BEWARE! Here there be SPOILERS!Ultimate Spider-Man #160
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley, Andy Lanning, Andrew Hennessy and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Colin Bell
The clue was in the title, everyone! Not a metaphorical death, or a retirement of the identity of Spider-Man as some had guessed; this is the issue where Peter Parker faces down the Green Goblin: One. More. Time. With fatal results!
The last twenty six pages of this Ultimate Spider-Man's life are devoted to that battle and fleeting moments shared amidst the carnage, between the young Peter Parker and his family and friends. It's in these moments that writer Bendis hits the mark and where the characterization and interplay between characters, arguably the heart of what made Ultimate Spider-Man tick this past decade, shine through.
The final skirmish between Parker and his nemesis is frantic, desperate, and reckless, and therefore perfectly in keeping with the raised stakes of the situation. It also goes some way to underline the notion that for the past ten years we've witnessed not a fully-grown superhero, but a young teenager doing the best that he could with the powers that he had, which I suppose could quite easily serve as a summation of the entire series itself.
There are subtle touches written into the story that indicate that everything is going on the line on this one - Peter fighting unmasked in front of his neighborhood, Aunt May and MJ taking an active and sometimes desperate involvement in the proceedings for instance both ratchet up the tension. Before you know it, it's all over, abruptly, and we're left with our hero coming to terms with his situation, and even gaining some insight into his superheroic career, which while coming out of left-field, is pretty touching. It's a perfect little emotional beat to cap off, in terms of quality, one of Marvel's most consistent comics of the 21st century.Given the finality of the storyline, in retrospect it was perfectly apt that the artist who launched the book and shaped so much of our impressions of Ultimate Spider-Man returned to finish him off. Fierce determination, grim resignation and latterly calm acceptance, Mark Bagley sells every expression on our protagonist's face and wrings some real emotion out of the final scenes of the story. There is one moment where we're witness to what is arguably the greatest physical, possibly heroic, feat of Peter Parker's life, and sadly it falls a little flat for me in the downplayed way it's presented, when it could've been a defining image that everyone would associate with the storyline. It's a small quibble in what is by and large a solidly presented piece of work.
Does it stick the landing in terms of the current storyline? I'd say yes. Does the clash feel like a satisfyingly epic way to end ten years worth of story? Not massively, although you could always argue that death in actuality, rarely does bring any such closure. While the previously mentioned urgency of the final battle indicates that people are playing for keeps, it's worth acknowledging, begrudgingly, that what really ups the ante in the proceedings throughout the issue is the fact that the phrase "Death of Spider-Man" is plastered on the cover and has been for several months now.If everyone stays true to their word, Ultimate Peter Parker's story is over, and we're in the rare position of being able to read a complete superheroic career from start to finish. In years to come, the death of this Spider-Man will probably be judged by its legacy, specifically how well Bendis utilizes the passing of Peter Parker to set-up his replacement (for want of a better word). Interviews with the creator have indicated that this death informs the appearance of the new Spider-Man debuting later this year in a way that Parker was inspired by his Uncle's death. It's an interesting gambit, and one that will certainly bring me back for more. If nothing else over the past decade, when it comes to Ultimate Spider-Man Bendis has earned my faith several times over.
Ultimate Spider-Man is dead. Long live Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!