Ultimate Spider-Man Creators: Writer- Jonathan Hickman, Artist- Marco Checchetto, Colors- Matthew Wilson, Letters- Cory Petit
The year is 2000 and my life is about to change. I’m 14 years old and I’ve been largely reading Spider-Man comics via reprints from Panini comics. I step into an old school comic shop and among many other things, I buy Ultimate Spider-Man 1. It’s actually a hard sell for the retailer who even gives me a discount because I’m buying so many back issues.
I read it, I’m confused because it’s so different. The names are the same but everyone is in different places and are acting slightly different. I don’t have the burden of heavy continuity knowledge I have now, but I know enough to know this is unlike any Spider-Man I’ve ever read. I was even puzzled that he didn’t show up in costume in the first issue (or the next, or the next, or…you get the idea.) Picking up that first issue though led to more and for like 70 odd issues, Ultimate Spider-Man to me was near perfection. It started the small trickle of what now is a huge flood of comics that live in my attic.
The year is now 2023 and my life has changed a lot. I’m 37 years old, have more comics than I know what to do with, work for a living, have had comics of my own made, gotten married, had kids and even beat death a time or two. Another Ultimate Spider-Man has hit the stands and like the one from the year 2000, the names are the same, but the characters are all in different places.
After the events of Ultimate Invasion, The Maker (evil Reed Richards from the original Ultimate Universe) has created a world without heroes. One of them includes 35 year old Peter Parker who was never bit by a certain radioactive Spider. He has a wife in Mary Jane, has two kids (Richard and May) and works at the Daily Bugle. What he does there isn’t mentioned I don’t believe but for this issue, it’s not particularly important.
What is important is how different the Bugle is. There is the familiar sight of Jonah shouting Parker at the top of his lungs but it’s not Peter he’s after, its managing editor Ben Parker. Never having died at the hands of a burglar 20 years ago (or so) here Ben is a career newspaper man where he is seemingly playing the role here usually played by Robbie Robertson (more on him later).
The issue largely centers around three things. A memorial for those who died after The Maker committed a large attack on this universe that’s had Tony Stark take the blame, some work drama at the Bugle and Peter getting a message from a short time in the future.
Overall the issue is very plot driven with Spider-Man only really appearing on the last page. Still, the scene’s are engaging, the characters have weight to them and so far, everything about this world seems fascinating. Everyone seems the same but slightly different.
Jonah’s still a blowhard but seems almost like a father figure to Peter.
Ben is very much still Peter’s father figure but seems a lot colder and more….broken? Than we’ve ever seen him.
Robbie Robertson who historically never one to take it lying down is willing to step aside to keep his own finances secure.
Harry Osborn is not a part of Peter/MJ’s social circle and never has been.
It’s all deeply interesting and although we’ve had about 1034 retelling’s of Peter finding his way as a teen hero, this way of having him come to his powers later in life is a fascinating concept. There’s also some excellent stuff with Wilson Fisk and perhaps a vigilante version of the Green Goblin. Who might be under the mask however given that Norman is apparently dead in this universe? I doubt the answer is the obvious.
Given his prominence in comics and how well regarded he is in comics, I’ve not read much from writer Jonathan Hickman. I’ve read his brilliant Fantastic Four, the parts of Ultimate Fallout he wrote and Secret Wars. Given those works and what I know of his writing overall, this is very different than him. This read more to me like JMS Spider-Man in those initial Romita JR years and I mean that as the highest compliment. Things are gradual but engaging. The characters seem themselves but understandably different in a way that’s hard to put across.
It’s hard to make an issue that has SO much to deliver but I think Hickman does it with leaving us with a lot to look forward to next issue.
I came to Ultimate Spider-Man in the beginning and really enjoyed that run. I didn’t read all of the Ultimate books, but picked up some Ultimate X-Men, the Ultimates, etc. I read through Ultimatum which left a very bad taste in my mouth. I hated how the characters were treated and pretty much stepped away from anything Ultimate. I am bo no means an expert in all things Ultimate comics, but I know enough to know this take is very different and what I thought I knew no longer matters. I also did not read the latest Ultimate Invasion story by Hickman that set up this new book, and the other Ultimate books that will be coming out shortly.
The easy thing for Hickman here would have been to give us a huge info dump in the beginning, or make this issue explain it all and quickly get Peter back in the suit. But he did not do that. Instead, he gave us a wonder, character driven story that ultimately leads to those wonderful teases about the universe as it is.
Every character gets a moment to shine. The bits at the Bugle are excellent, especially Jonah and Ben, turning down the Kingpin. Showed amazing fortitude and character. Peter and MJ are amazing as parents and supporting each other as husband and wife. Eventually, we get a cool few pages with Iron Man that set up the future issues.
Although we don’t get Spider-Man, we get a lot of Peter Parker. We see all about his new life We see how his relationships work. And, in a cool touch by Hickman, we know that there is something amiss with Peter. He has a nagging feeling that something just isn’t right in his life. He can’t put his finger on it, but it’s definitely there. It’s fun as the reader to know exaclty what missing, but be able to follow along as Peter takes a step into his adventure.
This was a dialogue heavy issue and no action. I’m sure some have complained, but I found it very compelling. In one issue we have a lot of threads and a ton of heavy lifting complete in terms of character development. I did not feel lost in any way.
I think I first became aware of Marco Checchetto’s work during the Omega Effect story that ran through Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Greg Rucka’s Punisher and Avenging Spider-Man. He was the regular artist of Punisher at the time but stopped off at the other two books to draw the whole story and I fell in love with his work.
Its somehow realistic and stylized at the same time with a unique look to it that looks stunning with the right colourist. He’s no stranger to drawing Spider-Man having done some stuff during Brand New Day and being the regular artist on Superior Team-Up and Avenging for a while but I felt for years he was underappreciated and needed the right title to break out.
That title turned out to be Daredevil where he along with writer Chip Zdarsky did a run I’m told is an all-timer. Now that run is finished, Checchetto is rewarded with a high profile gig. A new Spider-Man world with one of the biggest writers in comics and it looks amazing. EVERYTHING just looks drop dead gorgeous and I’d expect no less from him. He’s able to deliver the quieter and emotional moments but when big explosions are needed THEY HAPPEN.
I’m sure a lot of folks won’t be a fan of his Green Goblin redesign, but I like it. It reminds me a lot of the Raimi Goblin…but better. We only see Spider-Man in shadow at the end, but I’m sure we’re in for some fantastic stuff for Spidey in costume action next issue and beyond.
I knew I was going to love the art because I have loved both Checchetto and Hollingsworth since they worked on Daredevil in the past. Checchetto draws with great detail and hyper realistic style. It’s perfect for books that focus on quieter character moments. Hollingsworth is the perfect partner. He is not afraid to explore different color values. Some colorist stay safe and neutral. Hollingsworth really explores warm colors on interior scenes, like the bar scene, and cooler blues on outdoor nights. His colors shape the mood and those beautiful pencils illustrate the emotional beats. Checchetto also works really well with direction: his point of view choices, changing from worms eye to straight on to illustrate strength and power. He does it frequently; it really adds a dynamism to the page.
Between this book and GODS, also by Hickman, I am loving the art! Can’t wait for next issue.
Glenn: 5 Webshooters Issue one’s are supposed to hook you and this one does that and more. I am so excited for Ultimate Spider-Man, something I never thought I\d say again. Giving this book this title was a heavy responsibility because of my personal connection to the original Ultimate series but once again, I have been taken by complete surprise. Once again I read Ultimate Spider-Man 1 and I am faced with a Spider-Man comic unlike any I have read before.
Let’s strap in folks, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Steve: 5 Webshooters
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