There are vampires loose in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. Don’t be surprised. As Ben Urich says, “There’s mutants, Spider-Men, Captain America frozen in a block of ice for decades, Tony Stark is a human tank — but vampires is too much for you?” You know, when I first heard that vampires would be cropping up in the Ultimate U, I kind of did feel like that was too much for me. The Ultimate Universe was intended to be a simplified Marvel Universe, one with only a few heroes and villains. But over the years we’ve met Ultimate Moon Knight and Ultimate Black Cat and Ultimate Silver Sable and Ultimate Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Each one has been just fine in their way, adding color to the Ultimate U. But vampires, for gosh sakes? And Ultimate Morbius, the Living Vampire?
Well, what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound at this point. I’m not Ralph Macchio, who edits these books, so I don’t have any say on the direction these comics go. I’m just a reviewer who can give his rating based on the quality of the comic at hand.
And the comic is actually pretty darn good. An awful lot happens in this issue. Not just roaming battles against vampires, though we get that too, but some actually realistic angst between Peter and MJ, and between Peter and the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde. Pete has a relationship with Kitty that’s been exposed due to events in the previous arc. That story has gotten the pair a lot of press, including the cover of People, which has only served to make Peter’s life even more complicated and screwed-up than it was before.
But it was the vampire stuff that got me excited about this issue. The issue starts out with Ultimate Blade chasing some nasty vampire bastard. Peter naturally chooses the wrong side by accident in the battle, which is yet another learning lesson for him. When he finds out that there are more vampires in the Ultimate U, Pete isn’t sure how to react, doing probably the wrong thing and putting his friend and mentor Ben Urich in danger. One of the things that’s very cool about this comic is that readers actually do have no idea what will happen to Ben as he investigates reports of vampirism. After all, Bendis did kill off Gwen Stacy extremely suddenly. If that can happen, why can’t something similar happen to Ben?
What makes this story especially effective is that everything seems to loop back around to Peter. He sometimes makes the right decision and sometimes makes the wrong decision, but Peter always feels like a confused teenager, just trying sincerely to do the right thing, even if he’s hopelessly naive in doing so. Almost everyone was dumb when they were in high school; Peter Parker is sort of the everyman in that way.
Bagley’s art is professional as ever in this issue, though what is with Peter’s Blue Beetle-style shirt this issue? Is it a subtle comment by Bagley?
I don’t know if it’s the right direction to bring in yet more ultimate analogues of Marvel U characters, but Bendis and Bagley do a terrific job in this issue of keeping events focused on Peter Parker, the real heart of the story.