Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #42

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Spider-Man arriving in his makeshift costume to find Geldoff, the young man with the ability to make objects explode with his mind, has been blowing up cars in the parking lot of his school. After attempting to reason with the young "mutant", but Spider-Man decides to let him off with a simple warning that if he makes any move against the arriving police, he'll be back to take him down. However, when he attempts to swing away Geldoff grabs on for a ride, and Spider-Man has to rescue him when he loses his grip on the departing hero while they are several stories off the ground. The two then settle in for a chat on a nearby rooftop, where Peter is somewhat distressed to learn Geldoff is a bit slow on the uptake, and seems unable to grasp the idea that he should use his powers to help others, and not simply to advance his own incredibly shortsighted interests. We then see Peter decides that Geldoff might take to a more hands on example, as he spots a robbery in progress, and Spider-Man swings in to save the day. However, Geldoff's attempt at helping causes more harm than good, and Spider-Man is soon back on the roof admonishing him for the reckless use of his power. However, when Geldoff decides that he's had quite enough of this lecture, and threatens to use his exploding power on Spider-Man, we see the tense standoff is broken by the arrival of a trio of surprise guest-heroes.

This issue gives us our first good look at Geldoff, as we learn he's originally from Latveria, and most likely he's a mutant. We also get a pretty good sense of how his power works, and while the issue holds back on showing us if his power will work on humans, we do get the general sense that it wouldn't, as Spider-Man's spider sense never goes off when he starts this attack. However, it also never gave him a heads up on the exploding van, so perhaps Geldoff's powers doesn't register as a threat until it's too late for the warning to do him any good. In any event, Spider-Man & Geldoff have a fairly lengthy exchange in this issue, and during this exchange we get a pretty good sense that Geldoff is hardly the brightest bulb in the box, but then again brute force powers always seem to be a better fit with characters of limited intellect (e.g. the Rhino), as dumb goes hand in hand with short fuses, and easily frustrated people are more likely to lash out at their tormentors. These type characters are also more prone to carry grudges, as they come to blame their failings on the hero who put them behind bars, and as such from a writer's standpoint, these type characters have to be rather easy to work with. Still this first time out, Brian Michael Bendis does some solid work defining Geldoff's personality, and contrasting it against Peter's sense of responsibility.

With Brian Michael Bendis soon to be taking over the Ultimate X-Men, I fully expect there will be a greater sense of cohesion in the Ultimate universe, as Brian Michael Bendis does seem to be rather fond of forming bonds between the books he writes (e.g. Alias' Jessica Jones acting as a bodyguard to Matt Murdock in "Daredevil"). If nothing else this issue does make the first official guest-appearance by another super-hero in the pages of this comic (if one tosses out the brief appearance by the Wasp), and the last page of this issue does come across as a fairly important step in the evolution of the Ultimate universe. Now yes we did have the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series, which acted to establish ties between the characters, and Nick Fury has been making his presence felt in these pages. We've also had the first official crossover in the Ultimate War miniseries, but this issue marks the first time we've received the casual guest-appearance. I know this doesn't sound like a huge step, but the simple fact that the arrival of the characters on the final page wasn't hyped up, or even really advertised in advance, tells me the walls established between these titles are coming down, and one of the best things Stan Lee brought into comics was the concept of the Marvel Universe being one big neighborhood, where characters were free to move about freely between the various titles.

Mark Bagley continues to impress as his attention to detail, and strong eye when it comes to visually dramatic action is steadily emerging as some of the best in the business. He's far & away the most consistent among the artists who can actually call themselves monthly artists, as while I find John Romita Jr.'s work to be more visually dramatic, I do feel that Mark Bagley is better suited to this book than John Romita Jr. is over on Amazing Spider-Man. I mean Mark Bagley manages to capture the sense that our lead character is just a young adult, as he's slightly awkward looking, and he looks uncomfortable when he's placed in situations where he's suppose to be a mature, calming presence. In fact the art does a fantastic job convey the abject horror that Peter feels in the aftermath of the explosion, as he moves in to check on the young woman in the Pink Panther shirt. His anger when he lashes out at Geldoff for his foolish actions is also well conveyed, as is the underlying sense of danger as Geldoff prepares to use his power on Spider-Man. The explosive ability of Geldoff is also quite impressively rendered, as the art manages to convey the concussive wave of the blasts. The last page arrival of our guest heroes is also nicely done, as this final shot of the issue manages to convey the surprise factor of this moment quite nicely.

Final Word:
A pretty solid character development issue, as Brian Michael Bendis has Spider-Man encounter a young man who has recently discovered his mutant gift to make objects explode with his mind, and Peter's sense of responsibility is nicely contrasted against Geldoff's reckless indifference. This issue also does some nice work expressing the idea that Geldoff isn't very bright, as while he's not a complete moron, he doesn't seem to be able to grasp the larger picture, and there's seeing Peter's attempts to reason with him are almost painful to watch, as you can just see the message isn't sinking in. There's also some nice moments of genuine humor, such as the scene where Peter finds his scientific explanation for how Geldoff's powers work has revealed his inner science geek, and his almost embarrassed confession about how he got his powers made me smile. The last page also offers up a fun surprise that I must confess I didn't see coming, but I'm delighted to see that it looks like we'll be seeing more interplay between the Ultimate titles.

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