Hey everyone! Although I haven’t mention it much here on the site, those who know me personally would know that I’m a pretty big comic fan, particularly when it comes to the Ultimate Marvel universe. So color my surprised when I found out that, in perhaps one of the coolest cross-over events I’ve ever read, the Spider-mans from both the Regular Universe (Peter Parker) and the Ultimate Universe (Miles Morales) are finally going to meet and team up. Why is that important? Why should you care? Well, I’ll tell you, because this event has to potential to be one of the best reads in comic books this year…
Since most of you are probably just shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Ultimate” Marvel universe? “Regular” Marvel Universe? What are those? Is there a different? Yes, actually, there is. To but it simply, the Ultimate universe is a different take on the characters and stories of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Iron Man, Spider-man, the X-men… All those heroes have been around for ages in the mainstream “Regular” universe (which is known as Universe 616), and in some cases their backgrounds and stories have been around for so long that things have gotten a little “complicated”. So complicated, in fact, that it can be all but impossible for new readers to get into and enjoy these characters that have existed for decades.
So back in 2000 Marvel “re-launched” the Marvel Universe and called it the “Ultimate” universe (AKA Universe 1610). Starting with titles like Ultimate Spider-man and Ultimate X-men, the Ultimate universe proved to be a new and refreshing take on some of Marvels most well-known heroes. Peter Parker was back in High School, the X-men were coming together for the first time, and the world they lived in was one that reflected the world as it was in 2000, with cell phones, the internet and all that jazz. And while their stories remained largely the same, Peter Parker was still bitten by a spider and worked for the Daily Bugle, the details had been updated and brought into the 20th century. The spider that bit him wasn’t radioactive, but genetically altered; and he wasn’t a photographer for the Bugle, but helped work on their web-site. These changes, while minor in some cases, let new readers (like myself) get into the stories all over again and enjoy the characters from a fresh perspective.
The years rolled by, of course, and major events happened in both universes. Perhaps one of the most important though, was the death of Peter Parker in the Ultimate universe. After taking a bullet for Captain America and duking it out with numerous villains that had found their way to his home, Peter Parker and the Green Goblin fought to the death on the lawn of Parker’s own home. The battle eventually lead to Peter’s death, as well as the presumed death of the Green Goblin. The Ultimate universe was rocked by Parkers death, as over the years Peter had teamed up and changed many of their lives. He had dated Kitty Pryde of the X-men, trained under Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, and even become something of a family member to Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four (who was staying with the Parkers at the time). Even Nick Fury had become personally invested in Parker’s life over the years and wanted him to become a member of the Ultimates (this universes name for the Avengers) when Peter was old enough.
When Peter died, a gaping hole was left in the hearts and lives of the people in the Ultimate universe. Fortunately though, his mantle would eventually be picked up by another young man, Miles Morales. Miles was just a regular kid, living in New York, and doing his best to overcome the issues that faced millions of kids all over the country. But that all changed when his uncle, a criminal known as the Prowler, stole some things from the old Oz Corp. laboratory that originally housed the genetically altered spiders (like the one that bit Peter). One of the spiders snuck into his bag, and eventually bit Miles when he was visiting his nephew. Miles, not wanting powers, hid them from his parents and did his best to continue his life. But upon witnessing Peter Parkers death, and eventually learning what had happened to Peter and how Peter got his powers, he dedicated his life to Peter Memory and took up the mantle of Spider-man.
This eventually brings us to the issue I’m reviewing: Spider-men #1. This is the first official crossover between the Ultimate and 616 universes. It has the 616 Spider-man, Peter Parker, traveling to the Ultimate universe where he meets Miles and sees, first hand, what a world without him would look like.
Now since this is the first of 5 issues, issue #1 doesn’t really have all that much depth. It’s a set-up issue, one to get the ball rolling and entertain us while we get to the meat of the story. As it stands, this issues was GREAT for that. Brain Bendis has been writing Ultimate Spider-man since its inception back in 2000 (that’s 12 years with one writer folks!) and, as always, his witty and fast paced dialog is perfect for a Spider-man comic. I would like to go on record and say that he is, by far, my favorite comic book writer of all time. And in Spider-men, he doesn’t disappoint. He absolutely nails Peter Parker as a fast-talking quick-swinging hero that loves the people and the city he protects, even if they don’t really love him back. A prime example of Bendis’s writing is when, upon swinging in to kick a bad guy driving a stolen vehicle, Spidey yells “Indiana Jones!”. These are the kind of off-the-wall movie references that you can easily see Spider-man, a geek himself, making as he swings around town stop crime. It’s a shame the people writing the Spider-man moves can’t seem to capture this (although the new movie looks like it just might).
So there Peter is, swinging around town, a when he sees a giant explosion of energy from a near-by building. He eventually heads over to investigate and finds the villain Mystero working on some sort of strange pink energy vortex. One thing leads to another, and eventually he gets sucked into it and ends up in a New York he hardly recognizes (the Ultimate universe).
Unsure of exactly what just happened, he decides to swing around and investigate, quickly stumbling upon a man being beaten up by some guys in an alley. So, being Spider-man, he swings down and saves him. The man thanks him for saving him, but comments on how Peter’s costume is in “bad taste”. Peter, having never heard just an odd remark about his costume, inquires what exactly the guy is talking about. The man then explains that, although the city could always use heroes, wearing the costume that Peter Parker wore wasn’t really cool. This, of course, is quite a surprising thing for Peter to hear.
Thoroughly confused over what just happened, Peter swings off and, as fate would have it, bumps into Miles…
And that’s where the issues leaves off. haha. Short but sweet, as most first issues in a story arc are. But as far as first issues go, this one did a wonderful job at setting up Peter Parker’s personality and establishing that Bendis has the chops to write both him and Miles. Mix that in with the new discovery that the 616 Mysterio has had his hands in the Ultimate universe for at least a little while now, and you have yourself some solid heroes and a mysterio-us villain to deal with. Sounds to me like a lot of fun. And that’s not even factoring in the potential for Peter to see a world that his had to live with his death, including how his death has effected the friends and family of the Ultimate universe’s Peter Parker. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see where this story arc goes…
So there you have it folks! Issue #1 of Spider-men. While it was certainly wasn’t as amazing as I’m sure the next issues are going to be, it did a great job of setting up the arc and left me wanting to read the next issue ASAP. So in my book, that’s mission accomplished. A solid 4 out of 5.
So be sure to pick Spider-men #1 up at your local comic book store of buy it online in digital comic form over at Marvel.com. It’s well worth a read for anyone who is a Spider-man fan and, with the potential for Peter Parker to really get to do some soul-searching in the upcoming issues, will probably turn out to be a great story even for those of you just mildly interested in comics as a whole…
Be sure to check out my review of issue #2!