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Something that a lot of Ultimate fans can agree upon is that when Marvel rebranded the line after Jeph Loeb destroyed it, it has never been as good or the same. Yes killing off a bunch of the characters can be interesting and did shake up the world, but the problem with the whole experience was that it felt like Loeb was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. Ultimate Spider-Man used to be a top ten book every month but slipped way down the chart. Sure it’s still in the top fifty if I’m not mistaken, but it’s never recovered that power house position that it once held.
Frankly, having Bendis on the title for so long has been good and bad. He’s managed to keep it very consistent and the series has had his unique storytelling voice for the entire run giving it a familiarity to it no matter what’s going on in the series. Now, the plan is to kill Spider-Man and the original team behind the book is reunited to do it which is actually quite sad. You see the book has finally gotten back to the type of stories and character interactions that made it good to begin with.
The issue that returns Ultimate Spider-man back to its true form is #155, the Death of Spider-Man: Prelude issue. In this issue there are no battles fought with villains, no daily grind of school work and very little web-slinging in general. What there is is a lot of great character interactions, a lot of touching moments and tons of great dialog.
It begins with Peter being fired from his fast food job and receiving a call from J. Jonah who tells him they need to talk. The catch is that JJJ knows that Peter is Spider-Man so when he says they need to talk it gets Peter’s heart pumping. What follows is a moment unlike any other between the two characters in history. It even blows away the Amazing Spider-Man scene in which JJJ tells Spider-Man that his wife’s death is not his fault. JJJ basically tells Peter that he owes him his life and that he cannot continue without helping him in life. This man is more of a mortal enemy to Peter than anyone else, since he controls public opinion and here he is telling him that he owes him. But nothing he offers can Peter accept, because of who Peter is. He wants to earn everything and not be handed the world. It’s an amazing moment that clearly defines who Peter/Spider-Man is at his core… a truly selfless person.
It doesn’t end there as Peter heads home to a surprise
birthday party and in typical Peter fashion… he forgot it was his own birthday.
That one bit of information is one of the things that makes Spider-Man so great
and it was another perfect characterization of him. The rest of the party is
spent between Peter and MJ as they patch their relationship up and Bendis
captures that connection between the two characters that everyone loves.
This really is the perfect issue before the shit hits the fan. It’s calm, it establishes the status quo and it’s just really, really good. I stopped reading Ultimate Spider-Man for the longest time because it seemed like it was just grinding its gears trying to be different. Nothing felt genuine anymore. After the event that shall not be named the real feeling world of the Ultimate line just seemed like another spin-off comic book. Peter dealing with villains and school in a very real world way stopped existing when he had Carnage, Iceman and the Human Torch start living with him.
Somehow, through all that Bendis finally found his footing and got the series back on track… just in time to destroy it again. If they do in fact kill Ultimate Spider-Man then the Ultimate line will die with it as well as Ult Spidey is the glue that keeps the universe together. One thing I can say is that after issue 155 I can go into Death of Spider-Man knowing that the characters are being handled with as much love and care as when they were first created/characterized by Bendis and Bagley. If you don’t want to see Ult Spidey die then I recommend picking up the prelude to get the last book of the series that will capture what it started off as.