REVIEW: Spider-Men #4

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Peter Parker comes face to face with Aunt May and Gwen Stacy for the first time? Well, yes, because this is Ultimate Aunt May and Gwen Stacy (which this Major Spoilers reviewer thinks would be an awesome name for a wrestling tag team duo).

SPIDER-MEN #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Jimmy Cheung & Justin Ponsor
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan
Associate Editor: Sana Amanat
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Spider-Men: Mysterio found a way to bridge the gap between the 616 universe and the Ultimate universe, and Peter Parker followed him through to the Ultimate universe where he discovered that he’s actually dead, and Miles Morales has taken up the mantle of the Spider. After a confrontation with Mysterio Peter decides he needs to look up this world’s version of Aunt May to figure out just what’s going on.

THIS IS THE REASON SPIDER-MEN EXISTS

A lot of people were critical of the idea of bridging the 616 and Ultimate universes. Joe Quesada is famously quoted as saying that a crossover like this would only occur when Marvel had run out of ideas. But this issue justifies the entire concept in my mind, as we see an incredibly touching scene between a more grown-up Peter Parker and his doppel-Aunt May, whose reaction to seeing someone dressing up as her dead nephew is so perfectly human. When reading Ultimate Spider-Man, I came to love Aunt May and Gwen Stacy almost as much as Peter himself, and with the transition over to Miles Morales Spider-Man we have seen much less of them.

Bendis has done a fantastic job with the Ultimate Spider-Man title of making every story fundamentally be about the humanity of the people involved, and keeping them grounded in some semblance of reality despite the unrealistic situations they consistently find themselves in. In Spider-Men #4 we see Peter sit down with Miles and Gwen, and Gwen just starts telling stories about Ultimate Peter Parker and the time he switched brains with Wolverine. There are very different age groups represented in the conversation–the young teenager Miles, the old teenager Gwen, and the mid to late 20s Peter Parker, plus the older yet young-at-heart Aunt May later on–and Bendis realistically depicts the different perspectives each of them brings to the table.

One of the most touching moments for me in this issue was how Peter did his best to dodge or divert Gwen’s questions about her life in the 616 universe. Having just listened to the Major Spoilers Podcast about Spider-Man Blue and the discussion of Gwen Stacy’s importance to Peter, the moment in Spider-Men when Gwen gave Peter a little punch in the elbow and Peter responded by gripping her in a powerful hug resonated with me emotionally. Bendis is at his finest when writing dialogue-intensive stories, and this issue is right in his wheel-house.

THIS IS THE REASON SARA PICHELLI EXISTS

You can pair a fantastic writer and a fantastic artist on a big book, but if their story-telling techniques aren’t on the same page you’ve accomplished nothing. Putting Dwayne Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh all on the same team means nothing until they learn how to play together. Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli are so perfectly in sync that I can’t imagine this book being drawn by anyone else. Despite the phenomenal work that Mark Bagley did with Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man, the title has taken on a distinctively different tone and that’s carried out to its full extent in Spider-Men. The main USM title is sorely lacking right now without Pichelli, but I’m glad she’s on this book since it seems like it’s where Bendis’ true focus is right now.

BOTTOM LINE: PURE JOY FOR ANY ULTIMATE SPIDER-FAN

The conclusion to the Death of Spider-Man arc brought tears to my eyes, and I wasn’t sure if Bendis could ever top that. Then he went straight back to the roots of what made Spider-Man a compelling character and introduced us to Miles Morales, and I was able to push aside my sadness and embrace the sheer joy of the new character. Now he’s simultaneously giving the Death of Spider-Man a more complete conclusion for Aunt May and Gwen, as well as using the opportunity to bring growth to Miles. Additionally the continuity between this title and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man has been a true joy to watch, as Bendis nimbly dances the stories around each other without explicitly telling us where the timeline of each one falls. This is by far the best issue of the Spider-Men mini so far, and one of the best Spider-Man stories I’ve read in a long time, earning it my highest praise and a full five out of five stars.

Rating: ★★★★★