For twenty issues now we’ve seen how the new Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, has adjusted to the life of a super-powered adolescent. What will he do when Peter Parker’s past rears its ugly symbiote head and goes after Miles’ family? Major Spoilers reviews Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #21 to find out!

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 21 CoverULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN #21
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Sara Pichelli & Ranier Beredo
Assistant Editors: Emily Shaw & Jon Moisan
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Miles Morales’ father, Jefferson, took up arms against Hydra during the Ultimate Universe’s brief Civil War and was believed by Betty Brant to be the new Spider-Man. After J. Jonah Jameson refused to buy the identity of the new Spider-Man from her she was killed by Venom, who absorbed the knowledge from her and attacked Jefferson, resulting in him going to the hospital and Miles, having lost both his uncle and now possibly his father to his life as Spider-Man, is rethinking his life as a super-hero.


I have a confession to make. I didn’t read Ultimate Spider-Man for Peter Parker. I mean, sure, it started that way. I’ve always liked the idea of Spider-Man and how he’s just a teenager that can stand side by side with the Avengers. But as the series went on I stuck with it for Peter Parker’s supporting cast. Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake, Johnny Storm, Aunt May–these characters became the lifeblood of the book. Then Peter Parker died, and Miles Morales became the new Spider-Man. Bendis did a great job of crafting his origin and setting up a compelling character, but it seemed like my greatest fear was being realized–all those side characters that I loved had disappeared and now I had to go through the vetting process with a new cast of characters. We got a strong dose of Gwen Stacy and Aunt May, and even some Mary Jane Watson in the fantastic Spider-Men miniseries, and I still read Ultimate Comics: X-Men almost exclusively for Kitty Pryde, but in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #21 we see that Bendis was just holding Gwen and Mary Jane in reserve for when they made sense to enter the story.


This issue opens with Gwen Stacy “rescuing” M.J. from a life as a humble Brooklyn barista in a non-copyright infringing “Star Cafe” where the uniform is a brown apron with a green hat (just the right shade of green to bring to mind that coffee house whose copyright is not being infringed by this book). Sara Pichelli has brought her “A” game, which excited me since her return post-Spider-Men hadn’t wowed me as much as her work on that mini had. But this issue has all the great facial expressions and carefully drawn characters that has made Pichelli my favorite Ultimate Spider-Man artist. I’m sure there will be some people who defend Mark Bagley tooth and nail (and he is a talented and very consistent artist), but I spent most of this issue just fawning over the way Pichelli drew these characters. My only complaint was when Gwen and Mary Jane confronted Miles and Ganke, the pattern on the fabric that covered Mary Jane’s midriff looked out of place with the rest of the art.


The best moments of Ultimate Spider-Man for me have always been the talking parts. Bendis excels at accurately portraying characters of different generations sitting down and having conversations with specific voices. Miles and Ganke are obviously around the beginning of their teenage years, and Gwen and Mary Jane are clearly around the cusp of young adulthood. Their mental maturity is heightened by the ordeals they’ve been through in this book, and Gwen finally discusses her death and reincarnagetion. There’s so much just in these six pages of conversation that I could write an entire review based on that, but that would be doing Bendis’ work a disservice: the presence of Venom lurking just around the corner at every moment permeates this entire issue from the sidebar on the cover labelling this as part of the “VENOM WAR” (not a crossover event, just the title of this story arc).


While the last issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man was a let-down for me, the combination of what seems to be a newly reinvigorated Sara Pichelli and Bendis getting to write an issue that was mostly my favorite characters talking to each other means I was incredibly pleased with this issue. This is the reason everyone should still be reading this book even without Peter Parker and with its somewhat awkward title (seriously, Ultimate Spider-Man just rolls off the tongue so much better), and Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #21 earns a nearly perfect 4.5 out of 5 stars from me.

Rating: ★★★★½


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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a boy. This boy grew up reading classic literature--Moby Dick, The Time Machine, Robinson Crusoe. At age six, his favorite novel was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He devoted his time and efforts into being an incredible nerd, mastering classical literature and scientific history for his school's trivia team. Then he got to college, and started reading comic books. It's been all downhill from there. Jimmy's favorite writers include Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Gail Simone, Grant Morrison, Chuck Dixon, Mark Waid and Bryan Q. Miller. His favorite artists are Kevin Maguire, Amanda Conner and Alex Ross, and his least favorite grammatical convention is the Oxford Comma. His most frequent typographical gaffe is Randomly Capitalizing Words. You can follow his lunacy on Twitter at @JimmyTheDunn

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