Spider-Man has been redrawn for a new generation,
and he’s been reprinted and repackaged for a new
market. This is the kind of trade paperback that you
can track down at a local bookstore, not just the
comic stores. Read on to see if it’s worthwhile, or
post a comment to share your own thoughts.

General Information

Title: Ultimate Spider-Man: Power And Responsibility
(Vol. 1)

Credited To: Primarily Brian Michael Bendis, Mark
Bagley, Art Thibert

Original Publication Date: February 2001 reprint of
issues originally
published from 2000-2001.

ISBN: 0-7851-0786-X

Cover Price: $14.95 US, $23.95 Can

Buy from: Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

About The Ultimate Line

Marvel’s been around in its current incarnation for
over 40 years.
That’s a lot of background for the more popular
characters. The
“Ultimate” titles were designed to recreate the
Marvel Universe from
scratch, providing alternative versions of the
classic heroes.
Spider-Man, being the most popular hero, was the
first to get Ultimate
Treatment. The X-Men followed, along with various
individuals in the
“Marvel Team-Up” line (which has since been shut down
to make room for
other titles.) The Avengers have also been souped up
as “The Ultimates.”

Thus far, Marvel has kept to their promise of
publishing no more than
four Ultimate titles per month. However, there are
rumours that
something (like “Secret Wars 3”) will come up in the
next few months
and turn the current Marvel Universe into the
Ultimate Universe, much
like DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” line did for
them. The only
confirmed word is that a line called “Ultimate
Adventures” is coming
out this September, and that at least one more title
will appear some
time next year. (“Ultimate Adventures” is part of
the “U-Decide”
initiative. That’s a revolutionary idea where Marvel
will use sales
figures to decide whether or not they should continue
to make new
issues of new titles. They say the three are in
competition, but
since all three will stay if they sell well, I really
don’t see how
that works.)

There are three Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperbacks
like this one.
They are:
Power And Responsibility: collects
issues 1-7

Learning Curve: collects issues 8-13
Double
Trouble: collect
issues 14-21
The fourth volume (which doesn’t
have any subtitle I
know about) is due out in November. It should be
ordered on the
current (August 2002) Diamond
Comics Order Form
and should ship in October if
you’re interested.
(It’s item 1566 on page 186 of the current “Previews”
if you want to
skip to the short order form.) You’ll have to bring
the order form to
a local comic shop to get it filled, since Diamond
doesn’t deal
directly with the end consumer. There’s also a
hardcover collection
that contains issues 1-13, along with concept art,
planning notes, and
a reprint of the original Spider-Man’s first
appearance, Amazing
Fantasy #15.

There are trade paperbacks of other Ultimate titles,
too. There are
two “Ultimate X-Men” books so far, with a third due
out in October
(item 1567 on that same order form.) The hardcover
with the same
issues as the first two paperbacks is due out in
August. “Ultimate
Marvel Team-Up” has had both paperback and hardcover
treatment. “The
Ultimates” will see its first trade paperback in
August, assuming it
wasn’t delayed along with the monthly issues.

Premise

A normal teenager is bitten by an abnormal spider,
and starts down the
path to becoming a legendary superhero.

High Point

The flow is mostly fixed! Spider-Man still cracks
wise, but he waits
for a break in the action, so that it’s not as
plagued as the past
incarnation has been. He doesn’t deliver eight
seconds of dialogue in
a panel that elapses in exactly two seconds, for
example.

Of course, it was hard to choose between this and all
the other high
points. It was great to see that Uncle Ben is
established far better
than the three panel “Wake up! Here’s a microscope!”
Uncle Ben we had
the first time. The Green Goblin is much easier to
fear this time,
even if there isn’t the fun involved in trying to
figure out who he
is. It’s also great to see that Mary Jane is still
thrilled with
Peter, but she’s not the “any male is good” flaky
party animal she
used to be. Aunt May’s a lot more developed and
likeable than the old
“Peter’s too fragile to hear about my latest
life-threatening illness”
Aunt May that we’re used to.

I suppose five high points is pushing it. I’ll force
myself to stop
now.

Low Point

The trade paperback doesn’t include the cover art
from the original
issues. I realize they would break up the story, and
cause
complications in the placement of the two-page art
spreads, but
there’s no reason they couldn’t have reproduced the
original covers
in the back like in this
Astro City
collection
.

Yes, that’s right. My biggest complaint is that it
left me wanting
more. It’s a complete story, but I want to get right
on to the next one.

The Scores

It’s hard to stay original when you’re
revamping what has
been done before.
Brian Michael Bendis has written a story that feels
familiar, but
doesn’t feel like a retread. If he keeps writing the
title, I’ll keep
buying these collections. It’s the Spider-Man we all
know, but this
time, he’s a lot easier to love. I give it 4 out of
6.

The artwork is, for the most part, good.
The Green Goblin
always looks fantastic. Spider-Man usually looks
good, but I haven’t
quite warmed up to the ultra-thin version they’ve got
here. That’s
the only artwork I can complain about, but it’s the
title character,
so it counts for a fair amount. I give the art 4 out
of 6.

The story is very well done. What was
originally done in 11
pages is now done in the first five issues, and yet
it still moves
very quickly with tight pacing and great characters.
The plot is
familiar, and the details are exceptional. This
Peter acts the way
you’d expect him to act in school. Still, the story
is a re-telling
of something that’s been around 40 years. I give it
4 out of 6.



Characterization is the category where the
Ultimate
Spider-Man really starts to pulverize the original.
Peter seems like
a geek with a lot of power and not enough common
sense to apply it
properly. (In short, he’s a teenager.) Mary Jane is
a person, not
just the dance addict who seemed to me like she was
high throughout
the entire two years collected in Essential
Spider-Man
Vol. 3
. Aunt May is still old, but she’s younger
than she used to
be. Uncle Ben is, well, a kind and caring human, as
opposed to a
human alarm clock that brings gifts. Harry Osborn is
more developed
after these seven issues than he was after his first
three years in
the original continuity. Norman Osborn is clearly
evil from the first
page. (Peter doesn’t show up until page five.)
Flash Thompson hasn’t
changed much, but the others have shown enough
development that I’ll
forgive that one point which hasn’t overtaken the
original. I give
the characterization 6 out of 6.

For the emotional response, I found it was
hampered by the
fact that I already knew, essentially, what was going
to happen.
There were some great moments, like the Ferris
Beuller moment,
Harry’s assessment of Flash’s future, or the banana
bread scenes, that
made me laugh out loud. I give it 4 out of 6.

As I said above, the flow has been fixed.
The scenes blend
properly, with the exception of one really bad panel.
I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is an excellent way to rewrite
Spider-Man. If
you’re interested in the character, I’d suggest
picking up this title
instead of the other titles. (Except, perhaps, for
Kevin Smith’s
“Spider-Man / Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do”
miniseries which will
see its second issue hits the stands next Wednesday.
Originally
billed as a four issue series, this month’s Diamond
Order Form would
seem to indicate that it’s now a five issue series.)
It brings you in
on the ground floor, and spends enough time
developing characters that
you won’t have huge amounts of background material to
catch up on,
even though the title is two years old. I give it 6
out of 6.

In total, Ultimate Spider-Man: Power And
Responsibility

receives 33 out of 42.