Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #51

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

As the man who had his office robbed by the Black Cat in the previous issue takes steps to get his merchandise back, we see Peter is busy dealing with the frustration caused by Mary Jane's hesitance to take a stand against her father's unreasonable demand that she stop seeing him. To this end we see a disillusioned Peter's interest is caught by a newspaper ad from the Black Cat asking for another meeting with Spider-Man.

While it's a pain on the pocket book, the accelerated pace at which this book arrives in the store does make for a tighter story, as my steel trap of a mind only has a couple weeks to forget the events of the last issue as opposed to an entire month. Now with Brian Michael Bendis at the helm we're not exactly dealing with a terribly complex plot, as if nothing else he seems to specialize in playing with the little moments that most writers pass by on their way to the big, fan pleasing action sequences. However, this story is all the stronger thanks to its presentation of the delightfully awkward first date between Spider-Man and the Black Cat, and you just know that this relationship is going to make an impact on Peter's relationship with Mary Jane, as what's the point of developing a love triangle if Mary Jane is left clueless about the new woman in her boyfriend's life. Plus there's also the simple fact that the Black Cat is a professional thief, and given he's already sporting a tarnished image hanging around her isn't likely to do him any favors. Being that this is a comic, we also have the added incentive of a surprise guest-star, who has been hired to bring the Black Cat down, and needless to say the final page of this issue sets up a very interesting situation, though I must confess that I didn't pick up the miniseries where the Ultimate version of the character was introduced. I image they're pretty close to their Marvel counterpart though.

As for the art, Mark Bagley has to be one of the busiest artists in the industry, as he's delivered 51 straight issues of this series at an accelerated pace, and lets not forget last month's issue was double-sized. Add to this the fact that he's been penciled in as the artist for the opening arc of the upcoming "Pulse" series and one has to start believing that he's the real life version of the Multiple Man. As for the art on this issue there's not a great deal of action to be found in this issue as it's almost entirely talking heads, but Mark Bagley has really evolved as an artist in this aspect of his work, as he does a wonderful job conveying Peter's frustration when Mary Jane isn't willing to defy her father's unreasonable demands, and the art also does a pretty fair job capturing Peter's rather tentative state as he considers heading out to meet the Black Cat. My only real quibble with the art is that the guest-star on the final page looks exactly like Mark Bagley's version of Kitty from X-Men.

Final Word:
Brian Michael Bendis has crafted a pretty interesting relationship between Peter and Mary Jane that in many ways feels more genuine and heartfelt than this same relationship in the Marvel Universe. Now given this is a relationship in the pages of a comic Brain Michael Bendis is quick to realize that having the two in a happy, conflict free relationship is the quickest way to bore the readers out of their skulls, and since he's already played the I'm breaking up with you because being with you makes me the target of numerous crazed villains with a vendetta against Spider-Man, it would appear that Brian Michael Bendis has discovered the other big obstacle that superheroes encounter when it comes to their relationships, and that is the introduction of an equally compelling party who is interested in our hero's costumed identity. Now having Peter cheat on Mary Jane isn't going to gain the character much sympathy, but Brian Michael Bendis does a fairly convincing job of selling Peter's doubts about his relationship with MJ, as well as his obvious interest in seeing how far things will go with the Black Cat.

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