Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Lafuente
Color: Justin Ponsor
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Release Date: Wednesday, August 12
Review by Troy Brownfield
Of all of the books that came out under the original Ultimate banner, Spider-Man got to be good for the longest period of time. In fact, up until the final issue, an extremely patchy work that suffered from a lot of problems dictated by Ultimatum, it was a consistently good series. When you consider the length of that run and how much positive work came out of it, it was a pretty strong achievement.
Fortunately, Spider-Man lost the least in its transition from a $2.99 Ultimate book to a $3.99 Ultimate Comics book. The issue opens a few months after the Ultimatum Wave, and while there have been some changes in the social and romantic landscape of Peter Parker’s life, this is, thankfully, very much like the series that Bendis and crew were doing before characters began drowning and eating one another.
One major change is the addition of artist David Lafuente. His style, a unique hybrid of John Romita Jr.-style and manga influences, is perfectly suited to this character. However, I have to object to the round melon that Spidey sports in costume. Unless he’s wearing some new protective headgear that we haven’t seen diagrammed yet, it’s just a very odd look. It’s as if Charlie Brown were putting on the outfit.
Thankfully, much of Spider-Man’s supporting cast remains intact. A couple of new threats begin to emerge in this issue, and that’s just fine. Villains come and go, but the intricacies of Peter’s daily life should remain. I’m glad that Bendis remained on this book; for nearly a decade, he built an involving story about a character that we knew very well. He made a lot of things fresh again, and I hope that he and his fellow creators are able to keep it up.
I liked the new number one, although the price spike is a very unfortunate side-effect. I hope that the readers of the previous series check it out; I’m sure that they like what they’ll see. As for new readers, well . . . there’s a bit of catch-up to be done, and the opening text page may explain the Ultimatum Wave, but it doesn’t offer much on the cast. If Ultimate Comics is still supposed to be the accessible avenue, that’s kind of an odd route. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining comic, well-suited to readers of the previous iteration.Ultimate Comics Avengers #1
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Carlos Pacheco and Danny Miki
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Cory Petit
Released on August 12, 2009
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
The best way to look at Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 is to look at it as the opening intro to a James Bond movie: it's meant to be stylish, action-packed, and to get you rooting for your hero. Does it succeed?
Hell, yes -- on all three counts.
Mark Millar's return to the Ultimate Universe is, at least on a story level, surprisingly light, but he has enough fire to the action that you're willing to wait a bit. As you've seen on the variant covers, the Red Skull has come to town, and his meeting with Captain America is going to have some serious repercussions -- perhaps none more immediate than Cap getting his star-spangled cowl handed to him.
Yet Millar still has his vintage tongue-in-cheek sensibility to his one-liners, including Tony Stark's explanation of why he couldn't attend a S.H.I.E.L.D.-operated takedown: "Relax, sweetheart. Tomorrow morning's hangover will be my own personal apocalypse." Top it off with an entertaining -- if, admittedly, not altogether original -- rescue by Hawkeye, and you have yourself a nice opener for Marvel's eagerly awaited big action blockbuster.
Artwise, Carlos Pacheco is an interesting case. In a lot of ways, you can see him trying to bridge the disparate styles of original series penciler Bryan Hitch with the cartoonier designs of Ultimates 3 penciler Joe Madureira. Even the way the Red Skull moves when he fights is reminiscent of Hitch, and I say that as a great compliment -- but other images, such as Hawkeye leaping out of a helicopter, have their own kind of energy to them that is all Pacheco. That said, sometimes Pacheco and Miki's backgrounds feel a little sparse: the city is fully rendered, but I think the details and defects that gave Bryan Hitch's settings so much realism and personality -- especially now that the city is supposed to be wrecked -- just isn't there.
Meanwhile, colorist Justin Ponsor takes a surprising tack on his palettes, giving the Ultimate Avengers a much brighter look than in any of the previous installments. On the one hand, you could argue that this detracts from the cynical, post-9/11 tone that Millar has been setting up -- yet I see this book as more of the opening for a popcorn action flick, and so Ponsor may be on the right track here. I'd be curious to see how Pacheco's art would look under a darker, more realistic lighting scheme, but at the same time, he may be just a little too cartoony for it to work.
While the story certainly isn't as allegory-heavy as Millar's previous work on the franchise, Ultimate Comics Avengers works some serious magic. With quick characterization, a handful of one-liners, and saturated with exciting acts of derring-do, after finishing the issue, I was half-expecting to hear a theme song and see the opening credits. The issue ends with a new mission unfolded -- and this time, it's personal. And I, for one, can't wait to see how it plays out.
For a preview of BOTH issues, please click here...