Believe it or not, I do read mainstream superhero comics. I tend to be more of a DC version, and to be honest, I tend to prefer things by Trade Paperback rather than by individual issue. Additionally, I tend not to upgrade my individual issues to trade paperback form, for strange personal reasons. So, I normally don’t review mainstream supers comics that are on my pull list.
However, I’ve been catching up on my Ultimate Spider-Man through my local library & book stores, so I figure I’ll give my thoughts on this.
Title: Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 8 – Cats & Kings
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Art Thibert
Colors: Transparency Digital & J.D. Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopos
In this volume, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man once again goes up against the Kingpin, after he beats a murder rap that Spider-Man had gathered enough evidence to nail him dead to rights. (Pun intended). Now Spider-Man faces a major mayoral candidate, Sam Bullit, who’s secretly backed by the Kingpin, and openly backed by J. Jonah Jamison.
I like Ultimate J. Jonah Jamison, specifically during this stage of Spidey’s career, significantly more than the version from the core Marvel universe around the same time – at least in the pages of the Spider-Man books. Bendis made the smart decision to basically make J.J. as a basic combination of the movie version of Jamison and the version of Jamison that appeared in the Daredevil comics, particularly during Frank Miller’s run.
The confrontation between Felicia Hardy & The Kingpin (w/ Elektra), felt anti-climactic. To be fair, it feels like they’re starting a storyline here, instead of ending it. Or, at the very least, they’re setting up a return of Ultimate Black Cat later, as well as a continuation of the Vanessa Fisk storyline.
No nudity, no blood, no major profanity, no worries!
Originality: As anyone familiar with the Ultimate Universe knows, the whole schtick of the setting is original takes on established characters. In this film we have the introductions of Ultimate Elektra and Ultimate Black Cat. Both of the characters are immediately familiar to anyone who has some familiarity with the Marvel U, either through reading the comics, or if you only know them through the 90s animated series and the Daredevil movie and it’s spinoff (respectively). Hardy has some differences to distinguish her from the original. We have yet to see anything to distinguish Elektra from the original version aside from her outfit (which is the comic character’s outfit). Other than that, the story itself is very new. 4 out of 6.
Artwork: I really like Mark Bagely’s art. His fight scenes are well done, and when he draws his dialog scenes, he brings a subtly to the character’s expressions that fits Bendis’s wordy dialog. 5 out of 6.
Story: The conclusion of the Mayoral Race story felt a little abrupt. On the one hand, we get a nice conclusion with a good dialog scene between Kingpin and Spider-Man, as a verbal confrontation instead of an physical confrontation. On the other hand, Sam Bullit himself is brushed aside rather casually in my opinion. While there is the possibility that Bendis will bring hims back in some form or another later, if this is the last we see of him, it makes for a disappointing conclusion to his story. 4 out of 6.
Characterization: Spidey, MJ, JJ, and Aunt May are all well fleshed out. Kingpin gets some additional character development, as does as does Ben Ulrich (which is nice, as he’s one of my favorite members of Daredevil’s supporting cast). I also found myself really liking Kingpin’s three enforcers. Yeah, they’re butt-monkeys, but they’re funny butt-monkeys. 6 out of 6.
Emotional Response: I’ve always thought of Black Cat as a college-age rival/romantic entanglement for Spider-Man, so having her, as an adult, be getting involved with Spidey when he’s a teenager is an interesting take. I’m interested to see how things will work out when she figures out how young he is, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Other than that, the main emotional responses I ran into here were more related to the villains – the possiblity that the Enforcers might go “screw this” and not be around for Spidey to beat up anymore, and the humanization of the Kingpin than the current steps in the saga of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. 3 out of 6.
Flow: The layout really takes advantage of the two page layout – though I’ve been reading enough manga recently that I kind of had to stop and re-orient myself with how I was supposed to read this. 6 out of 6.
Overall: It’s a fun comic storyline, which is really what you want when you’re reading Spider-Man, don’t you? 4 out of 6.
In Total, Ultimate Spider-Man gets 32 out of 42.