Overview

Ultimate Spider-Man #72

Review

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Ultimate Spider-Man #72

Credits

  • Words: Brian Michael Bendis
  • Art: Mark Bagley
  • Inks: Scott Hanna
  • Colors: J.D. Smith
  • Story Title: Hobgoblin - Part 1
  • Price: $2.25
  • Release Date: Feb 2, 2005

Brian Michael Bendis pulls the rug out from under us! Shocking reveals and more dips on the emotional rollercoaster for Peter, plus a new enemy waits in the wings!

Let me begin by saying that Ultimate Spider-Man #13 ranks as one of my top five issues of any comic book ever. This was the issue where Peter didn’t even wear the costume or fight bad guys. It was just a 22-page conversation between Peter and Mary Jane as he revealed his secret to her. This is when Bendis won me over as a fan and gave me faith in the "Ultimate" idea.

The whole issue was such a perfect moment between two people and was beautifully written. You couldn’t help but feel affection for these characters, and as a result of that issue, it’s easy to feel just as personally invested in Peter and MJ’s relationship as you do about his life as a superhero.

This brings us to #72. A lot has gone on in the story since that time. Spidey’s tangled with Venom, Carnage, The Green Goblin and the Sinister Six, and that’s just recently. Now, still reeling from the death of Gwen Stacy, Peter is shocked to see the Goblin’s son and his former best friend Harry Osborne has returned. However, that isn’t even really as shocking as what goes on in these pages.

A lot has already been said about Bendis’ ear for dialogue and his solid plotting abilities. What really stands out in this issue, however, is his greater sense of story and perspective. Early in this issue we flash back to the events in #1 with the legend: "Nine Months Ago." This reminder puts many things in perspective. It took the better part of five years to publish the story so far, but for Peter, everything has happened in just nine short months. His emotional state is bound to be a little dicey. Therefore, when they go for the big reveal this month, it’s so much more powerful. This is the kind of thing Bendis excels at; it’s subtle, and it’s a side of his writing that is welcome.

Let’s talk about what is not so subtle. This title has a really bad habit of carefully plotting and pacing itself for the big twists and the shocking reveals like the one I’ve just gushed about, only to basically give it all away with the story titles and the covers. When the Ultimate books launched, one of the things that hooked readers was the way the new books occasionally re-wrote old canon. What was the Ultimate version of Venom going to be like? When was Bendis going to unleash the Ultimate Carnage? Well, buckos, chances are any fool could figure it out from the spoiler-ific story titles printed right on the gee-darn cover, or perhaps even from the cover illustrations depicting said anticipated villain several issues before they make an appearance.

This issue is no exception. Bendis has gone to a lot of trouble to set up a mystery about Harry Osborne’s return. Obviously, there is an ominous feel to it, but it lets the wind out of the sails to tell us right on the cover that this is probably going to be a pretty unaltered version of the Hobgoblin story. Especially after a masterful re-do of Carnage that didn’t even involve Kassidy, it ruins some of fun of pondering the mystery to basically show us the cards so early on.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief to read a recent interview with Mark Bagley confirming the awesome penciler has no plans to leave the title any time soon. Bagley is one of the most consistent artists working in the business, and he has a real knack for making Peter and MJ seem like real people, especially their wide range of facial expressions. I hope that the whole art team will continue to stick around. Consistency is a rare and valuable commodity in comics.

On the whole, this issue gets my enthusiastic recommendation, but maybe I’m just a sucker for the stories that prominently feature Mary Jane. Really, though, Bendis always scores points with me when he reminds us that even though the book is called Spider-Man, the reason we love this character after all these years has just as much to do with a kid named Peter Parker.

-Jesse Vigil

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