Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #45

Posted: Monday, August 25, 2003
By: Cody Dolan


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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

So Mr. Dolan, tell me about your fascination with this Spider-Man character.

Well Doc, it started many years ago when I was barely a teenager, but Iíd have to say that Iíve really started to love the character relatively recently. Not too long ago Spider-Manís comic books were just terrible. The stories were hackneyed and clichťd and people had stopped caring about this iconic character. Then along came two writers, Brian Michael Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski, that helped revamp and refresh the characterís world. Even though I liked the work both of them were doing, I tended to gravitate toward Bendisís book, Ultimate Spider-Man.

Why do you think that is?

I think itís because Bendis crafts such believable characters. In his hands everyone from Flash Thompson to Aunt May sound like normal people. They donít use big Dawsonís Creek style language, but theyíre monosyllabic idiots, either. Peter, the fifteen-year-old star of the book, sounds like a fifteen year old and that takes me back to my high school days.

So you long to return to that simpler time? Is there some trauma you think is awaiting you in adulthood that youíd like to avoid?

Letís not get carried away here, doctor. Sure, high school was a breeze, but I donít want to go back there. What I mean is that the characters and settings in Ultimate Spider-Man are realistic, thatís all. Take the most recent issue, for example; the title character is barely in the book at all. Instead, the author focuses on the underdeveloped Aunt May. We as readers get to know her in a way weíve never suspected existed before because Bendis devotes the entire issue to a session with her shrink.

Now Cody, you know we psychiatrists donít like that term. Do you think you like this issue because you lacked a strong matriarchal figure?

Um no, letís not go there. My momís great. What I identified with in this instance is the emotions that jumped off the page. Bendis has May confronting some strong demons here, and the depth of her feelings is astonishing. Iím sure a lot of comic fans are like me in that they never gave Aunt May a whole lot of thought. Bendis shows us that this has been a huge mistake while at the same time adding depth to the Spider-Man mythos. Itís true that all of the people close to May die, so itís not a surprise to see her irrational response to that trauma. To see her working through these problems with her psychiatrist speaks to a strength and courage normally reserved for the spandex-clad.

I see. So you, a healthy, young man, are identifying with a past-middle-age female comic book character. Do you find anything wrong with that?

Of course not, the only thing wrong with this issue is how easily Peter gets off the hook in the beginning. Good writing puts you in the characterís shoes and lets you see through their eyes. Not only does Bendis lets us see Spider-Man through the frame of Aunt Mayís perceptions, but Mark Bagley provides the reader with visuals that let us experience Mayís emotions. Hereís a guy thatís produced some truly dynamic actions scenes in his day, and all heís given to do this time out is draw people sitting around and talking. And you know what? He does a terrific job. I can feel Mayís emotions because I can see them painfully written out on her face. Her anguish brought out genuine emotions in me, and itís rare that a comic book has that kind of affect on me.

Do you think that has anything to do with your lack of emotion in social situations? You think you find comfort in your comic books because real people canít give it to you?

I would say thatís a bit of a stretch. I just think that when someone does such an outstanding job you have to praise them for it and one of the markers of a good comic is how it makes you feel.

Well, our time is up. Hopefully next week we can get past this bizarre fixation of yours and maybe talk about some people that donít just exist on paper.

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