Welcome to the second day of the Twelve Days of Bendis! If you missed the first day, go here.
On today’s episode, we’ll be diving into BMB’s famous take on everyone’s favourite web-slinging super hero: Spider-Man! That’s right, I just read Issue #1 of Ultimate Spider-Man from 2000.
You’d think I’d be sick of spider-stuff by now, but nope!
Again, another awesome issue! And this time I can say 100% it’s because of the writing and not the art.
Not that the art is BAD necessarily, but it’s not exactly the most polished comic art I’ve ever seen. Certainly nothing like the psychedelic trip the last issue was art-wise.
In this issue, we’re being reintroduced to one of the most famous super hero origins in the world: boy gets bit by weird-science-spider, becomes spider-like. We haven’t gotten to the whole Uncle Ben fiasco yet (I’m sure that’s in the next issue), this one basically just covers the origin of the freaky spider and of Peter getting and realizing he has super powers.
Considering this is an origin I know very well, having seen it in films nine times (I’m counting all seven origins from Into the Spider-verse), I think I’m set to say whether this origin is good or not. If it is able to hold my attention, despite it being something I’ve seen before over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And, it does! It really does!
Part of what makes this origin so interesting is the split in narrative. Instead of starting the story with Peter Parker, we begin with Norman Osborne, who’s musing about Greek mythology to his assistant while looking over this drugged-up spider he’s been performing tests on. This, I think, is a really interesting move.
Something weird about storytelling is that, generally speaking, the first person you spend any length of time with is going to be the first person you’re going to empathize with. That’s part of why some films contain prologues where characters die (like in Jurassic Park, for example); because it’s immediately going to set a specific tone for the audience and let them know that, later on, when the protagonists show up, they may not be immune from danger or death.
Starting the origin of Spider-Man from the perspective of one of his biggest villains sets an interesting tone, and builds this aura of mystery. It’s like Bendis is saying, “Clearly this is going to be a unique origin, so you’d best pay attention now!”, and it’s really cool.
Also, this time around, the spider isn’t radioactive. Instead, it’s been used in animal testing for something called Oz, a new-fangled power drug or something Osborne is working on. At this point, we’re not entirely sure what Oz is, just that Osborne is highly protective of it and really wants to get in on the human testing ASAP.
Thanks to Osborne’s assistant forgetting his lab etiquette, the spider escapes, and only then do we get to meet Peter.
Peter is, of course, a nerd who is bullied constantly at school, and most of our time in this issue is focused on the shit Peter is going through (clearly setting up a Halle Berry Catwoman-style come-uppance montage). We also get to meet Flash Thompson, Peter’s main bully (along with his massive friend, Kong), Mary Jane Watson (who seems to have replaced Gwen Stacy in this universe), Harry Osborne, and Uncle Ben. That’s right, Uncle Ben shows up at the school, right in the middle of Peter being bullied during lunch, and acts as wingman with MJ. It’s pretty cute.
The rest of the story is basically just a load of character development and retreading the origin we know. Eventually, Peter ends up as Osborne Industries as part of a school trip, and then gets bitten by the spider. It makes him really sick, and Osborne decides he wants to keep an eye on the kid to see if there are any interesting reactions to the spider’s bite. Of course, eventually Osborne discover’s Peter’s new agility skills and Spider-Sense ability, and decides that he needs to study him. Meanwhile, Peter begins exploring his powers and the issue ends with him climbing on his bedroom ceiling.
The first thing I love about this story is how adorable Uncle Ben is. I mean, Aunt May is pretty cute too, but Uncle Ben and Peter’s relationship in this issue is so sweet. They’re clearly very close and great buddies. He’s more than just a dad to Peter, he’s a friend. It’s really going to suck to see him die.
All the other characters are really good too: MJ is a sweetheart and has a clever come-back, the bullies are sufficiently jerky, Harry is a total tool, Norman is pure evil, May is an adorable worrywart, and Peter is clearly at the end of his rope. You really get the sense that Peter has been doing all this shit for a VERY long time and now he’s ready to go Carrie (hell, even Flash says so).
We also get a couple panels of pure sexism, and it’s so awful it’s perfect. Like, it really makes you hate that gym teacher, and all those assholes who jump on that teacher’s abuse in order to smack down on Peter.
I mean, excuse you, sir, but I am of the female persuasion and I love the basketballs. And I’ve seen women play, and I have played as a woman, and he can go fuck himself for that comment. I mean, us girls were way meaner on the floor than the guys. We certainly body-checked each other more. So there!
But I digress.
Bendis again just shows how good he is at realistic dialogue. Again, everyone has a unique voice and you can easily distinguish who’s talking. Not to mention, everyone sounds like a real person. Especially that gym teacher. I know I’ve had at least one gym teacher like that, I don’t know about you guys. And Uncle Ben is honestly just perfect. It’s really, really gonna suck when he cacks.
We’ll be going all Robert Downey Jr. up in here! 2015’s Invincible Iron Man, here I come!
Until next time.
- Uncle Ben <3
- Realistic dialogue
- Interesting twist to a well-known story
- Still nothing!..yet...