Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Lafuente
Coloring by Justin Ponsor
Lettering by VC's Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Brian Michael Bendis is the John Hughes of comics. And I mean that in the best way possible.
With Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Bendis has been able to have his cake and eat it, too -- on the one hand, he gets to go back to basics. On the other hand, he gets to draw on a rich supporting cast, ranging from Gwen Stacy to Kitty Pryde to the Human Torch. Indeed, the superheroics in this book actually kind of plays second-fiddle to the drama in Peter Parker's world.
And oh, do I love it.
In this issue, we get another look at Peter's supporting cast, while he's off to battle a mother-daughter supervillainess team. David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor are part of what makes this approach work -- the artwork is just magnetic. One scene in particular -- in which a bunch of high school hooligans begin pelting Kitty Pryde with food just to see if she'll phase through it -- comes off as particularly cruel and heartbreaking, due mainly to the expressions Lafuente gives his characters, whether it be Kitty's rage, or Mary Jane's helplessness. Ponsor's colors, while not as eye-popping as the last issue, still embue the art with its own self-sustaining energy.
And perhaps most surprising is the fact that Bendis can make Peter Parker happy -- hell, can have him be the object of affection for not one, but three women -- and still keep his nebbishy everyman qualities. He and Gwen Stacy just come off as completely adorable, despite these scenes flying in the face of just about every rule of dramatic tension. "Ugh! I hate to miss lab." Peter says, putting on his Spidey-tights. "Nerd," Gwen replies. "Cutie!" Peter shoots back. No matter whether it's the pits of embarrassment or the heights of young love, Bendis sells it with emotion and good humor, playing to his artists' strengths as well as his own.
Of course, while this is still my favorite issue of the week, it's not perfect. David Lafuente's designs on the students are so spectacular, that his body work on Spidey himself feels a little boxy for my tastes. It certainly plays up the power -- not unlike John Romita, Jr., based on the musculature and motion lines -- but at the same time, I think it detracts from the fluidity and speed of a character as agile and acrobatic as Spider-Man. That said, part of this is on Ponsor -- his Spidey is actually the darkest character in the book, which puts a slight damper on things. I love it when colors pop off the page, and Spider-Man's character design should lend itself to that.
But ultimately (heh, no pun intended there), Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is easily the strongest Spider-Man book on the stands right now. There are few books out there that are as much of a treat to just soak in visually as this one, and the subject matter lends itself so well to Brian Michael Bendis' talky, heartfelt style. With all the best parts of a John Hughes classic as well as some tights and spider-powers, Brian Michael Bendis and company have put together a book that any Spider-Fan owes it to themselves to pick up.