Ultimate Spider-Man #160
By Zak Edwards
June 30, 2011 - 18:42
Writer(s): Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller(s): Mark Bagley
Inker(s): Andy Lanning & Andrew Hennessy
Colourist(s): Justin Ponsor
Letterer(s): Cory Petit
Cover Artist(s): Bagley, Lanning, and Ponsor. Variant by Joe Quesada
Thus concludes the life of Peter Parker, Spider-Man. Well, the cynic in me says absolutely not, but according to the end of the issue, oh spoilers ahead (and behind), the boy known as Spider-Man has met his end.
With all this buildup, this final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man had a lot weighing on it without the necessary room for a satisfying conclusion. The story doesn’t end here and simply beyond the solicitations of an Ultimate Spider-Man debuting in a few months. Peter’s story may, but most of the characters Bendis has spent the last ten years developing and, quite masterfully, refining simply do not get the screen time. This is largely reserved for Peter getting blown up, time and time again a pretty common thread for this story arc. Yet somehow, the issue reads and looks like some of the best of the series. There is drama, humour, and a wonderful display of amazing characterization in a surprisingly little amount of space, something which must be done for the aforementioned supporting cast. But the little time for the characters is used effectively, almost all of the building of the characters can be seen in single lines. Peter’s final words perhaps resonate with the character in general, certainly a dedication to the protection of his aunt is his primary motivation, whether he expressly admitted that at any time in the series. Aunt May’s lines recall the issue of one of her therapy sessions, a highlight in the series, and are certainly tear jerkers. As the series continually focused on the impact of Spider-Man, May’s reaction to the violence around Spider-Man and the world which makes him necessary thematically carries the issue to its final page. These little moments, combined with Peter’s continued heroism, make an issue both wonderful and frustrating. Too much time, I would argue, is dedicated to the fight between Norman Osbourne and Peter Parker, with his goodbyes crammed between over-the-top feats meant to keep Osbourne down for long enough to exchange some dialogue. The set-ups for these scenes are contrived and annoying, taking up so much room, but then again, these tiny moments are the highlight. As I said, the pacing of the entire arc is to blame, and possibly the serialized nature of the book itself, with the scripts written after issues have been published, contributed to this issue.
But for fans of the series, this issue has it all and is a worthy send off for the Peter Parker character. The final three pages alone are worth opening the black polybag alone. And if Aunt May brought the series to the end, Norman Osbourne’s almost invisible smile brings Ultimate Spider-Man’s cynicism and approach to the genre, and the world that is literally killing May, to the forefront just in time for readers to reflect on a series that has consistently entertained for 160 issues. All this under the direction of a single writer, and that cohesion is key here. Bagley’s pencils, returning the series to its roots visually to match Bendis’ writing, recall Ultimate Spider-Man’s history like some of the characters' moments. Peter and Mary-Jane’s relationship is finalized in his pencils, and the emotions of every character are handled with a precision some of the other artists of the series have struggled with. But for Bagley, these key moments I keep going on about are given the care and attention required. Yes, his action sequences are great as well, and certainly give Peter some truly amazing deeds to pull off when he is clearly dying, but the small moments, the heartbreak and struggle of each cast member, is where the issue succeeds, and Bagley drives those home with his ability to convey their complex desperation.
Grade: B+ An amazing sendoff, if not a frustrating one simultaneously.
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