The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Death of Ultimate Web-head

Written by: Gary M. Kenny, CC2K Comics Editor

Brian Bendis’s 160 issued run of Ultimate Spider-Man comes to a dramatic conclusion. Guess what *SPOILER* someone dies. Who could it be? Normally this would be CC2K’s “Comic of the Week,” but in honor of the late uncle Ben Parker, we are keeping it classy.

Before I go into the “Death of Spider-Man” let me state that the number of death’s seen in Marvel’s Ultimate universe has been very problematic for fans. In 2000 Marvel created this line to grab new readers, tell stories with younger characters which gear towards a younger readership, and to try things (new plots, characters, etc) that wouldn’t normally work in Marvel’s 616 universe. What happened was for about a year people were locked into Bendis’s young Spider-Man stories. Marvel got smart and then launched Ultimate X-men (which had an ultimate demise), then Ultimate Fantastic Four (wasn’t too fantastic), then struck gold with Ultimates (Avengers, but was good for one mini series) and so on. Fast forward a few years and the Ultimate series went dry, actually the only on going Ultimate title worth picking up continued to be Spidey. They went bust because what was once fresh turned stale. They were mimicking the 616 universe so much, most readers felt “why bother.” So, as a marketing ploy Marvel decided about two years ago: Let’s start over. They decided to kill a ton of characters. Turn a few good guys into villains (Reed Richards, Black Widow) and shake that universe up. Killing most of the population, destroying Manhattan, and turning Spider-man into a semi NY celeb. That in itself is a huge change from the norm. Also, Ultimate Web-head launched a video game, helped Bendis take control of Marvel’s 616 Universe, and when Marvel went bankrupt in 1996, you can be sure this hot 2000 title helped put Marvel back on the map. So why kill your cash cow?

Bendis talked to USA Today about it: “It occurred to me that if Peter passed away in a meaningful way, he could be the Uncle Ben character to a new Spider-Man, which then continues it to be a real Spider-Man story.” Still why kill your cash cow? When I picked up my copy of USM #160 from my neighborhood comic shop: Midtowncomics. I was speaking with their “behind the counter” comic clerk: “Some people at work, who aren’t big comic readers, asked me to pick up a few copies of this issue for them.” He replied with “Ya, that’s what we hoped for. By the end of the day all our incentive copies will be gone and this issue will be a huge success.” Now, i agree fully with this. I am happy that one issue can help the comic community. But will it be worth it in the long run? This is a huge gamble Marvel and to some is an upsetting one. Marvel and DC keeps rebooting, killing off characters, etc. I know strong deaths in stories tend to (when told right) be memorable and this sells well. Lately with the killing of Bucky, half your Ultimate universe, both Nightcrawlers (616 and ultimate), i’m just a little bewildered. I know there are no short supply of great stories containing those characters. Hell, i have a few fan scripts approved by Denny O Neil you should check out. Marvel is going to make a buck with this, the reprints, the trade, and the incentives. What happens next? What if the new USM comic is a bust? You’ll be kicking yourselves. If you pull the “he’s not really dead” game, oh I can hear the screams of fans across the globe.

What’s done is done. Happily though, Bendis wrote this final issue respectfully. *SPOILER* Pete’s death felt real and his last words held real charisma. Peter, unmasked looks into his Aunt May’s eyes:

“It’s ok. I did it. I couldn’t save him. Uncle Ben, I couldn’t save him. No matter what I did. But I saved you. I did it. I did…”

Brian Bendis has had a lot of fun with Marvel. He’s experimented, succeeded, and failed over the years with many Marvel properties and big summer events. I’ll say as I read young Peter’s swan song, this is one of the finest Brian Bendis stories i have ever had the pleasure to read. So much life, so much action. I don’t want to spoil it, but the scene where MJ and Pete kiss. You put everything into this script without making it cliche’ and dribble. I was scared I was going to read “I see a light Aunt May, Uncle Ben is there…” Nope, you kept it classy. Thank you.

Mark Bagley this was you best work. The action scenes were explosive, everyone’s faces had such emotion. As a huge fan of your work this ranks as one of the highest collections of art i’ve ever held in a comic. This was a perfectly drawn comic. Action, love, loss, it had everything. I have nothing bad to say about this issue. Nothing. Fellow friends commented on the lack of Gwen or Johnny, that’s nip picking. Mark Bagley is master comic craftsman, indeed Bendis wrote a strong script but without Bagley it wouldn’t have the power to become alive. He’s been drawn USM for over 10 years, his version is the one we came to love; a very fitting close to a great collection of art.

Bendis ends the USM era taking with him the norm we’ve grown accustomed to. Killing off the hero and (possibly) the villain with his best written word accompanied by a master artist, this actually became one of the best Spider-Man stories ever told. Bendis promises a new Spider-man and how the ultimate universe will see dramatic changes because of Peter’s fall out. We shall see. It’s a gamble. But can I ask for one itsy bitsy favor? Can you stop killing characters and maybe keep a few going for more then 10 years!

5.0 out 5.0


Author: Gary M. Kenny, CC2K Comics Editor

Gary is a husband, father, fireman, comic reader, gamer, body builder, and rocker. He also is a co-owner of a bakery in upstate NY. He likes to tell everyone his favorite band is the Beatles, when his actual favorite band is the Alkaline Trio.

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