively convinced Peter that his powers only bring pain & suffering into his life, and worse it also inflicts the same upon anyone who chooses to become his friend. We then see Fury takes the time to point out that no body means Eddie Brock is probably still alive, and that Peter has been given a great gift that is too precious to toss aside when the road gets a little rough. As Fury's pep talk acts to pick Peter's spirits up a little, we see he sets out to discover if Eddie really was killed, and after paying a visit to the lab & Eddie's dorm room, Peter starts to realize that Eddie appears to be alive, as both the lab & his dorm room show signs of Eddie having visited there after his seeming death.

It's always fun when a comic book character acknowledges the conventions of the genre, as we see Nick Fury is quick to point out that the lack of a body automatically means the villain is still alive. Now I had already come to this conclusion at the end of the previous issue thanks to my decades of comic reading, and my having been treated to literally hundred of examples of villains making their return. In any event it's nice to see that these returns from the dead are also a regular part of the Ultimate Universe, and that they occur with enough regularity that Nick Fury & company have established a "no body equals no dead villain" rule. The rest of the issue then sets out to offer up clues that Eddie could still be alive, as we see someone has been going to the various sites cleaning up the messes that were left behind. So we have the lab & the sample of Venom suit go missing, and Eddie's dorm room shows signs of someone having been there. Now the more paranoid aspect could suggest that a group like S.H.I.E.L.D. was made aware of the situation, and after haven taken Eddie into custody, they began to take steps to keep people from looking too closely at Eddie's sudden disappearance. Then again, Eddie could also still be alive & he's simply decided to go into hiding.

This issue also offers up a nice follow-up to the earlier encounter that Peter had with Nick Fury, as we see the S.H.I.E.L.D. director takes some time out to clarify his earlier statements, so that Peter's future doesn't seem quite so dire. I mean one has to believe that there is some appeal to the idea of being a member of the Ultimates, and the when members are approached, membership in the group is made to sound quite appealing, as essentially these people are being asked to be on the front lines of battles that are so far beyond the ability of a conventional military force to handle, that a special task force of super-powered operatives had to be created to face them. I love the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. looking at Spider-Man and seeing a promising future recruit, and in the aftermath of the first encounter I was a little concerned that while his membership in the Ultimates was already etched in stone, Nick Fury had taken such an aggressive stance, that Peter would actively rebel his recruitment. This issue makes it clear that Nick Fury is no dummy, and that he realized Peter's personality type would respond better to an approach that appealed to his sense of responsibility & highlighting the more positive aspects of being in the Ultimates.

Mark Bagley continues to be one of the more impressive artists in the industry both in the sheer volume of the work he produces, and his commitment to a project once he's made it's regular artist. I mean with a five year run on "Amazing Spider-Man", and four years runs on both "New Warriors" & the "Thunderbolts", it's rather reassuring to see his name in the credit box of a regular series, as you know he's not the type of creative personality who jumps ship at the first opportunity to work of a project that sounds more interesting. Either that or he's been extremely lucky in finding projects where he's quite content to remain on board for as long as they'll have him. Still thirty nine issue straight is an impressive run in today's market, and it doesn't hurt that his style continues to be an ideal fit for whatever story Brian Michael Bendis calls for. From the meeting between Peter & Nick Fury in the dark alley, where the art manages to perfectly contrast Peter's desperation against Fury's stoic front, to the decidedly creepy encounter that Peter has with the moody Curt Conners, this issue's art manages to really sell these encounters. My only quibble with the art on this series is that I still wish the covers were more than simple poster art seemingly unrelated to the story inside.

Final Word:
This issue is pretty much an epilogue to the Venom story, where Brian Michael Bendis pretty much tells the reader that Venom has wandered off to lick his wounds & plot his revenge, while Peter has to deal with the guilt he feels over the role he believes he played in Venom's creation. Now the simple fact that this is a Brian Michael Bendis written series makes this issue's talking heads scenes quite readable, but it also doesn't hurt that this book acts as a follow-up to Peter's earlier meeting with Nick Fury, and we see this time out Fury comes across as a great deal more understanding. Now looking back at the last encounter Peter had with Fury I have to say that his tone is far less adversarial, but then again the situation is far less intense than the aftermath of a heated conflict with the Green Goblin, so Fury can afford to rewrite his dialogue to present the encounter & himself in a more favorable light. In any event, the interaction between Peter & Fury continues to be one of the more engaging elements Brian Michael Bendis has added to the book.

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