Johnny Bullet
Marvel Comics
Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3
By Zak Edwards

November 2, 2008 - 10:58

Publisher(s): Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller(s): Davis Lafuente
Colourist(s): John Rauch
Letterer(s): Cory Petit
Cover Artist(s): Mark Brooks & Richard Isanove
$3.99 US, $4.50 Canada

Its annual time for the Ultimate Universe, with annuals for the Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four released already and an Ultimate Hulk annual later.  But this week, its the Ultimate Spider-Man annual (and Ultimate Captain America, but thats inconsequential to this review) and that means fans of the series are in for a treat.  Bendis uses these annuals to tell stand-alone stories which always seem to have lasting effects on the series, the first annual making Kitty Pryde and Peter Parker a couple and the next dealing more directly with gang wars in New York.  This issue is mostly about Peter Parker and Mary-Jane and their relationship, and fans of this series know an issue almost exclusively about Peter instead of Spider-Man will probably kick-butt.

It's too bad Mark Brooks couldn't return for this annual, but Lafuente is a reasonable replacement.
And this one does.  Bendis’ cast of such strong characters really shines in this type of issue in Ultimate Spider-Man.  Peter and his supporting cast are so well rounded it makes the issue enjoyable even if their just standing around talking about the weather.  The relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane is also a strength, so an issue dedicated to them is awesome as well.  But enough gushing and on to the whys.  The issue basically revolves around two plots; Spider-Man and the introduction of Ultimate Mysterio, and Peter and Mary-Jane deciding on whether or not to take things ‘to the next level.’

One thing Ultimate Spider-Man has done recently which the other Ultimate series need to take note of is the limited use of introducing an Ultimate version of a character.  While early on in the Ultimate line’s life span, this was a very cool thing to see how the redone characters were in relation to the originals, but Bendis uses it sparingly so when he does present a new character, it’s cool.  Ultimate Mysterio, and not the one from the Hollywood story line, who was just someone made up for the movie, is very cool.  How much power he really has is very questionable, and Bendis is keeping much in the dark about this new villain.  But, while Mysterio’s presence is certainly very interesting, I found the police’s newfound willingness to cooperate with Spider-Man very interesting.  After Peter lost Captain De Wolfe because of her being in bed with the Kingpin, Spider-Man having a new ally on this inside will bring about some interesting stories.

But the real gem of this issue is the Peter and Mary-Jane plot.  Bendis plays upon Mary-Jane’s vastly higher social intelligence over Peter all issue, playing games with him while he simply gets angry.  The trick is never allowed to get old and doesn’t come across as cruel either, just simply playing her strengths.  The dialogue Peter is forced to have with Kitty and Kong is hilarious and humour plays a large part in this section of the book.  Bendis’ sarcastic and witty dialogue in this issue serves to keep things entertaining to the point where I was excited to see Peter over Spider-Man.  Bendis also begins to develop the Jessica Jones nosy high school reporter as well, and seeing an Ultimate version of one of Bendis’ greatest creations is very exciting (if you haven’t read Alias, go and do so, it’ll be good for you).  The resolution of Peter and Mary-Jane’s fight is perfect as well, playing with the strengths of their character and also bringing a full resolution to the story in a genre where clean endings are a rarity.

David Lafuente’s art frustrates me and is enjoyable all at the same time.  Where the series’ regular penciller, Stuart Immonen, has a firmer grip over the action part of Ultimate Spider-Man, Lafuente obviously is much better at the drama.  This is great for an issue focusing on the drama, but even within these sections there are some problems.  The characters can become exaggerated very quickly and reminds me of children’s anime.  But his expression when done with more subtlety, like in the final resolution between Peter and Mary-Jane, pays off, with the emotional impact being felt and conveyed as very real.  His Spider-Man, on the other hand, is just not good.  The character is largely disproportionate, with a giant head which is an almost perfect circle.  The car chase scene, for everything except for Spider-Man, is handled very well.  The pacing is perfect, and the tension of stopping the runaway car is suspended and carried on for a full effect.  His homage to a previous moment with Peter and Mary-Jane back in issue #41 displays both a love for the series and a knowledge of how it works, which is evident throughout.  So while some elements of his style frustrated me, Lafuente’s art is very good and I’m actually kind of glad someone other than Immonen handled an issue with such heavy importance placed on the drama.

8.5/10     Great story utilizing the strengths of the series.

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