Thursday, June 23, 2011
Ultimate Spider-Man #160
Artist: Mark Bagley
Company: Marvel Comics
Reading this book makes me think of the saying, "On any given Sunday." Yes, that's a sports reference and yes it's also a reference to a sub-par Oliver Stone movie, so I can imagine people are scratching their heads as to what it is that I'm referring to. We'll get there. Where Brian Bendis is concerned, I really have a few problems with his writing style, which is apparent if you've read my reviews of his Avengers book lately. His tics are so apparent and teeth gnashing that it's sometimes hard to make it through an issue without feeling the need to scream or throw my hands up in the air and scream, "Why, God? Why?" Still, On Any Given Sunday, any writer can bring their A Game and kick some ass. J.T. Krul did
that recently with his Deadman and the Flying Graysons and James Robinson reminded people just how good he can make a character focus story with The Outsider as well. Bendis CAN be a great writer. To say that he isn't one is crazy. He proved that with his runs on Daredevil and Alias and Powers. He also proved that with his run on Ultimate Spider-Man, and more importantly, he reminded me just how good of a writer he can be with these past five issues of said title.
Just as a warning to people who may have not read this issue yet, there will be spoilers discussed from this point on. If you don't want to know the particulars of the issue, snag a copy and then come back.
One of the main things that shocked me was how the emotions of the characters were handled. Usually with Bendis, I expect those types of things to be there, but they tend to be heavy handed. Here, seeing Mary Jane talk with her Mother about seeing Peter (obvious worry in her eyes) as explosions rumble in the distance worked. As did Parker's frustrations at Goblin as they battle and the look of horror on the faces of Johnny Storm, May Parker & Gwen Stacy. Like I said, it feels real and organic. You're not being told to feel a certain way by mundane or annoying captions, you're seeing the emotions literally bleed out of the characters.
Drawing this memorable issue is series artist Mark Bagley. Bagley is talented. He knows these characters, has been drawing them for years, and he knows how to translate Bendis' breakdowns onto the page. The angles are very Marvel, as are the big splash pages. Bagley's pencils have always had an ease to them. They move very fluidly and you're never confused by where they are going. With this issue specifically, I was very happy to see him be able to translate the emotion that is in the story to the character's faces. While action is a name-stay with Ultimate Spider-Man, one that Bagley obviously gets, with a book that tugs on the heartstrings a bit as this one does, that you could see the terror and the struggle was fantastic. These two creators working together, with the help from people like Andy Lanning who has been doing a fantastic job inking Bagley pencils to Justin Ponsor's colors to Cory Petit's lettering, know how to make a book worth reading.
So yes, On Any Given Sunday, any creator can surprise you. With the Death of Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis gives a send off issue that encapsulates everything that his run to date has had: Humor, action, drama and lastly, heart. And Spider-Man died a hero. I can accept that. All in all, a damn fine issue.