Waiting for the Trade – Death of Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller



Ultimate Spider-man:
Death of Spider-man

by Brian Michael
Bendis and Mark Bagley

collects Ultimate
Comics Spider-man 156-160

 
Why I Bought This: While
the Ultimate universe isn’t really my cup of tea, this was on sale for $10 at a
local bookstore and is supposed to be the biggest story in the history of the Ultimate
line; so at that price why not?

 

The Plot: The
Sinister Six escape from prison, led by the Green Goblin. Norman knows Peter’s identity and so he takes
them to Aunt May’s house (Peter is still a teen in this universe) and
challenges Peter to a fight on his front lawn.

Spoilers follow after the break.

 

Chapter 1 – We see Norman
in SHIELD custody. He apparently died in his last appearance but they revived
him and are holding for genetic testing. Meanwhile Peter and MJ have gotten
back together after a long breakup. They are having lunch when Captain America arrives
and pulls Pete away. SHIELD foolishly thought Norman had lost his powers so when he bursts
into flames he easily escapes prison and takes Electro, Kraven, Sandman, Dr.
Octopus and Vulture with him. (For those who don’t know Ultimate Green Goblin
looks like the Abomination with flaming hands and doesn’t have the costume
or  weapons of the traditional Green
Goblin.) Meanwhile Cap tells Spidey he doesn’t think Spidey is a very good
superhero but that he was outvoted by Thor and Iron Man on offering him
Avengers membership; Cap is only willing to take him on the team if he can
train Spidey to be a smarter fighter. In the middle of this dressing down Cap
gets an Avengers alert and he goes to investigate it without Spidey but Spidey
follows him anyway. Whatever the Avengers are doing results in the Brooklyn Bridge blowing up and the Sinister Six
see it on TV and feel this is perfect since all the other superheroes will be
too busy to help when they attack Spidey. MJ calls Peter with the news that Norman has escaped prison
and urges him to get Aunt May to safety.

 Chapter 2 – Ock tells the others he has no interest in
revenge and that if the heroes are busy he wants to use this chance to escape
to Europe. Norman doesn’t take “no” well and kills Ock.
Peter gets home and tells home Aunt May and Gwen to leave the city and hugs
them goodbye. Goblin’s killing of Ock makes the news and Peter goes to
investigate. He realizes how serious Norman
must be this time and decides to recruit the Avengers for help. Spidey gets to
the bridge where Cap is standing over Nick Fury. Punisher is about to
assassinate Cap and Spidey jumps in the way taking a bullet in the side.

Chapter 3 – Spidey wakes up alone and wonders why the other
heroes would leave his body behind. He webs up his wound and ponders going to
the hospital, realizing it will mean the end of his secret identity if he goes.
Then he sees the Sinister Six fly over head. Iceman and Human Torch are coming
home to Aunt May’s for a movie (because they are teens and live with Aunt May
in this universe for some reason). They find the place empty with a note saying
“get to a safe place” and when they walk outside the Sinister Six are there.
The Six threaten the teens not knowing who they are. Torch flames on and takes
down Norman.
Sandman wipes out Torch’s flame. Iceman jumps into the fight but Electro
defeats him with ease.  And then
Spider-man arrives unmasked and challenges them in a well drawn panel. He
defeats Vulture in seconds and asks, “Who’s next.”

Chapter 4 – Spidey tries to bluff that the Avengers are
right behind him but the villains notice his gunshot wound and attack. Spidey
uses a fire hydrant to get Electro to short out all his teammates then asks his
neighbors to call an ambulance. Sandman recovers and pummels Spidey. Vulture
makes a comeback throwing handgrenades at him and things look bleak. Aunt May
gets a phone call from one her neighbors about how Peter is getting killed in
front of everyone on her lawn and turns the car around. Electro has now
recovered and wants the killshot when Aunt May arrives and shoots him in the
chest with a handgun, presumably killing him, and the resultant explosion again
wipes out his teammates.  Peter collapses
into May’s arms and then Norman
wakes up.

 Chapter 5 – Pete pulls May and Gwen to safety and orders
Gwen to get Aunt May to safety. He hits Norman
as hard as he can and then wakes up Torch. Torch attacks but this time Norman absorbs all his
flame. Spidey is dodging fireballs and manages to throw him into a fire
hydrant. Norman
keeps coming and Pete has nothing left. Then MJ arrives having stolen a truck
and runs Norman
over, totaling the truck in the process. Pete and MJ share a kiss and then Pete
tosses her to safety. He picks up the truck and hits Norman with it. Norman
vows to kill Pete’s family when he is done with him, and Peter slams the truck
down on Norman’s
head presumably killing him. However the truck explodes (or maybe Norman’s fire powers blow
it up as the art is a little unclear) and Pete is caught in the explosion. He
then dies in MJs and Aunt May’s arms. In the final panels the camera pans to Norman’s bleeding body
and he smiles.

 
Critical Thoughts: This was really good. I have I think five
other Ultimate Spidey trades and I really only mildly enjoyed one of them
(which also involved the Sinister Six, who in general are portrayed as a much
more A-level style threat in this universe). This story is short and to the
point without Bendis’s usual padding. The Six escape, they come for Spidey and
we get almost three straight issues of fighting—and a good fight it is since
Mark Bagley is drawing it.

Most of all despite it being a big fight scene I thought the
supporting cast was portrayed really well. Yes, Aunt May pulling a gun on
Electro is extreme but believable in the circumstances. And then her reaction
to Peter’s death is heartbreaking. MJ also has some good moments in this story.

The other big pro is Peter goes out as a worthy hero. Things
keep getting worse and worse but he just keeps fighting and fighting. Both the
scene where he challenges the Six and then the scene where he thinks Norman has
his number and he continues to stand up to him are excellent. Even moments that
could stretch believability like Pete picking up a truck (which I don’t think
adult Pete could do normally let alone wounded teen Pete) work because the
action leading up to it has escalated so much that we buy it as his last ditch
adrenaline surge to save his family.

 

Grade A. For a
book I had not intention of picking up I was very impressed. This is easily the
best Ultimate Spider-man book I’ve read and one of the few times the character
reads like the hero the true Spider-man is.