Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #20
Story by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Release Date: February 6, 2013
Cover Price: $3.99
Let us not forget who our senior ranking Spider-Man is, folks. It’s not the Superior one, it’s not even Kaine-turned-Scarlet, it’s good old Miles Morales, who has the most issues over the greatest period of time under his belt.
Part of what is making Miles so enjoyable is his individuality as a person and with his family issues colliding head-on with the history of Peter Parker. It’s just as fun to read Miles talk to Aunt May as it is to read Miles talking to Ganke, and that’s the magic touch that makes Ultimate Spider-Man the best Spider-Man running. Don’t get me wrong, the exact same thing is happening in Superior Spider-Man, but the lead character in that book is usurping the Parker Legacy while Miles is honoring it. It makes all the difference in the world.
Part of the fun of the original Ultimate Spider-Man run was to see how the characters would change from their 616-Universe counterparts. This was pre-New 52 and Marvel NOW!, so often the tease that would keep me coming back for those first 100 issues was “What’s Scorpion going to be like in this universe?” I choose Scorpion purposefully because the second volume Ultimate Spider-Man also re-imagined that character once the Volume One, Parker Ultimate years revealed Scorpion to be a Peter clone. Miles had to deal with a Mexican Warlord Scorpion while contemplating his relationship to his uncle. Both re-imaginings worked for their respective Spider-Men, and it’s staggering to see that this slight retconning still draws the audience.
Case in point – we’re now in the ‘Venom War’ storyline that had me worried. Ultimate Venom was a major re-boot when he showed up in the first USM Volume. Instead of an alien species, the symbiote was an anti-cancer biosuit developed by the Parker and Brock families. Peter was only in the black costume for one issue before realizing it was making him evil and Venom was quickly dispatched. As a comic arc, it was disappointing, but as we’ve seen from incarnations of Venom since then, the biosuit angle is obviously what Marvel is more comfortable with (am I giving Amazing Spider-Man 2 hints? Maybe.).
Enter Sara Pichelli who is becoming the new Mark Bagley in my mind. I’m in love with her Venom. The huge, hulking, sinew-laden monster that is able to intelligently express itself is shocking to look at as he’s menacing Jefferson outside the Morales home. And if the quadraped physicality, ridiculous jaw, and segmented alien-tongue weren’t enough to make me squeal, what Spider-Man does to Venom in combat certainly did the job. When Miles punches Venom, he takes the top of his head clean off, he buries his arm in his neck. Pieces of goo go flying. But when Venom is attacking or being shot at by the police, he’s unquestionably solid and biological looking. I love it. I love it because imagining Venom move on these pages is more thrilling than if this design had to exist in a movie or on television. That’s the power of comics and DAMN it’s something I’ve missed from Venom for a long time.
Also coming off better in this issue? Jefferson Davis, Miles’ father, with the conspicuous name. Jefferson is menaced by Venom at the beginning of this issue and since he’s hot off killing a bunch of Hyrda soldiers in cold blood, I should not have been as surprised as I was that he took the fight to Venom to save the new fake-British-accent sporting Spider-Man. He does cold clock the cameraman for the local news station, so he hasn’t learned to use his power responsibly just yet, but this slow burn of Jefferson falling down the dark path his brother took is second only to the Miles Morales love interest in plots-I-wish-would-get-here-already.
Unfortunately, Jefferson gets swatted by a confused Venom who realizes Davis isn’t the new Spider-Man and therefore cares less about his survival. He’s loaded into an ambulance by the end of the issue and Miles takes a very Parker-like guilt trip. For those of us who thought Mile’s Uncle, the Ultimate Prowler, would provide the “great power/responsibility” lesson, we now have another contender. Though I would be surprised if Brian Michael Bendis took this route. Miles is a better person for having two parents and the story is more complex for it. I don’t want to see Jefferson go, I’d rather seem him become more like his doomed brother. In other, maybe slightly racist words – I want him to be analogous to the struggle of black men with children. It sounds gross because a guy with the last name “Gonzales” is suggesting it, but Jefferson Davis pulled himself out of a poor and dangerous community to father a Black/Hispanic child who is now in one of New York’s premiere private schools. Entire family lines rest on the newest generation, and what happens when Jefferson feels the call of the dark side? It’s a real world issue, and I’d love to see it discussed more in Ultimate-Spider Man. Even better if we find a way to do it with huge Monster Venom fights.
The new Spider-Man has to deal with The Parker Legacy. In this case, Venom is LITERALLY the Parker family legacy. I hope Volume 2 finds a way for Miles and Jefferson to mirror the Venom story in the way the original Ultimate Venom arc revealed more about Peter’s relationship to his father.
And I didn’t even mention how awesome Ganke was this whole review, even though his web fluid doesn’t work.
God damn, I love this comic.