Spider-Men – a Graphic Novel by Bendis, Pichelli & Ponsor – medium spoilers

Spider-Men, a graphic novel Published by Marvel

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colourist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Jimmy Cheung

Previously published as a 5 part miniseries by the same name in June to September 2012.

Firstly, I don’t read anywhere near as much US comics as I used to. I wanted something to read, popped in Travelling Man, Leeds, to browse and spotted this graphic novel. The cover is eye-catching but isn’t Spectacular (did you see what I did there?) but it certainly piqued my interest.

British media alerted me to the fact Spider-Man had died. I read the article and saw ‘Ultimate’, so I knew it wasn’t ‘my’ Spider-Man. It wasn’t the adult Spider-Man who dated Gwen Stacy and married Mary Jane Watson. It was the teen version in the Ultimate Universe. To a casual reader as I am these days it wasn’t HUGE news but it was interesting. I mean, Ultimate Spider-Man is to me like IDW Judge Dredd. It is an interesting twist on the REAL Spider-Man (though hugely better than IDW Dredd so far).

But I am a casual reader of Marvel, rather than a non-reader, so I understand the Universes. I see this title and I think, ‘cool, a good place to catch up on some things’. And indeed it was.

The art is stunning, granted I expected such from a leading title from Marvel. Panel counts per page vary and there are a few bleeds from art and speech bubbles to break up the page. The book has a high count of one panels and double spreads due to the fact it is a collected edition. Also there are variant covers punctuating the chapters.

Turn back now if you don’t like spoilers, as this is a reprint my ‘Medium’ tag in the title is for those with no knowledge of the GN, readers of Marvel with some knowledge may find the spoilers ‘Minor’ or even ‘Light’. I will refer to Spider-Man by his alternate ego for ease of identification.

The story starts with an unrelated action sequence, we are in a typical Spider-Man night for Peter Parker. He spins a web, any size, catches thieves, just like flies. Then he avoids the police and THEN he notices something odd.

Inside a deserted building is a bright vortex of energy. Peter’s scientific mind is intrigued, his crime fighting mind spots a rack of costumes. Investigating the source of the energy he finds it is made of parts from Stark Industries. Investigating the costumes he identifies the villain. A fight ensues and Peter is knocked into the energy vortex.

Night has become Day and the city looks wrong to a dazed Peter. In his confused state he drops through a skylight, embarrassing  then later stops a fellow from being beaten up/mugged. The rescued individual is grateful but thinks Peter’s costume is in poor taste, “We need all the heroes we can get but that was Peter Parker’s. Peter is further confused and shaken.

He decides to head for his apartment so he can figure things out. That is when he first sees a diminutive figure in a black Spider-Man costume with red spider detailing.

The villain sends an avatar through the vortex to hunt down Peter.

Meanwhile Spider-Men go mano-y-mano (by the way for anyone not in the know that is ‘hand to hand’ not ‘man on man’ as I have seen it translated). The fight is fast and full of the bendy moves we’d expect from a Spider-Men dual. We get to see what different moves the two have in a short sequence. Very economical yet fun.

That is the key when doing a crossover – give readers the details they need to know in as efficient manner as possible so you can get on with the story. Of course part of this story is exactly that – explaining what is different between the two Universes.

So, a captured Peter is handed over to S.H.I.E.L.D.

Peter meets the Ultimate Universe’s version of Nick Fury. Let me explain to those who aren’t aware, the Avengers series of films (outstanding by the way) are based loosely on Ultimate Universe. Nick Fury is therefore an African-American, he looks like Samuel L Jackson (go figure). But the standard Marvel Universe still has a white Nick Fury. Peter is further stunned.

Fury introduces peter to the Ultimate Spider-Man, thirteen year old Miles Morales. Fury has clearly decided to accept Peter’s explanation of how he arrived in this version of New York and is partnered with Miles to investigate. The villain shoots down the aircraft they are in and the Spider-Men are attacked by a host of villains. Peter uses this opportunity to ‘escape’.

Peter needs answers. He isn’t sure if the world around him is real or if he is somehow hallucinating it all. He finds a convenience store where his apartment block should be. He also finds out he is dead, or rather the Peter Parker of this world, a High School student is dead. He doesn’t seem comforted that i-Pads work the same in both Univereses.

Still confused he goes to see Aunt May, finding a teenage version of Gwen Stacy. Neither are happy to see a stranger dressed as their version of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. Miles arrives to explain what has happened. The reactions from these characters is done well; anger, denial acceptance. Interesting differences in personal details are discussed, Peter avoids telling Gwen that his version of her died. He also finds out that his teen other-self dated Kitty Pryde.

With the help of Miles and the Avengers Peter defeats the villain, who is detained in the Ultimate Universe and Peter returns to the Marvel Universe.

I found this book very enjoyable and well paced. The plot was mostly character exploration, and interesting. I’d recommend this as a good read, especially to anyone who hasn’t read anything in the Ultimate Universe.

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