Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Ultimate Spider-Man #118


By Zak Edwards
February 5, 2008 - 12:38

Ultimate Spider-Man has never really been about Spider-Man.  This series has always, and continues to, draw its strength from Peter Parker.  Some of the best and most memorable issues have made use of the Peter Parker character and the realistic, believable, and well-rounded supporting cast that inhabit the world of Ultimate Spider-Man.  Indeed, those issues barely even have Spider-Man physically present in them, issues like issue #13 when Peter revealed being Spider-Man to Mary-Jane, the issue with Aunt May in therapy, or the issue with all of the kids in detention with the nod to the movie “The Breakfast Club,” or most recently, Issue #111 with Peter and Aunt May have ‘the talk.’  Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen create a near-perfect issue this month with Ultimate Spider-Man #118, drawing on all of the major positives this series has become known for.

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How Bendis and Immonen have created such an amazing comic book is evident in the first two pages with Peter Parker and fellow high school student Kenny “Kong” McFarlane.  The two characters are polarized to each other with Immonen’s pencils while their inner monologues are mirrored by Bendis’ script.  Both characters are attempting to deal with stress: Peter by reading a book involving Albert Einstein, Kenny by doing push-ups.  While Peter’s problem appears to be much more emotionally taxing, this is where Bendis displays the strength of the character of Kenny.  Kenny, who has got to be the character to undergo the most character development with the least amount of screen time, steals the show from Peter.  Kenny was introduced into the series as Flash Thompson’s partner-in-wedgie, competing with Flash by bullying Peter Parker.  But Kenny has become an integral part of the supporting cast of Ultimate Spider-Man.  His monologue yields a surprise and adds to his complexity, specifically when he states “I wish Peter Parker would just confide in me that he’s really Spider-Man so we could talk about her.”  While longtime fans of this series will attest to knowing that there is a lot more going on with Kenny than what he actually says and does, this speech reveals this to not only be true but that Kenny is one of the most relatable and realistic characters present.  Kenny is dealing with issues common to not only high school students, but people of all ages: girls, acceptance, self-esteem, and general insecurities.  But this is reflected in his integrity and generosity of spirit that comes forth in a single page.

But enough about the first two pages.  The inner monologue beginning with AARRGGHH!!! is repeated for six different characters without becoming boring or appearing lazy, rather, this repetition serves to unite all of the characters.  All of the supporting cast are dealing with issues similar to Kenny, feelings of isolation, unhappiness, discontentment with one’s self and the world around them.  The characters who are a part of this AARRGGHH!!! monologue are still relevant to the story line and their importance is never needing to be questioned.  These characters display their development in these monologues, exposing themselves and showing how they have changed and continue to grow.  This series separates itself from the mainstream continuity of Spider-Man and other titles like X-Men with the fact that Ultimate Spider-Man is still about a high school Peter Parker.  Where Amazing Spider-Man is about an adult man with adult problems, Ultimate Spider-Man is about a high school kid with high school problems (like super powered scientists trying to kill him).  This serves to simultaneously ground the series, keeping it away from space operas and other extreme science fiction, but also allow for drama that is more acceptable because of the age of the kids.  The scene at school, with the exchanges between Kitty and Iceman, Johnny and the entire cast, Peter and the other super heroes display this drama and is used for humour and excitement.  So yes, this issue is all about high school kids moaning about their lives, but their lives are much more interesting than those reading about it and Bendis has created a powerful, well-rounded supporting cast that he can draw upon to make great issues like this one.

Another great scene of this issue (there’s a lot of them) is when Bobby Drake (Iceman of the X-Men), Johnny Storm (the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four) are discussing Nick Fury.  The discussion is obviously a heavy one about a man looked upon with many different opinions, but the characters handle the discussion like their age would reflect.  The conversation opens up with a movie reference, is interrupted with another movie reference, and ends with a distraction by girls in swimsuits.  The conversation contains a believability despite the fact it is about a super-spy in another dimension and the participants are all costumed super heroes.

Immonen and Bendis are shown to be a perfect match-up throughout the entire issue, in one page in particular.  With Kitty Pryde’s AARRGGHH!!! monologue, Kitty is sitting alone in the school cafeteria and opens up by stating (after the AARRGGHH!!!), “Stop staring at me!”  The students foreground of Immonen’s panel are not staring at her, in fact, they appear to not even realize she exists.  Some of the students in the background could be staring, but this panel polarizes Bendis’ melodrama with Immonen’s objective pencilling for some very effective and engaging effects.  The entire art team needs to be recognized for enhancing Immonen’s pencils.  Inker Wade von Grawbadger creates some moody panels with dramatic shading that make the art team a director of sorts and lends to a cinematic feel.  The last panel of the first page is an example of this, with Peter being darkly shaded to reflect his emotional state.  This lack of colour is contrasted in a couple of scenes, particularly with the pastel colouring of the scene at the mall with Liz Allen.  The happy colouring contrasts to unhappiness felt by everyone in the scene.  Their is a couple of problems with the art; some of the male characters appear more feminine in random panels and vice versa.  One panel in particular with head shots of Kitty and Peter with both characters looking almost identical, right down to the haircuts.  There is another panel that makes Kenny look like he’s wearing mascara.  But other than this, Immonen’s art continues to be a perfect choice for this title and he is aided greatly by the rest of the art team.

10/10    It’s always exciting to be tempted to use the word literature when referring to a comic book, especially a mainstream super hero comic book.

Well, thanks for reading this whole article.  Remember, feel free to e-mail mature thoughts and feelings to zak@comicbookbin.com.


Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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