Posted by Don MacPherson on July 13th, 2011
Ultimate Fallout #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Justin Ponsor & Laura Martin
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Bagley & Lanning (regular)/Marko Djurdjevic (variant)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Worldwide
Price: $3.99 US
See, now this is why I loved Ultimate Spider-Man so much when it debuted a decade ago.
Make no mistake, this is essentially Ultimate Spider-Man #161, and it boasts the kind of character-driven, down-to-earth moments that made the series such a draw in the first place. This stands out as one of the best comics Bendis has written in a while. Sure, it boasts a few cliches, as the manner in which some of the characters mourn is predictable and familiar. But there’s some genuine emotion to be found here. Often, it’s been Bendis’ dialogue that really sold me on the characters, but here, he opts for quieter reactions. Sometimes, we’re left to guess what the characters are thinking, and at others, it’s painfully clear. I was also pleased to find some of the nicest Mark Bagley art I’ve seen in recent memory as well. He’s always been known more for his ability to convey action, but he excels in selling feeling in this issue with some thoroughly emotive but not exaggerated expressions.
Since he died fighting the Green Goblin with his face exposed to the world, all of New York City mourns the death of Peter Parker, who’s been embraced as a hero by all. In the days following his death, everyone close to him is still reeling and struggling with their pain in different ways. One friend is convinced she’s a curse to all those around her. Another tries to hold someone accountable. Another lashes out in pain at others. And May Parker… she’s overwhelmed — even moreso when she discovers what lies in store when she arrives at her beloved nephew’s funeral service.
There’s a much softer look to Bagley’s linework throughout this issue, one that’s in keeping with the more reflective and emotion-driven nature of the story. It may be most apparent on the two-page spread featuring J. Jonah Jameson. Obviously, some of the softer touch stems from Andy Lanning’s inks; he handles the inks on Bagley’s exaggerated, angular style quite well. But some of the softness comes from the texture and shadow that come through in the colors. Bagley also does a great job of conveying the immense scope of the final scene. It doesn’t look like he used any shortcuts to fill out the crowds or skimped on architectural detail in the majestic setting.
Maybe one of the reasons this story was so effective, at least for me, was that I didn’t really expect that the Ultimate incarnation of Peter Parker would turn out to be dead. I figured he’d just be Marvel Dead, which isn’t as final (and hey, maybe that will still prove to be the case). But we’ve got a body here, so to speak, and this script makes it feel final and permanent and painful. I guess some of the flaws and conventions of the super-hero genre worked for this story, as they lull the readership into a different expectation.
I enjoyed how Bendis uses the time he focuses on Mary Jane to develop further a character thread he’d established some time ago in Ultimate Spider-Man. We see M.J. turn to her interest in and dedication to a future in journalism as a means to deal with her grief — or perhaps to avoid dealing with it. She’s clearly immersed in anger, but that’s tempered by her resourcefulness and intellect. Gwen Stacy’s belief that she’s cursed is understandable, given the horrible things that have defined her character arc over the last few years. I certainly hope we get to see more of how she addresses that false belief in coming issues. I found Jameson’s scene to be the most intriguing. He’s clearly grief-stricken and saddened by the loss of Spider-Man/Peter Parker, but as his scene is completely silent, we really don’t know what he’s thinking. Does he feel guilty? Disappointed by the loss of potential? Why does he delete what he’s written about his knowledge of Peter’s secret identity? It’s left to the reader to decide, and I enjoyed giving it some thought.
Subsequent issues of this series will be illustrated by other artists, and the variant covers indicate that Ultimate Fallout will span the full scope of the Ultimate Universe. That worries me a bit, as I’m concerned that this will stop being about the aftermath of Peter Parker’s death and will turn into a larger story about a new start for this world of super-heroes. I also know Marvel plans to relaunch a new Ultimate Spidey title with someone new (presumably) in the title role, but there’s no need to start telling that story here. I want the focus to remain on emotion, to remain on Spidey’s supporting cast. We’ll see what lies in store, but this was a wonderful start. 8/10
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