Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Power and Responsibility - Brian Michael Bendis

I’ve heard enough good things about Marvel’s so-called Ultimate Universe that I decided it was time I check it out. From what I gathered, this is sort of an Alternate History version of the regular Marvel Universe, but what it amounts to is an effort to update, expand, and revise the original stories. To a purist like me, this is unnecessary at best and a travesty at worst. Why is there any need to change perfectly good stories, in some cases classic stories? So when I picked up the trade paperback of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 1: POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY, I was skeptical, to say the least.

Well . . . it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.

I guess the trick to enjoying stories like this is understanding that they really are alternate versions, like movie adaptations. Yeah, it bothers me a little to see Peter Parker going to high school with both Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn. Not that fond of Uncle Ben’s ponytail, either. And the fact that it takes five issues worth of stories to cover the same ground that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko laid out so perfectly in, what, 12 pages makes this version seem a little padded. But for the most part, it works okay, probably due to the fact that scripter Brian Michael Bendis is really good at dialogue. The art by Mark Bagley is good, too. Bagley’s been around long enough that his storytelling abilities are pretty strong.

And in the end, I respect the fact that Marvel didn’t retcon their whole universe and try to cram the new version down the throats of long-time readers. I have always, always hated that. The Marvel Universe I grew up with is still the Marvel Universe, and I hope it always will be.

I enjoyed this collection enough that I’ll probably continue reading some of these Ultimate versions. I have a nagging question in the back of my mind, though: The Ultimate Universe debuted more than ten years ago. When the Powers That Be at Marvel decide that it’s gotten too old and stodgy for new readers, what are they going to do? Mothball it and start again with the Ultimate, Ultimate Universe? Followed by the Ultimate (Really, It Is, We Promise This Time) Universe?

Comes a time, folks, when it’s best just to leave things alone.

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