Uh, oh, there are getting to be things I like here. Smith has turned it into a domestic–Batman fights crime while Silver waits home for him. The stuff with the new goat guy revealing his face to Bruce too soon is dumb; Smith can only rationalize comic book logic so far.
But it opens with a little bit about the relative lack of danger Silver Age goof villains had–before the Joker appeared (while not technically accurate, Smith sells it)–Smith’s trying things a little again. He’s treating Widening Gyre like it’s disconnected from the other Batman comics, which I do like.
He still writes Silver poorly. One can tell he’s writing the dialogue for Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. He also writes Catwoman poorly–and Flanagan draws her even worse–but he’s trying to give Batman a grown-up problem.
The ambition is nice. Comic’s still lame though.
The Centre Cannot Hold; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.
This issue’s easily the best and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a romance montage–Bruce and Silver off in paradise during the day, Batman out at night. There’s some stuff with the goat vigilante, who Smith writes like Brody from Mallrats and that scene is awful… and Smith writes Silver awful and the whole thing of unbelievably rich people romancing is lame… But, somehow, the issue is a lot better than expected.
It’s awful to be sure, but Smith’s trying something in his Batman narration. Bruce is learning. These self-observations are trite and beneath Dr. Phil, but Smith is trying.
Flanagan’s art doesn’t help. He gives all the superheroes besides Bruce long, dirty nineties hair. Tim Drake Robin looks like a girl.
Smith does get in an extra guest star–Aquaman–who he writes a little better than Batman, but not much.
I still loathe the comic though.
Things Fall Apart; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.
Leave it to Kevin Smith to try to make Batman sound hip. He also sounds really self-aware, which doesn’t really work for the character. I was half expecting Smith to make a gay joke, but then remembered it’s the one thing DC editorial won’t allow.
This issue has Batman teaming up with Robin in flashback, then Nightwing in present, then heading off on his own to Arkham. All while Smith overdoes the narration. His Batman is desperate to stay relevant–making notes to check pop culture references and so on–while he thinks about retiring the Robin mantle.
If it weren’t for Walt Flanagan’s art, if DC had paired Smith with an established comic artist, Widening Gyre might not read like a vanity project. But with Flanagan–who’s competent but clearly not professional–Smith’s script feels like a long joke at the reader’s expense.
He does pace it okay though.
Turning and Turning; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.
You know, when Bendis and Bagley are on, they’re really on. Though this issue is mostly just a big fight between Peter and Doc Ock, there’s a couple little things with Gwen and Mary Jane. First–and I thought foremost–Mary Jane’s mother (off panel) kicks out her father, which will have repercussions in the future I’m sure. Bendis treats it casually, but it shows he hasn’t forgotten what he’s got brewing.
More importantly, there’s this little implication Gwen’s figured out Peter’s secret identity. It’s just a little thing, one or two panels–and maybe I’m wrong, but I’m hoping I’m not. Otherwise I’m not sure what Bagley and Bendis were trying to do.
During the fight, Peter has a line about Doc Ock’s prisons never being good enough. Still doesn’t explain the incompetence of Ultimate SHIELD, but at least Bendis is aware of the contrivance.
It’s a fun issue.
Hollywood: Part Three; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.
The Spider-Man movie adventure continues with Kong getting a part, Gwen freaking out and Peter stalking the set.
Oh, and Dr. Octopus storming the set during filming.
It’s kind of a cheap issue, the kind of cheap Ultimate Spider-Man issue one feels a little bad about enjoying because it’s clear Bendis didn’t work very hard on it. He included some really funny lines between Doc Ock and his arms, he made Kong look like a moron, he made Gwen sympathetic. Bendis knows all the right notes to play here and he goes through each one.
What’s strangest is how disconnected the issue seems from the series in general. While Gwen’s finally voicing her frustration over Spider-Man, Mary Jane’s rather serious grounding doesn’t even get a mention this issue. Bendis is diverting attention from some subjects instead of focusing it on others.
Like I said, though, it’s fun.
Hollywood: Part Two; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.
It’s another Bendis setup issue, complete with a text piece from Peter recounting current events. Actually, he doesn’t so much recount events as explain he’s finally happy (though Mary Jane’s not allowed to see him) so what could possibly go wrong.
Immediately following those happy thoughts, he finds out about a Spider-Man movie. Bendis ties it into Spider-Man 2, I think, since the first once missed the Ultimate boat.
Aunt May has also left for a week–trusting Peter and Gwen, which seems unlikely. It’s an excellent departing scene, but ignores recent events.
The kids at school want to be in the movie, which leads to Mary Jane teasing Peter. It’s another fine scene from Bendis. He’s just obvious in his setup. It mildly cheapens the enjoyment of reading Ultimate Spider-Man.
Oh, and Doctor Octopus is back. Once again, Ultimate SHIELD is really dumb.
Still, it passes.
Hollywood: Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, Nick Lowe and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.
Bendis misses just about every chance he’s got this time. It’s not a bad issue, surprisingly good, actually, but he misses all the great chances. He doesn’t, for instance, let Peter beat the shit out of Mary Jane’s dad. It’d be a hard scene to do, but I’ll bet Bendis could handle it.
Or when Peter–in costume–rescues Black Cat. She’s in her civilian identity and it could have been a strong encounter. But Bendis doesn’t. He abbreviates it. This arc, had Bendis cut out half the useless action scene a couple issues ago and lengthened the finish here, would have been really strong.
And the Mary Jane stuff needed to be introduced earlier since it turned out so important. Bendis arcs might be trade-friendly, but he doesn’t write enough for the arc. He doesn’t put enough thought into what he wants to get done.
Still, good issue.
At least there’s a lot of action this issue so one doesn’t concentrate on Bagley’s strange version of “sexy girl” art.
Bendis actually spends a page, alongside Peter scaling a building, to write up a bunch of narration. And it’s the best thing in the issue, even though it’s only necessary because of the lengthy, unfulfilling fight scene.
He covers Peter’s self-awareness about pursuing Black Cat with Mary Jane at home. But there’s also some about the adventuring. When Peter gets to the top of the building, he’s upset the fight’s over and he’s alone. That observation is a little one, but it’s telling… Peter’s an adventuring junkie.
There’s some inexplicably weak bookends with Kingpin (not to mention yet another tease of May discovering Peter’s secret identity).
It’s yet another pointless, terribly paced issue, but Bendis makes up for it a little with his excellent handling of Peter Parker.
Mark Bagely’s attempts at drawing sexy, scantily clad women–Elektra and Black Cat–are mildly disturbing. He’s not good at it; he’s also not good at designing their Ultimate costumes. Visually, this issue is atrocious.
As for the story, it’s not bad. Bendis is clearly setting up throughout the issue–a big fight between the three–and everything else seems back burner. Even Mary Jane and Peter, which Bendis does cover… but he gives it less space than the Black Cat stuff.
For example, the opening scene bringing the Kingpin into the story is totally useless. It’s filler. Ultimate Spider-Man probably would be a lot better if it weren’t for the double issue months. Bendis might figure out his story.
There’s a lot of potential in the Black Cat meeting though, because Bendis still writes Peter well. Hopefully, he won’t disappoint in the plotting.
But that Bagley art’s gross.
Not a good issue. The stuff at the end, with Mary Jane’s dad flipping out and May and Gwen off to the rescue, that stuff is good. The stuff with Peter and Mary Jane, kind of good. It’s all a little redundant, especially since Bendis and Bagley just got done with their terrible Ultimate Black Cat introduction.
For a while, when Bagley was concentrating on Black Cat’s eyes (in very Cooke Catwoman googles), I didn’t think her costume was going to be inordinately exploitative. I even got hopeful Bendis would have fun with the bad luck powers. I was totally wrong about the former and mostly wrong about the latter.
Especially after Peter shows up. I think the issue’s oversized is for the lame fight.
It’s great Bendis writes May and Gwen so well, but they shouldn’t be the best thing in an issue. I don’t even think Gwen talks.
And here comes the secret identity stuff. Kingpin is going to find Peter out! But wait, doesn’t Peter know Nick Fury? Can’t they do something? Nick Fury would move heaven and earth for Aunt May but not against Kingpin? That story’s a lot more interesting than the one Bendis is going to tell, I’m sure.
Otherwise, it’s a pretty good issue. Jonah realizes he’s been wrong and he tries to be a reporter. There’s a funny fight scene with the Enforcers. It’s way too long, but it’s funny.
Bendis once again tells some of the story in the opening recap, this time about Jonah changing his mind about the District Attorney race. He easily could’ve spared two pages of the fight scene for a good real scene.
Then there’s the standoff with Peter and Kingpin and it’s only okay. The jokes aren’t good enough (from either of them).
I just love how Bendis handles Ultimate Kingpin and Peter. I know I’ve already said it, but it’s even better this issue. The relationship between the two obviously has to do with Peter’s idealism, which is just the inherent lack of reality of superhero comics. Bendis, with Bagley’s art beautifully working against it, is trying to bring some gravitas to Ultimate Spider-Man.
He’s not doing it with a dark story or whatever, he’s doing it with politics and corruption and Jonah being a really shallow guy. It’s a great issue. I don’t remember the last time the comic was so impressive, actually.
And I started this arc nonplussed. Bendis shaved the weaker story arc for this issue (the secret identity) and married the Kingpin and District Attorney candidate nicely. Using Ultimate Ben Urich helps, of course, since Bendis writes him so well.
The moment with May is outstanding too.
Bendis introduces three new plot lines–the Kingpin is back, too many people know Peter is Spider-Man and the Bugle is backing a mayoral candidate who’s out to get Spider-Man. Well, maybe not a mayoral candidate. I wasn’t paying too much attention.
To stay true to his form, Bendis will likely tie these three plot lines together, which doesn’t make much sense. In a lot of ways, it feels like Bendis doesn’t know what he’s doing here.
But he’s at least doing it in good scenes. He excels at the Bugle stuff, even when people are being quiet, and he also excels at Ultimate Kingpin. Bendis writes a very funny Kingpin. Unfortunately, the Spider-Man identity question gets the least treatment.
Having reunited Peter and Mary Jane, Bendis is at a loss for how to write them together. Without drama or tension, there’s nothing for them to do.
This issue is a prelude to Ultimate Six, with Bendis focusing on Sharon Carter and her take on the last time Spidey fought Doctor Octopus. Turns out Ultimate Sandman was there too.
Bendis can get a little mileage out of it being an untold tale, but the comic’s fairly limp. Spider-Man’s outgoing personality comes across as forced and unlikely.
Carter is an awful protagonist for the comic, alternating between unlikable and mentally unstable. Of course, Bendis understands she’s a weak lead, so he gives Bagley maybe six double page action spreads to do.
The best part of the comic is probably Flint Marko’s expressions and it’s unclear who came up with those, since he doesn’t talk.
All Bendis had to do was a solid prequel to an event and he flops. Ultimate Carter is just a lousy character. The issue makes one want to avoid Six at all costs.