Friday, October 14, 2011

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man # 2-3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Company: Marvel Comics

It's a fairly easy statement to make that Ultimate Spider-Man, in whatever incarnation that it's taken, is Brian Michael Bendis' best work. It's the most character centric, spot on, interesting, and ultimately enjoyable comic book that he's written. Sure, you could throw out and argue Alias, but there's something so dead on with the way that Bendis "gets" the character of Peter Parker. Now, this new book isn't Parker, but that in and of itself isn't a deal breaker. Starting from the ground up with a new character, while risky in many ways, also makes a great amount of sense. The potential for new readers is there, but the game has to be brought in order to keep up with the expectations. The first issue did that, though it did
trend towards the slower side of the street. Issues two and three do as well, but despite that slow burn, you can feel things ramping up to something.

In a sense, the Miles Morales story arc so far is a direct homage to the tone and pacing of the first few Ultimate Spider-Man comics. The costume has yet to appear and the main focus of the book is our hero coming to grips with his new powers. Bendis does set new ground in a few ways. I really am enjoying the familial overtures that are being set up with Morales' Mom and Dad. They bring an interesting dynamic to the tale that we haven't quite seen in Spider-Man comics. Sure, we've had Aunt May in the past, but it isn't the same and that difference brings the new to the table, as does his best friend, Ganke, whom is the only person Miles has shared his secret of being empowered with. He's a bit of an odd duck, a kid with a Lego addiction and the need to wear "ironic" Marvel Universe t-shirts emblazoned with Frogman and Howard the Duck, but he adds a dose of much needed humor and takes up the role of sidekick rather well.

What keeps us in the seat and has our fingers flipping the pages though is Miles himself. Bestowing a different set of Spider powers on him is great. It makes him similar to Parker, yet different as well, works. The active camouflage has the potential of being very useful and a very cool visual to attribute to the character. Still, Bendis makes you like the kid very early on. He's easy to connect with, has real problems that you can understand, and he just feels like he could be the kid that you see down the street playing basketball with his friends.  The action front, sadly, is a little vacant at the moment, which is a missed opportunity in my opinion. I understand that Bendis wants readers to get a great sense for the character before he delves into that well, which they are, but there needs to be a happy medium that is able to connect these two things. Now, I will say that there is a cool action sequence in the third issue, one that allows you to get a good sense of what our hero can do in the way of physicality.

On the other side of the fence, visually speaking, Sara Pichelli's work on the book is flawless. The body language, the movement, and the utter detail that she injects into her characters adds so much to the proceedings and make everything pop so well. Nothing is taken for granted, be it the clothes that the characters are wearing or the busy and bustle-y New York streets. The way that she draws Morales leaping and hopping and even standing around isn't the standard stuff, each pose is fueled by a great sense of character. The movement is so fluid and fun, so eye appealing that its hard to tear yourself away from it. There's also this great mesh of realism and the traditional comic book aesthetic in her work that makes what's happening on the page so approachable. Without a doubt, Pichelli is one of the best artists in comics right now.

So yes, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man aims to entertain, and it exceeds that goal quite regularly. Armed with an interesting new character to comics and beautiful and stylish art, this bi-weekly powerhouse can't go wrong.

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