This week’s comic book news cycle started off auspiciously Monday morning with word that someone other than Peter Parker would be starring as the titular hero in Ultimate Spider-Man following the current “Death of Spider-Man” storyline.
Details, other than a new costume illustrated by Sara Pichelli, are still scant at this point — series writer Brian Michael Bendis declared “No comments for now about any of it” on his Twitter account — but clearly, this is big news with all sorts of possible implications for the future of Marvel’s nearly 11-year-old Ultimate line, started back in 2000 to showcase updated version’s of the company’s classic characters.
So with that in mind, we put on our speculation helmet, lace up our wild guess boots and strap on our reasonable assumption bandolier to try and ascertain what a new character taking over as Ultimate Spider-Man could mean to both the plot of the comic and for readers. And, oh yeah, if you haven’t been reading the “Death of Spider-Man” story, be warned that rather sizable spoilers follow.NEW SPIDER-MAN?
On one hand, duh, right? If you’re going to write a story called “Death of Spider-Man,” it only stands to reason that there will be a new Spider-Man by the end of it (if the comic book is going to keep going, which hadn’t been totally clear until recently).
On the always crucial other hand: Unless you read your first superhero comic book yesterday, you should know not to necessarily take titles like “Death of Spider-Man” literally. (Case in point: Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s “Death of Invisible Woman” story in Fantastic Four a couple of years ago; a million other examples.) It may very well not actually mean that Spider-Man is dying, and it certainly doesn’t mean that secret identity Peter Parker is dying, despite being shot by the Punisher in Ultimate Spider-Man #157 — the “death” could be him giving up his superhero life, for instance.
And it still could mean any of those things. Just because someone else is playing Spider-Man post “Death of Spider-Man” doesn’t mean that Peter Parker is out of the picture, or, based on the limited information revealed thus far, that he’s even given up being Spider-Man. (Though the fact that June’s issue #160 is polybagged, much like the Human Torch’s death in Fantastic Four #587, is a bit ominous.)
What it does mean is that someone else is playing Spider-Man, and the why and who remain unknown. The current book isn’t exactly filled with potential candidates, but as online speculation has pointed out, there is definitely an attractive symmetry in the idea of Human Torch — who has been living with Peter Parker and Aunt May as of late in Ultimate Spider-Man — taking over for Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe similar to how the reverse happened in the mainstream Marvel Universe’s FF.
Another obvious candidate for the new Spidey would be the Ultimate version of Jessica Drew — in this Ultimate world, a gender-reversed clone of Peter Parker — and the idea of using a costume to conceal sex isn’t foreign territory for Bendis. (Surely you remember Maya Lopez’s stint as Ronin in New Avengers.)
In both the New York Post article that initially broke the news, and the main body of the Marvel press release, one thing was conspicuously absent: the name “Brian Michael Bendis.”
It’s a sad thing to admit, but it’s true: One day, Bendis will end his record-breaking (157 issues and counting!) run on Ultimate Spider-Man. Though you'd be worthy prey for the Foolkiller to question his work ethic, the man is currently writing not only Ultimate Spider-Man, but the ongoing Avengers, New Avengers and Moon Knight series, plus creator-owned titles Powers, Scarlet, Takio and Brilliant, along with working on the Powers TV show, the Fire movie, consulting on Marvel Studios films and various other secret projects (including game work) he's dropped hints about here and there. That doesn't mean that he is leaving now or any time soon, but both Nelly Furtado and Q have taught us that all good things must come to an end.The question has always been, will Ultimate Spider-Man keep going after Bendis stops writing the book, and if so, what writer would step up and tackle such a daunting task?
In Marvel’s July solicitations, released last week, there were no issues of Ultimate Spider-Man to be seen, but there was something called Ultimate Fallout, described only as “The End before The Beginning.”
Writing the three issues solicited for July: Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer. While the first two have plenty of Ultimate experience (the obvious for Bendis, and Hickman wrote the recent Ultimate Thor), Spencer is a newcomer to the realm.
Promptly early Monday morning, Spencer retweeted two different posts from Bendis about the new Ultimate Spider-Man. Of course, sometimes a retweet is just a retweet, but this coupled with the fact that he’s working on the post-“Death of Spider-Man” miniseries, is, to paraphrase the immortal words of C+C Music Factory, a thing that makes you go hmm.
Spencer, Marvel exclusive as of March, is currently only working on one ongoing series for the publisher (Iron Man 2.0). His Secret Avengers stint is contained to next week’s Point One issue and three tie-ins to Fear Itself, and a Cloak & Dagger miniseries was announced recently, but that was reported to be just three issues.
Given how quickly Spencer was signed to an exclusive deal, it’s clear that Marvel has big plans for him — and well, taking over as writer of Ultimate Spider-Man would definitely be pretty big, right? And given his recognized strength at writing teenage characters — just look at the Eisner nominations for Morning Glories — he’s as sound a candidate as any.
Right now, Ultimate Spider-Man is the only regularly released ongoing title in the Ultimate Universe right now (Ultimate Comics X is also an ongoing, but comes out infrequently). And with a story running called “Death of Spider-Man” and Mark Millar announcing that Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates will be his last work-for-hire project at Marvel for a while, one wonders , what is exactly going to be left?
Now that it seems relatively sure that Ultimate Spider-Man is continuing in some form, and everyone from Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada to Bendis himself has stated publicly that there are big plans coming up for the Ultimate line of titles, what naturally seems to be next is figuring out exactly — what will be the Ultimate line of titles?
Will there be some sort of reconstituted X-Men or Fantastic Four? Will another writer pick up where Millar left off on the Avengers and Ultimates characters? Will we see some more modern Marvel concepts Ultimate-ized? Which creators will get involved?
Fascinating questions, all, but at this point it’s probably best for us to remove our conjecture vest before it starts to chafe.Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!