Welcome back, Sara Pichelli! Oh, how we have missed you on this book.
Ignore any other insightful commentary I may make, because that’s all you really need to know. Spoiler: if you like Miles and you like Sara’s artwork, come on over to the Venom Show, folks.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Sara Pichelli
VENOM WARS BEGINS!!!
– Miles finally has his costume, his web shooters, and now he has his first A-list Spider-Man villain! There’s a new Venom in town and he’s hungry!
– All this, plus Miles’ new girlfriend and the return of award-winning Ultimate Spider-Man artist Sara Pichelli!
So all things considered, everything seems to be coming up Miles. As the solicit informs, he has his costume, web shooters and Peter’s formula, and now he’s actually going to go and do something that Spider-Man would do: fight a Spider-Man villain! And Venom to boot? Prowler and Scorpion were ok, but Venom is a true Big Bad. And all wrapped up in something called ‘Venom Wars’ – how exciting.
However, what’s particularly odd and kind of hard to ignore about this issue is how long it took to get to this point. We’ve had 20 issues (including the Point One) of Miles Morales growing into his new role, six of which were caught up in a crossover, plus a five-issue ‘event’ where Miles met our Peter all over the course of a year and four-ish months. Yet, as this issue begins, Miles is once again back to square one somehow: he still doesn’t quite understand how to sling on his webs, and now he has to figure out what to do about the formula to make new cartridges for his webshooters. At this time in his origin, Peter had already squared off against Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven and more to the point of competency, but somehow Miles doesn’t seem to have gotten that far. Miles is supposed to be a hero for a new generation, but so far he seems to be part of a generation that can’t exactly accomplish his goals. Granted, there’s an added aspect of “never give up” thrown in there and that’s a smart move, and yes, Miles had to fight in a war (despite being told not to), but after over a year’s worth of content it’s becoming quite noticeable that Bendis is not letting Miles just be Spider-Man, and it’s a rather confusing aspect of the book.
That grievance aside, the issue is still rather good. Truth be told, all of “Ultimate Spider-Man” has been very entertaining, slow development and all, and while this incredibly slow moving train can be a bit grating at times it is always fairly endearing. While Bendis’ habit of decompression is running wild in some aspects, his talent to really bring a character to life is present everywhere, and that’s still the best thing the book has going for it. Miles is an incredibly likable character, so his slow learning curve is somehow fun to watch. Bendis has even populated his world with characters just like him, all of whom have had little development in the greater scheme of things but all of whom are fun to read about; Ganke’s a great little sidekick, Miles’ apparent new girlfriend looks to be a nice addition to the mix and Miles’ parents both feel realistic and important to his development in a more dynamic fashion than Aunt May was able to influence Peter. Even Jameson, who is seemingly being brought back to a greater degree, is infinitely more likable than he has ever been. And while yes, it seems Bendis couldn’t go too long without bringing Maria Hill in as a big part, her role as a detective now gives a nod to Bendis’ root in crime-fiction, and mixing things up between what he’s most known for seems to yield good results so far.
Even more noticeable is how well of a job Bendis is doing in presenting the story in a seemingly All-Ages fashion, which seems to be something we see few and far between in comics as of late. All things considered, there are a lot of dark elements in this title: the war that was just fought and both Miles and his father’s role in it, the death that this issue picks up from, and the way the world is still reeling from “Ultimatum.” There are so many edges to get cut on that it’s surprising the book is as optimistic as it is, yet Bendis keeps everyone’s heads high and looking forward. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but designing a book that seemingly holds what everyone wants comics to have – adult themes for older readers, fun characters and action for younger – has “Ultimate Spider-Man” still letting comic fans have their cake and eat it, too. Perhaps that’s the price we pay to have a comic where the lead character is still barely past first base on the superhero scale, but it’d be a small price to pay if that were the case.Continued below
Oh, yeah, and that new Venom thing is pretty neat too. But there’s not too much to be said on that front — yet.
However, the big seller of this issue is that Sara Pichelli is back, and that makes all the difference. Really, every other flaw of the series is ignorable, because even if Ganke and Miles spend too much time goofing around, Sara’s artwork truly brings them to life. Her use of minor facial expressions to bring out the humanity in characters is on fire, her eye for landscape and setting is incredible, and everything the book had been missing with her absense is back in spades. This isn’t to say that any other artist on the title hasn’t been good, but Pichelli makes the book something else entirely. With her new version of Venom on full display in the issue and everything seemingly escalating greatly in the next issue, this is without a doubt the Ultimate title to keep watching.
“Ultimate Spider-Man” is definitely one of Marvel’s most accessible comics at the moment, and while Miles definitely needs to step up his game he’s never the less fun to read about. His journey has a clear direction – to become the next Spider-Man – and while his walk down the road of life is seemingly aimless, ‘Venom Wars’ is off to a good start. Here’s hoping that Bendis and Morales get that push over the story-cliff they both need.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Buy