Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #43

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Mary Jane attempting to explain Peter's absence from class to an annoyed teacher, but it looks like Peter lucked out as the battle at the other school has Peter's school being sent home early. We then look in on Peter who finds himself being visited by three X-Men (Jean Grey, Storm & Kitty) who have arrived to recruit the young mutant that Peter had been trying to reign in last issue. However, given Geldoff faints when he learns that his powers might be the result of his being a mutant, we see the X-Men decided it's in Geldoff's best interests if they simply take him to the X-Academy, though technically doing so would be kidnapping. We then see Peter manages to secure an invite, and the notion that he will get to meet the famous Professor Xavier, combined with a promise from the X-Men that he'll be able to get a ride home before 6:00 p.m., has him agreeing to come along. Meanwhile, back at the school we see MJ has to contend with a worried Aunt May who has arrived at the school looking to pick Peter up, and Gwen is on hand to note MJ is lying through her teeth about Peter's whereabouts. We then jump back to the X-Men, as their unconscious guest wakes up and in a moment of panic he blows a gapping hole in the side of the Blackbird, which causes the craft to depressurize. As Spider-Man tumbles out of the craft to the ground far below, we see Storm is faced with the choice of rescuing Spider-Man, or her teammates who are trapped aboard the plummeting Blackbird.

Personally I found the interaction between Peter & the X-Men got a little too cute and it began to feel like more of a sitcom than a genuine exchange. However, I can't deny that Brian Michael Bendis does offer up some very amusing moments, from Spider-Man openly asking where he could go about get a poster of himself, to the scene where Jean manages to get Peter's mind focused on a certain subject and then has to wait while Peter attempts to get his mind back on track. Peter's reaction to the telepathic method that Jean uses to communicate was also rather cute, and Xavier's opening line to his X-Men made me smile. Still there are also scenes that feel like they are in the story because they would make for a cute gag, and while I admire Brian Michael Bendis' ability to devote over half the issue's page count to little more that the interaction of Spider-Man with his guest-heroes, there were moments where it felt like the book was trying too hard to be amusing, and this is never a good sign. Now, the book does nicely capture the various personalities of the X-Men, as Kitty remains the wide-eyed novice in the hero game who is revealed to be a huge fan of Spider-Man, while Jean comes across as a bit of a showboat who delights in the discomfort that she's able to cause others with her power. The last page also offers up a rather harrowing choice for Storm to make.

As for the rest of the issue, since our villain spends most of the issue passed out we learn relatively little about him, but he does play a pretty key role in the big action finish, and one does have to wonder if he might not have gotten himself killed with his reckless use of his power. Meanwhile back at the school we see Mary Jane is busy trying to cover for Peter's absence, and she's really not doing that great a job of it, as Gwen is sure to start becoming rather curious, and she's smart enough that I wouldn't be surprised if she started putting the pieces together, as MJ isn't exactly playing it smart with her sudden display of concern over Spider-Man's welfare. I also enjoyed the way that Aunt May is brought into the story to complicate matters, as MJ is forced to lie to her as well, and this is sure to come back and get her in trouble if she doesn't have time to get to Peter before he's forced to come up with the lie that he's going to tell to his Aunt May. I like the fact that MJ is required to cover for Peter, and that the events of the final page are sure to make his life far more difficult, as I don't imagine he'll be making it home before six. In fact given he's already been in the doghouse once for lying about his whereabouts, I imagine that Aunt May's really going to tighten the screws this time, as his mysterious absences are suddenly becoming a regular occurrence.

It's a bit difficult to say much about Mark Bagley's work, as I've spent the previous 42 issues detailing why I feel he's the best artist this book could have. In fact the only real compliant that I would make about this book's art is that it has some of the dullest covers on the stands, as I've come to believe that there's some rule stating that the covers are only allowed to convey what's going on inside the book once every arc, while all the rest have to be generic action poses. As for the interior art the book acts as a fun showcase for the art's ability to detail the various expressions of the young cast, as there's a very cute little scene where we see Jean's facial expressions are used to convey the idea that Peter's thoughts were still unchanged, and one has to love how her expression undergoes its various changes, from casual acceptance, to annoyance. Spider-Man's ill-fitting costume also makes for a cute running visual gag. The issue also offers up a wonderful visual closer, as the explosive decompression of the Blackbird is a wonderfully chaotic sequence, and Mark Bagley's art does a splendid job of conveying how quickly the scene can shift from a relative calm to an outright nightmare. The last page of this issue also manages to present the big problem quite nicely, as the two choices are clearly presented, as is the indecision on Storm's part.

Final Word:
I found the interaction between Spider-Man & the X-Men got a little too caught up in trying to be amusing, that it instead felt a little too desperate, but than again I also found a couple moments to be quite funny. From Peter's mental struggle not to picture Jean Grey naked as she reads his mind, to the fanboyish attitude that Kitty adopts as she pesters Spider-Man with her various questions, the issue is quite a bit of fun. However, the exchange regarding Peter's ill-fitting costume & the story of how he lost it was a little too cutesy, to the point where Kitty ends up coming across as rather dense. In the end I have to say that the scenes that centered around MJ's attempts to cover for Peter made for the most interesting sections of the issue, though the highly chaotic final pages of this issue also grabbed my attention, with the final page cliffhanger moment being particularly strong. I also like how the Ultimate universe is slowly being drawn closer together, with the recent string of guest-appearances.

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