"Morbius" (Part 1)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics
1 part Kitty Pryde
1 part Mary Jane
1 part Daily Bugle
1 part Blade
1 part hot blonde vampire
That's the recipe for success in Ultimate Spider-Man #95, providing one of the most well-rounded episodes of the series in recent memory.
To you and me, the idea of vampires might seem a little hokey for the "hyper-realistic" Ultimate universe, where everyone is either a mutant or the result of genetic engineering. Writer Brian Michael Bendis makes a note of the seeming absurdity of the concept, too, even making it into a plot point. Even in a world of goblins and giant-men, vampires seem "out there."
The nature of the plot calls for a darker tone than is usually seen in the pages of US-M. The horror story flashback is enhanced by Mark Bagley and John Dell's ethereal, dreamlike black and white art, continuing Bendis's recent trend of experimenting with some unique new storytelling techniques for the title. The Daily Bugle is an often underutilized element of US-M, so it's gratifying to see it play a larger role for this two-parter. Ben Urich, the always sympathetic do-gooder who finds himself subject to the whims of J. Jonah Jameson, makes a startling discovery in pursuit of the story to end all stories.
Peter Parker's love life gets slightly more complicated, as well; what else is new? After he (as Spider-Man) and Kitty Pryde (as Shadowcat) are caught on camera together, they are declared the "it" couple by Entertainment Weekly. The dynamic of having Kitty involved in the series continues to add enthusiasm and freshness so the tone of the story. Meanwhile, Mary Jane Watson makes her first appearance in a few months in an angst-filled scene with Peter. Bendis and Bagley do a fantastic job of expressing concealed emotions between the two; it's obvious that Peter and MJ will ultimately end up together, but in the meantime the writer explores how much being a superhero affects one's civilian life. More than anything else, US-M shows just how dangerous a secret identity can be, and Peter Parker's life is arguably more affected by it than his Marvel Universe counterpart ever has been.
Ultimate Spider-Man #95 is another well-balanced issue that covers all bases and themes of the title; it's a day in the life of the man behind the mask, with just the right amount of webslinging on the side.
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