Damn you, Marvel. You hired Brian Michael Bendis,
you gave him a great concept to work with, and you
let him loose. You’ve made me make the guy who runs
the closest comic shop very, very happy.

General Information

Title: Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 2: Learning Curve

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

Original Publication Date: 2002 reprint of material
first published in
2001

ISBN: 0-7851-0820-3

Cover Price: $14.95US, $21.95 Can

Issues Reprinted: Ultimate Spider-Man 8-13

Buy from: Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Premise

Peter Parker has decided to become a superhero. His
first target is a
major criminal figure who’s managed to evade
prosecution at every turn.

High Point

Issue 13. There’s no suit, no villains, and no
battles. The entire
issue takes place in one room, and most of time
there’s just two
people in it. It’s one of the best comics I’ve ever
read, anywhere.
I laughed out loud several times, especially as I got
near the end of
the issue. It should stand on its own very well, so
if you’re
interested, you can find it as a back issue. It’s
the one called
“Confessions.”

Low Point

The “flow” is almost getting back to the old
problems. It’s still
better overall, especially since there’s actually an
instance where
his joke is rudely interrupted.

General Comment

When I bought the first three “Ultimate Spider-Man”
trade paperbacks
yesterday, I told myself that I’d read one issue per
day for the next
three weeks to pace myself. It shouldn’t have been
hard. I bought
the soundtrack to “The Phantom Menace” the day it
came out, and
listened to it at least once a day without reading
the track titles
for three weeks because I didn’t want any spoilers
before I saw the
movie. I can avoid spoilers for any show for as long
as I like. I
can pace myself with just about anything else that I
need to. I can
wait six or twelve months for a DVD release of a
movie without
downloading it from some newsgroup to watch it
whenever I want to.

I don’t have the willpower to start reading one of
these without
finishing it. That should tell you more about the
quality than any
adjective I throw out here. I think the bottom line
is that the old
Marvel continuity felt like stories about super
heroes in their own
world. This feels like stories about super heroes in
our world.

The Scores

The originality is starting to come through
very well in this
volume. There are new versions of classic villains
that you can keep
an eye out for. Peter’s got a slightly different job
than he used to
have, which is good, because I always found it hard
to believe that a
camera at a distance pointed in one direction always
managed to get
great photos of the battles that moved to
unpredictable locals. There
are still nods to the old comics, including
shout-outs to Artie Simek
and Sam Rosen, and the perfect use of some of Mary
Jane’s old
dialogue. I give it 5 out of 6.

The artwork on Spider-Man still bugs me. I
think I could get
used to the skinny body if he didn’t have such a
large head. If you
coloured Spider-Man’s hands and head green, his eyes
black, and the
rest of his suit silver, you’d have a dead ringer for
one of those
aliens people seem to love so much. Still, they seem
to have shrunken
his head for most of this volume, which I think is a
good thing.
Also, the cover art from the original issues is
included! Yay! I
give it 5 out of 6.

WARNING: THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS VAGUE SPOILERS: The
story is
excellent. Apart from his fight with the Vulture,
most of the
villains Spider-Man fought in his first few
adventures were beaten
with power rather than intelligence. Here, we see
him get pounded
when he depends on sheer power, and we see him doing
much better by
using that incredibly powerful brain. I give it 6
out of 6.



The characterization is great. Mary Jane is
very well done.
She seems like a high school girl, but she has depth
the original Mary
Jane never had at this stage. Aunt May is fantastic,
particularly in
issue 13. This is the way to end a story in an
ongoing series: the
loose ends are tied up, but the quality is so high
that the reader
can’t help but want to come back for more. No
character is flat
(expect for one cameo by a new version of an old
villain, but he only
had two pages, so that’s forgiven) and all are well
defined. I give it
6 out of 6.

This one brought out a much stronger emotional
response
than
the first volume did. This is not a retread story
any more, so
there’s genuine suspense and intrigue. I find this
version of
Spider-Man much easier to identify with. Scenes with
Aunt May are now
a treat, rather than the burden they were when she
was constantly
knocking on Death’s door. (The way I see it, Aunt
May would have been
long dead if Death wasn’t so busy in the comics by
the Distinguished
Competition.) Every issue got through to me in some
way. That’s hard
to do, and it deserves a 6 out of 6.

As I said above, the flow is the worst part
of this
collection. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is an excellent trade
paperback. I’ve known
people who were surprised to see these in their local
“serious”
bookstore. If they read the thing, they probably
wouldn’t be. I give
it 6 out of 6.

In total, Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 2: Learning
Curve
received
38 out of 42.