Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Sara Pichelli
Cover by Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato, & Sara Pichelli
Size: 32 pages
There are some very specific reasons to engage in a multiversal crossover. When you take a character from one universe and bring them into another one, you do so specifically so you can have certain scenes and certain interactions take place. That is especially true in comic books. You don’t bring Spider-Man from the Regular Marvel Universe over to the Ultimate Marvel Universe just so he can fight Mysterio or some other baddie. He can do that whenever he wants in a multitude of titles.
No, you bring Regular Marvel Universe Spider-Man over to the Ultimate Marvel Universe specifically so that you can have the scenes that make up the bulk of Spider-Men #4.
When last we left Peter Parker he had his little chat with Ultimate Nick Fury, hung out a bit with Miles Morales, and found out that his Ultimate counterpart had died. Peter had accepted that he was in an alternate universe. Spider-Men #3 ended with Peter appearing in front of Ultimate Aunt May’s house, startling the bejesus out of her and Ultimate Gwen Stacy. It was a great cliff-hanger because for three issues just about everyone reading Spider-Men wanted to know: when was Peter going to run into his Ultimate friends and family and what was going to happen when he does?
As it turns out, when he does run into his Ultimate friends and family, there’s a lot of slapping and kicking and fainting and crying and hugging and laughing and thwiping. And secrets.
The main sequence in this issue takes place in the Ultimate Aunt May’s living room, as Peter and Miles Morales, and Ultimate Gwen Stacy babble on with each other about the similarities and differences in each other’s universes. Ultimate Peter used to have a serious thing with Ultimate Kitty Pryde! Regular Mary Jane Watson is a supermodel! Uncle Ben inspired both Peter and Ultimate Peter! It’s funny and cute but at the same time there’s an underlying twinge or immense sadness that runs throughout. These are people that loved Ultimate Peter Parker deeply and his loss is a heavy burden. At the same time, Ultimate Gwen Stacy is desperate to know what the grown up version of herself is like in Peter’s universe. Peter deftly deflects those questions, but you know it has to be a stab in the heart each time she asks (not to mention just being in the room with her—he has to be not only elated to see her again but also dying a little inside every time she smiles).
That sequence was handled wonderfully by writer Brian Michael Bendis. Not that it was much of a surprise, this is the man who built Ultimate Spider-Man and his world and friends and family and allies and villains into one of the most rich and emotionally complex corners in all of superhero comics. We’ve been following some of these characters for 12 years now and to watch Ultimate Peter and Ultimate Aunt May and Ultimate Gwen Stacy grow into this tight family unit, and then witness Ultimate Peter get torn away from them in one final act of heroism, and then to see this new, older Peter Parker appear and see the emotional catharsis for Ultimate Aunt May and Ultimate Gwen Stacy was just so satisfying.
(That’s not even to mention the heartbreaking moment between Ultimate Mary Jane Watson and Peter.)
Artist Sara Pichelli is greatly missed over on Ultimate Comics (All New) Spider-Man but if this story is why she has to go away for a while then that’s perfectly fine. As much as Brian Michael Bendis’ script packs a passel of emotional punches, Sara Pichelli is the one who brings it all to life with an expert hand. From the shocked looks on Ultimate Aunt May and Ultimate Gwen Stacy’s faces when they first see Peter, to the look of embarrassment and sadness on Miles Morales’ face when he has to tell everyone that their time together is over, there are entire emotional journeys being told just in these characters’ facial expressions. And one of my favorite things about this issue doesn’t exist in the dialogue at all, it’s told almost completely in the art alone: from toying with the hem of her skirt to nervously biting her fingernails and playfully punching him in the arm, it would appear that Ultimate Gwen Stacy has a little bit of a crush on grown up Peter Parker. Sara Pichelli has been one of the most exciting new artists to come along in the last few years and her skills are on full display in this issue and in this series.
But for all the crying and laughter there is still the problem of Peter being stuck in the Ultimate Marvel Universe and Mysterio being on the loose and so there is still some superheroing to be done! Peter has a funny meeting with a drunken Ultimate Tony Stark (“My you stopped drinking a while back.”) as they two of them plus Ultimate Nick Fury and Miles Morales try to figure out how to find Mysterio and get Peter home. Once they locate Mysterio, the issue ends with a fantastic full page shot of Spider-Man swinging off into battle alongside Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Iron Man, and Ultimate Thor. If one of the specific reasons to do a crossover like this is to put Peter and Ultimate Aunt May and Ultimate Gwen Stacy in a room together, then the other reason is to have Spider-Man fight alongside his Ultimate counterpart and the Ultimate counterparts of his friends and allies.
If you’re going to do a multiversal crossover like this, then Spider-Men #4 is why you do it. For all the ickiness of the initial announcement (“They’re going to do what?”) it was all worth it when Peter and Ultimate Aunt May shared a tearful hug.
I’m not sure what the heck that cover is about, though.