Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #200

Posted by Donovan McComish 18 May 2014

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of the milestone 200th issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. To quote Shaun Jackson of the Comic Book Cast, "this issue has a lot of feels".

Synopsis:

Arriving in Queens, Miles Morales asks Ganke Lee to stop whining that they had to take the bus instead of web-swinging over there instead, saying that that's not what the webs are for and they're expensive, which leads his friend to quip that if he was Captain of the Enterprise, he wouldn't let anyone use the teleporter. Miles then notices that Ganke is carrying a box, correctly deducing that it's something to do with Lego and asking why Ganke is bringing it. Ganke answers that he made it for Gwen Stacy and affirms that she's going to like it, despite Miles' protests that she won't.

As the pair reach their destination, the house of May Parker, they are observed by Mary Jane Watson from across the street. Her new boyfriend Liam asks if she wants to bail, but she doesn't answer, instead saying that it perhaps was wrong of her to bring him. Though he's surprised and a little saddened, Liam respects her wish and leaves. As he crosses the road to go he's nearly hit by a car (something Mary asked him specifically not to do), which just so happens to be taking Jessica Drew & Lana Baumgartner to the house as well. Lana however doesn't feel she should be there as she barely knew the deceased, noting that Jess is related since she's Spider-Woman, but Jess tells her that it'll be good for her, that this is something she'll want to see and feel.

Elsewhere, Liz Allen, aka Firestar, bumps into Bobby Drake, aka Iceman whilst flying through the New York skyline. He asks her if they are headed to the same place, but she replies that she doesn't want to, to which Iceman responds that "there's going to be food." She starts to ask him if he ever worries about how emotionally disconnected he is, but is interrupted by the arrival of the Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. After a bit more quipping, Iceman's ice sled melts and he falls to the floor due to the proximity of his two flame-bodied friends.

Before cutting to May Parker's house, we see the email she sent out to all the attendants, inviting them to come and celebrate the life of Peter Parker on the second anniversary of his death, adding that she truly believes that he would want them all to do this. May greets Miles with a hug, saying that she's really glad he came. Ganke meanwhile, heads over to Gwen, presenting her with his custom LEGO present. She opens it and, after clarifying that Ganke made it for her, kisses him full on the lips, much to the surprise of everyone in the room. Gwen heads up to her room to put the present there, leaving a stunned Ganke to be congratulated by Johnny.

As Aunt May tells everyone to help themselves to food and drink, the doorbell rings. May answers it only to find Pepper Potts and a group of people with a ridiculous amount of food. Potts informs May that Tony was touched by the invitation, but unfortunately was unable to attend. Instead, with his sincere apologies, he hopes that they will accept the "culinary presentation", which was created by a TV chef known as Chester Cebulski (aka CB Cebulski, the VP Senior Talent Manager for Marvel Comics). Stunned, May asks Potts "if I sign, will you make it stop?", which leads Pepper to respond "yeah, well, his heart was in the right place."

Now left with a meal fit for the Hulk, everyone stares at the food in silence for a moment until the doorbell rings again. May, assuming that the caterers forgot something, goes to answer it, bemoaning that "they probably forgot to dump shaved truffles over us." As it turns out, it's not the caterers, but Kitty Pryde, who phases through the door. She thanks Miles again for saving her life while Gwen & Johnny congratulate her on receiving the Medal of Freedom, with Gwen commenting that it's insane she met the President, though Kitty replies that "Punching a planet-eating giant in the face was insane".

But there's still one more person who has to show up, and that's Kenny Kong, who greets Kitty with a hug. Lana of course has no idea who this guy is (like most of the newer readers of this comic), so Mary Jane & Gwen give her the quick version of his history (He's a former classmate of Peter, Gwen & Mary, he was a good friend to Peter and he and Kitty ran away together. Obviously it didn't work out between them). Kitty asks Kenny if they can talk later on their own, to which he agrees, commenting that he didn't expect to see her here. At that point, a limousine pulls up opposite the house. The driver informs J. Jonah Jameson that they've arrived. Jameson watches everyone for a moment, then, with a sad look on his face, tells the driver to keep going back to the city. May watches as the limo drives away, knowing full well who was inside. She suggests that they all head back inside and eat..."for the next 10 straight hours".

Once everyone's finished eating, there's a momentary silence until Mary Jane asks if anyone wonders what it would be like if Peter were still alive? "Like...What he would be if he grew up?" Kitty ask too. Mary Jane answers yes and says that she used have these really vivid dreams, and there's one that she kept having over and over again. She adds that was a bit influenced by a run-in she had with Nick Fury, when he showed up on her doorstep right after Peter's funeral. She says that he was all emotional and that he told her that he was trying to train Peter, to groom him, as he believed that Peter could have been one of, if not the greatest super hero in the world (He already is Nick, he already is.). So now Mary Jane often imagines Peter 10-15 years from now, leading the Ultimates, more popular than Captain America, and pretty much being the biggest and best super hero.
Aunt May meanwhile had hoped at first that Peter would give up the super hero business, that it would hopefully just a teenage flight of fancy and he could get back to his first love which was science. As time went on though, she began to realise that it would never happen. People needed Spider-Man, and maybe Peter needed to be Spider-Man. Instead, May began to think that, as an adult, Peter would find a way to "merge his two loves" (we are talking about Spider-Man and science, right?), using science to not only improve his work as Spider-Man (Kind of like the Superior Spider-Man), but also help the police and the general public (Which was nothing like Superior Spider-Man). She says she knows its silly, that everybody imagines their kids growing up to change the world, but it could have happened.
Gwen replies that she doesn't think it's silly at all. In fact it's where her brain went whenever she thinks of Peter grown up. But she tends to think more of how he loved working at the Daily Bugle and stopping bad guys. She says that she and Peter would stay up late at night and talk about stuff like that. Apparently, one of the things that bothered him the most was how people like the Kingpin could get away with anything simply because they had wealth and power. It would make Peter think that even being Spider-Man wasn't enough. He once told Gwen that he wished he was old enough to become a full-fledged reporter so he could his Spidey skills to break stories other people couldn't. Or he could use things he found out at the paper to get to things as Spider-Man that other superheroes wouldn't. He'd be like a superhero reporter mash-up. Gwen ends by quipping that someone should make a TV show about that, as she'd definitely watch that.
Miles is next to be asked. He responds that he never met the guy, only to be reminded of the time he met the 'Amazing Spider-Man' from another universe. At the risk of sounding self-serving, Miles says that he keeps thinking about how he got his powers before Peter died, and how he never did anything with them because he was scared of them. He adds that he can't help but wonder what would have happened if Peter had lived and he'd managed to get his stuff together. Would they have been partners or would he have been more like Peter's sidekick? Would Miles have a super hero name? Would Peter hate him for trying to "step up into his franchise without permission"? Miles remarks that he liked the Peter Parker from the 616 universe, and if that's what "their Peter" had been like, he thinks they'd have been good friends.
Kitty is asked about this too, but she hesitates before replying that she doesn't think that way. Well your imagination begs to differ Miss Pryde.
Iceman on the other hand, has no reservations in letting everyone know what he thinks would have happened. In his mind, had Peter lived, then he and Bobby, along with Liz, Johnny, Nova & White Tiger (those last two seem a bit strategically placed), would have become like a team of "mini-Ultimates...except better and cooler and better dressed and cooler". They would have been the coolest movie stars/rock stars/super heroes the city had ever seen. Even the now-disbanded S.H.I.E.L.D would have wound up supplying them "with all kinds of cool tech that accentuates our powers in these awesome ways". The people of the city would that they were out there and they were safe. They'd have sandwiches named after them, let into clubs and the Daily Bugle would do polls on which one of them would be cuter. Mary Jane cuts in as Iceman's about to say that he would often win the majority of the polls, asking if he's done. Iceman replies "not even close", but decides not to continue since everyone else isn't ready "to hear his truths".
There's some more silence for a moment, then Gwen announces to everyone that she feels like doing something good. She feels as though doing something like that is how they should honour Peter, by doing something nice for someone, today. At first, no one is sure what to do, apart from Johnny, who says he could do with a back rub. Miles, with a thoughtful look at the food, says that he knows what they can do.What that turns out to be is giving the rest of the food (of which there is still a lot!) to and entertaining the homeless at Queen's Mission.

At the end of the day, everyone starts to say goodbye to each other. Miles receives a hug from May while Gwen gives Ganke her number, as well as a peck on the cheek, to both Miles & Ganke's astonishment. Kitty also gives Kenny a hug and leaves with him. Liz, Johnny, Bobby, Lana, Jessica, Ganke & Miles gradually leave, with just Mary Jane, Gwen & Aunt May left at the house. As Mary Jane leaves with a goodbye hug to Gwen, a mysterious, youthful figure watches them from the bushes opposite the house (...Could it be?).

Thoughts:

When the Ultimate Universe was first created in 2000, it was to provide a jumping on point for new fans who were otherwise put off by the decades of continuity and update their characters origins for the modern day. When this was rendered obsolete by the various Point One issues and relaunched titles Marvel has introduced to it's mainstream reality, it was re-launched as a universe where "anything can happen". This has certainly proven to be true, as this universe has seen the death of most of Marvel's A-List characters, as well as the election of Captain America to President and crossover appearances from Galactus and the Amazing Spider-Man himself, though this too isn't exactly something the 616 universe is lacking in, Avengers VS. X-Men is proof enough of that.

While the Ultimate Universe has faced redundancy, not to mention falling flat where several of it's event storylines are concerned, on more than one occasion, there has been one title that has shone brightly through it's cynical and darker content. I'm talking of course about Ultimate Spider-Man. Thanks to the superstar writer that is Brian Michael Bendis, this updated re-telling of everybody's favourite arachnid-themed superhero became a hit when it launched in 2000 and even started started outselling Amazing Spider-Man after a while, not to mention that Bendis' initial run with Mark Bagley eventually set the record for the longest continual run on a Marvel Comic (an honour previously held by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four). Over thirteen years later and the series is still going strong, in spite of the fact that the title character was killed off in the second volume. Bendis made a bold move in offing Peter Parker and replacing him with a brand new character, but thankfully the risk paid off, with Miles Morales proving to be a worthy successor to the mantle of Spider-Man, with a style that's similar enough to Peter's, yet all his own, and his ongoing story looks set to go in some really interesting directions.

But it makes sense that for the milestone 200th issue of this comic, Bendis would choose to focus the story around the original Spider-Man and his death, and oh my what an excellent decision it was! Despite the huge cast of characters taken from the series rich history, as well as the lack of any action scenes, this is a very engaging read that celebrates the history of Ultimate Spider-Man in a more subtle and emotional way than you'd expect.

First off, the characterisation is near perfect (I say near as I don't think Miles would EVER use the word "cray-cray"). The choice of narrative further unifies the casts of both the books iterations, and the interactions between them all are handled superbly. Ganke and Gwen kissing was both a hilarious and satisfying plot twist. While it does seem that this quashes the possibility of a Miles/Gwen romance, I don't think it's out of the question as a love triangle would seem to be  It was also good to see that Mary Jane finally ditched that weird punk look (and I suspect the same will soon be true of the token boyfriend). The brief appearance of Jameson was handled really well and I liked that Tony Stark was shown paying his respects to Peter in an unexpected, yet typically flamboyant way. I also liked Kenny Kong showing up as while he's a minor character, he's still one of the original creations of the Ultimate Universe, so it's fitting that he be here for this  celebration of the comic.

Then came the "what if Peter were still alive" segments. Obviously these were awesome to look at (more on that in a bit) but they're quite touching as well as they highlight the many different aspects of Peter Parker that make him such a spectacular superhero, such as his desire for justice, his unwavering optimism, his intellect and, of course, his sense of responsibility. These scenes also tell us a fair bit about the people remembering Peter. Aunt May wanting her nephew to change the world, Gwen thinking he would become a bit like Superman with the whole superhero/reporter mash-up, Miles wondering if they would be partners in crime fighting, Kitty imagining her relationship with Peter taken to the furthest extreme, and Iceman fantasising about them being in an unofficial super-team in what was an admittedly funny reference to the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series (even if I'm not really a fan of it's goofy style).

And then came the moment where everyone honours Peter by donating the food to the homeless. This was a fantastic way of closing the issue because it's shows why Spider-Man has been such an inspiring figure to people. If you have the power, or to put it in other words, the ability to do some good, then it's your responsibility to do so. In spite of any flaws he might have, Peter Parker created a legacy and an ideal that we can all aspire towards, because we all have the power to do good in the world. Bendis delivers this sentiment perfectly, there's no cheesy or sappy dialogue (like the kind you just read), the scene speaks for itself, and it's fitting that it was Miles who thought of donating the food.

This being a milestone issue, there's naturally plenty of different artists from the series history on board to help celebrate the occasion. Current USM artist David Marquez handles the bulk of the art here, and if you've read my previous reviews of this comic, you'll know that I love his work. The same is true here. Mark Brooks, Sara Pichelli, David Lafunte also acquit themselves very, very well here. Its good to see Pichelli draw Miles again and hopefully it won't be the last if she returns for Spider-Men 2. And Mark Bagley? Well in my reviews of Cataclysm I had commented that his work there often looked rushed, but you'll be glad to know that that's not the case here. Bagley's rendering of Mary Jane's imagining of what Peter would be like grown-up is my personal favourite page in the book, there's just such a colourful dynamism to it. It was a little weird that Stuart Immonen wasn't involved in the book, though it's likely that he was too busy working on All-New-X-Men.

I would talk about the cliffhanger ending, but now that the first issue of Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man is out, I'll save my thoughts on the ending for that review. I apologise for the long delay in posting this and hopefully the length of the review will make up for that. Suffice to say, this was an amazing issue and a fitting way of celebrating this series and the Ultimate Universe in general, as well the character and legacy of Peter Parker. Simply put, if you're a Spider-Man fan, you should definitely read this issue...

Score: 5.0/5.0

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