The Terrifics #3 (June 2018)

The Terrifics #3

The Terrifics #3 is completely false advertising. There’s nothing terrific in the comic at all. Certainly not the art; Joe Bennett and the three inkers have bad expressions and static figures. Not the characters. Plastic Man’s obnoxious, Mr. Terrific is a jerk, Sapphire Stagg is enabling her megalomaniac father, Simon Stagg is a megalomaniac, Metamorpho is dim; Phantom Girl is all right. The caveman is all right. Otherwise, no. And the writing isn’t terrific.

It’s kind of stunning how fast this book ran out of steam. Apparently all it had going for it was the promise of Tom Strong being integrated into the DCU. That promise isn’t worth sitting through the rest of the material.

The worst thing about the three different inkers–these aren’t terrible inkers either, at least two of the names are people who’ve worked on fine books (and I don’t recognize the third)–is there’s no visual continuity. There’s Bennett’s busy and visually uninviting composition and everyone looks a little bit different every few pages.

Terrifics has gotten to be anything but.

CREDITS

Meet the Terrifics, Part 3 of 3; writer, Jeff Lemire; penciller, Joe Bennett; inkers, Sandra Hope, Jaime Mendoza, and Art Thibert; colorist, Marcelo Maiolo; letterer, Tom Napolitano; editors, Andrew Marino and Paul Kaminski; publisher, DC Comics.

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Batman: The Widening Gyre 6 (September 2010)

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Maybe DC did the whole “New 52” thing so they’d never have to address the terrible developments in Widening Gyre.

I’d respect them for that motive.

It’s just not a bad finish, with Smith killing off a familiar DC character, but a bad issue overall. Batman breaks into the Fortress of Solitude for a date with Silver. He’s got on his goofy white snow Bat-suit. Smith writes him actual banter with the goat head guy.

Then there’s the callouts to Frank Miller–Smith reveals Batman wet himself in Year One and the idiot shrink from Dark Knight shows up. It’s almost like Smith set out to write a comic to show how not to write Batman.

Oh, I forgot. There’s even banter with Deadshot. Batman ties him up for making a joke, not for committing a crime. It’s hideous.

Smith excessively congratulates himself for his singularly atrocious Batman characterization.

CREDITS

The Blood-Dimmed Tide is Loosed; writer, Kevin Smith; penciller, Walt Flanagan; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Art Lyon; letterer, John J. Hill; editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan Didio; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 5 (April 2010)

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Oh, no, it’s another one with potential.

Smith doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger–he just has Bruce running off to avoid it. Bruce and Silver in Aspen, even in the few scenes they have, is terrible. Their trip is juxtaposed against Tim Drake Robin narrating. Smith writes all the Robin narrations the same, so it’s bland but not terrible.

Silver barely has any lines, which is great.

And then Flanagan pays an homage to the sixties show and Smith has a Tim Burton movie line in the dialogue… They’re finally being as obvious as they should be. If Gyre’s just lucky fan fiction, Smith should be aware enough to embrace it.

There’s a slight hiccup towards the end, but it has a surprisingly effective close. Smith all of a sudden decides to be authentic with people’s emotions.

It’s the first nearly okay issue.

I’m going to regret making that compliment.

CREDITS

Mere Anarchy; 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.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 4 (February 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 3 (December 2009)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Batman: The Widening Gyre 1 (October 2009)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 56 (June 2004)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 55 (May 2004)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 54 (May 2004)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 53 (April 2004)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 52 (March 2004)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 51 (February 2004)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 50 (February 2004)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 49 (January 2004)

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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).

Ultimate Spider-Man 48 (December 2003)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 47 (December 2003)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 46 (November 2003)

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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.

Ultimate Spider-Man 45 (November 2003)

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The famous therapy issue. I remember it was a big deal when it came out because Bendis all of a sudden treated Aunt May like a real character and not a pawn to occasionally put in danger.

He does a great job with the issue, especially the back and forth with her and the therapist. It also gives him a chance to hold up Ultimate Spider-Man and look at it from a different angle, to give the reader a chance to feel like the series exists a tad more substantially.

Sadly, Bagley isn’t up for the job. His art’s about as good as usual, but not really. He gets lax on some of the faces and the book is mostly just talking heads and it needs to look great throughout. And he’s rushing.

Still, it’s an excellent concept issue.

But why didn’t May ask about the X-Men shirt?

Ultimate Spider-Man 44 (October 2003)

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Bendis opens with a lot of action–resolving the previous issue’s falling out of a plane cliffhanger–but Bagley does a couple double page spreads and it flops. It’s not tense, it’s not exciting. And it seems perfunctory. This issue isn’t about action, it’s about Peter meeting the X-Men.

On those lines, Peter hanging out at the X-Mansion while May freaks out about him sneaking out of school, it works pretty well. Bendis tries to hard on the science talk between the Beast and Professor X, but he does a good job showing Peter vacationing into the world of professional superheroes. Or whatever the Ultimate X-Men are supposed to be.

It’s so enjoyable, in fact, one doesn’t realize Bendis hasn’t really done anything the entire issue until the finish, which has a great cliffhanger.

Bendis is sometimes so good, he makes the reader forget all his tricks.

Ultimate Spider-Man 43 (September 2003)

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Bendis redeems himself (for now) with this issue. He turns the X-Girl guest stars into a decent story. Peter’s shocked to discover other superheroes–more famous ones, maybe–admire him. It makes for a good realization. But Bendis also drops him into what’s more of a present day sci-fi adventure. It helps he and Bagley still have Peter half in costume, half out, but when he falls from the X-Plane, it perfectly sums up the character.

He’s half in this super world, half not. It’s so sublime a moment I can’t imagine they intended it.

The rest of the issue is subplot stuff. Gwen might not be suspicious of Peter yet, but it’s hard not to see her suspicious of Mary Jane covering for him. And it’s great to see May interacting with both girls at once.

Bendis really does do better with the non-super stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Help; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Art Thibert; colorist, Transparency Digital; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, MacKenzie Cadenhead, Nick Lowe, C.B. Cebulski and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 42 (August 2003)

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Thanks a lot, Bendis, I was really liking this issue–even with Geldoff’s eurotrash hair–until it turned out the whole thing’s just a set-up to bring in the X-Men.

Or the X-Girls.

Whatever.

The issue opens with Peter heading over to confront Geldoff, who he’s heard is blowing stuff up. It then turns into Peter (in costume, obviously) trying to understand Geldoff and explain the great power, great responsibility thing. The conversation turns heated a couple times and Bendis handles it. He handles the store robbery Peter adverts as an example of it all.

Then he brings in the X-Girls to save the day and the issue bellyflops. It’s the first time (I can remember) Bendis gets to have Peter talk these issues out and he invalidates it with a lame soft cliffhanger.

It’s still well-written, Bendis’s finale is just infuriatingly hackneyed and cheap.

Ultimate Spider-Man 41 (July 2003)

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In some ways, less than nothing happens this issue. Bendis resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, but without a Geldoff confrontation. The name’s a Pink Floyd reference, right?

Anyway, Peter, Gwen, Liz and Mary Jane run for it and basically have a talking heads adventure. It’s a comic about nothing and it’s utterly fantastic. Bendis gets to play Gwen and Liz off each other, but also have Gwen orbit around the quieter Peter and Mary Jane interaction. It’s great scene writing from Bendis. Ultimate Spider-Man is like a touching, sincere and often rather well-written sitcom.

Just a serious one.

Like Flash Thompson. Bendis is clearly building up to something big with Flash. At least he’d better be since he’s dragging it out so long.

The issue restores the status quo a little bit, bringing Bendis back into a comfort zone–but even if it’s narratively easy, it’s rewarding reading.

Ultimate Spider-Man 40 (July 2003)

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What’s a Geldoff?

Bendis skips Peter’s angst this issue, which still deals with the aftermath of the Venom arc. Instead, he concentrates on the practical. What’s Peter going to do about a costume?

For an Ultimate Spider-Man comic, there’s actually a lot of scenes. There’s stuff at school, stuff with Peter trying to get a costume, stuff at home, then stuff at the party.

But there’s a lot going on in those scenes. Bendis is laying a subplot with Flash, he’s still working through the Mary Jane breakup and he’s got a lot of great friend stuff between Peter and Gwen. She makes for an excellent sidekick.

Bagley runs into a big problem with Mary Jane in her slut gear, though. She’s utterly indistinguishable until it comes up in dialogue. Kind of kills the scene.

As for Geldoff, the car-destroying, longhaired “bad” guy?

I’m holding judgment on him.

Ultimate Spider-Man 39 (June 2003)

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It’s a talking heads book and not a bad one at all. First Peter talks to Nick Fury (either Nick lies to him or Ultimate Origins is a retcon),then he talks to Eddie’s roommate, then he talks to Curt Connors.

Peter’s unhappiness and indecision doesn’t make much sense until you remember he’s just a teenager. Bendis takes the issue to drive home that point.

In the finale, in what shouldn’t be a good moment, Peter is calling out to an unseen figure–presumably Venom–offering to help. The naïveté of Peter’s offer at first seems contrived, but it’s Bendis making it clear how–even with Bagley’s somewhat cartoonish art–Peter’s a real kid.

While the issue drags during some of the dialogue and Bagley doesn’t make it visual enough, the ending really sells it. In fact, Bendis’s ending makes the whole Venom arc seem better and far more cohesive.

Ultimate Spider-Man 38 (May 2003)

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It’s a lackluster finish. The issue reminds of the big fight issue with the Green Goblin, only with–in addition to Peter’s self-depreciating narration–Peter’s dad narrating it from a video tape journal.

Now, the video tape journal thing was big in the eighties. It’s a perfect device for a movie or TV show; I’m not sure why Bendis used it, instead of an actual journal (which seems more likely) here.

It does give a “voice” to the issue. Venom is a monster, not a villain. Eddie occasionally pops up, says something dumb, Peter says something quippy and the fight progresses. The narration grounds it.

As usual for Ultimate Spider-Man, even when Bendis isn’t doing anything original, he maintains a certain likability. He’s always believable, plot-wise, in the context of the series and Peter remains an appealing protagonist.

Just wish it had more meat on its bones.

Ultimate Spider-Man 37 (May 2003)

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How many scenes do this comic have? I think four. But the second is a continuation of the first. Peter wakes up from a nightmare–one where Bagley’s art seems like Clayton Crain has CG’ed over it, which is a nightmare in and of itself–and goes to Mary Jane’s. They talk.

So, scenes one and two.

Scene three, Eddie Brock eats a cleaning lady, which makes Venom happy.

Scene four, Peter is at school and Venom comes over to play.

Bendis gives Peter enough internal angst it could be a Russian novel–he heads out to get eaten by Venom because he deserves it for unleashing the monster. This “sacrifice” comes after he’s gone over to Mary Jane’s and confessed his love.

She doesn’t reciprocate.

Most of the issue still works, even though it’s too short and the end’s lame. The Mary Jane scene is fantastic, especially Bagley’s composition.

Ultimate Spider-Man 36 (April 2003)

And, almost immediately, it gets less impressive. Bendis wastes an entire page on a really bad monologue of Peter revealing himself to Eddie (and lying to him, which at least implies Bendis wasn’t napping through the scripting this issue). It’s not a bad comic, but it’s more of Bendis taking an issue to do what he could have in eight pages.

He’s also being reductive with Eddie’s character; once he’s revealed to be a bad guy, the interesting parts of his character evaporate too. Bendis squishes him down to be two dimensional.

Still, there’s a nice little moment with Peter and Gwen. They work well as roommates, especially given the oddness of the living situation.

It’s not a bad issue, it’s just mediocre. It’s the Ultimate Spider-Man standard.

The art’s real nice in the Gwen and Peter scene though. Bagley and Art Thibert subtlety emphasize the emotion quite well.

Ultimate Spider-Man 35 (March 2003)

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Bendis compresses about two years of eighties Spider-Man comics into this issue. Peter likes the black costume, he goes on varied night out of crime fighting, then discovers the costume’s dark side and zaps himself with electricity. The zap causes the suit to release him.

He ends the issue passed out, in a painful coincidence, on his parents’ grave. Someone should have thought about it–either Bendis or Bagley–because it’s a family plot and there’s no room for May.

Otherwise, the issue’s quite good. Peter’s in Manhattan for most of it (I think) and Bagley gives it an almost quaint, movie set feel. It works though, because it keeps the events relatively grounded.

Bendis’s narration is well-paced with all of Peter’s personal observations and he and Bagley get away with a big surprise in the appearance of the traditional Venom.

It’s good work; this arc’s surprisingly impressive.

Ultimate Spider-Man 34 (March 2003)

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Bendis does really well again this issue. Eddie and Peter’s friendship develops naturally, Gwen makes a fine, believable third. But then everything falls apart towards the end. Not bad enough to drag the issue down, but the narrative simply does not work.

Peter’s watching his dad’s tapes and gets so upset about the Venom Project getting sabotaged, he runs off to try the serum on himself. It’s a mess. Bendis doesn’t handle the anger right (or maybe it’s just altogether unbelievable). It’s such a strange turn of events I thought I’d missed something.

The finale, the Venom suit taking Peter over while Gwen and Eddie dance at a concert, is nice. Bagley’s got some excellent visual pacing this issue. It makes up for his weak illustrating of Eddie.

There’s some nice Mary Jane stuff too, but not enough of it.

Bendis writes a good issue, his one weak scene aside.

Ultimate Spider-Man 33 (February 2003)

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Brian Michael Bendis sure does like his coincidences, doesn’t he? If Mary Jane hadn’t broken Peter’s heart, he never would have found the boxes with the Venom Project stuff.

Here’s what’s funny–Bendis makes it work. He gets emotionally honesty out of every scene in this issue, whether it’s Aunt May and Gwen hanging out or Peter and May watching the family videos or the introduction of Eddie Brock.

Bendis introduces a character full of baggage from the reader (Ultimate or not) and immediately establishes the character in a conversation.

There’s no Spider-Man this issue–definitely no Venom–yet the pacing, with Peter narrating his trip to campus, is great. Maybe because it’s entirely unexpected, everything Bendis is doing. He’s not streamlining, he’s recreating and he does it with enthusiasm.

Sadly, he does misuse the word “everyday,” which is slightly embarrassing (more for his editor), but whatever.

It’s good.

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