Ultimate Spider-Man:
#1: Power & Responsibility

by Brian Michael
Bendis, Mark Bagley
(Marvel, 2001)

It would be difficult to find anyone who isn't familiar with Spider-Man. I mean, C'MON!! One of the most recognized comic book characters the world over, probably second only to Superman or Batman, he is, quite literally, a cultural icon, and has been for at least a generation. It is with these facts that I justify yet another of my superhero comic reviews that so vex those of alternative tastes.

But, seriously, this one is overdue. Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the best-selling, most popular Spider-Man comics to be produced in years. When Marvel first announced their "updating" of the character, an attempt to make him appeal to today's younger audience, I was one of the blanching naysayers, denying the value and announcing the eventual failure of the endeavor. I've rarely been more pleased to be wrong, and with very good reason.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis has taken a product that had grown incredibly stale over the years and made it interesting and exciting again, using nothing more than the original mythos, slightly tweaked. His portrayals of today's teen culture, including speech, attitudes, motivations, etc., are closer than any comic adaptation I have ever seen (after 13 years working with teenagers). The stories are engrossing and well written. The characters are immensely interesting, with a like-new shine that belies their decades-old history.

The art is no less pleasing. Probably the best modern-age Spider-Man artist ever, Mark Bagley's drawing style is incredibly suited to this book. He demonstrates his mastery of character expression on every page, deftly handling low-key, contemplative scenes. Then, he switches gears, causing the action to practically explode in the reader's face. His visuals are a big part of the book's appeal.

Ultimate Spider-Man is recommended for all ages, as it has helped put the "fun" back into superhero comics.

[ by Mark Allen ]
Rambles: 21 September 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.