Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 7 & 8

Ultimate Spider-Man: Irresponsible (2019)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #40-45
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Cats & Kings (2019)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #46-53
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man goes back into the daily struggle of Peter Parker’s life. He’s still searching for a costume replacement as his last one was shredded. It’s a great reminder that Spider-Man always works best when facing realistic challenges to balance out the fantastic villains that come his way. His relationship with Mary Jane is on the rocks, and he reacts with the sort of demeanor one would expect from a teenage boy, with a lot of immaturity and anger. Despite bearing the moniker Spider-MAN, Peter is still very much a child. That anger translates into an inability to listen to others, such as when Flash Thompson tries to make a connection with Peter, mend fences, and our protagonist blows him off. 

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 5 & 6

Ultimate Spider-Man: Public Scrutiny (2012)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #28-32
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Venom (2011)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #33-39
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

In the fifth volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, writer Brian Michael Bendis steps back to focus on Peter Parker even more. While the original Lee/Ditko Spider-Man stories spent much time on Peter’s personal life, Bendis has outdone them. He builds on the readership’s likely background knowledge of the characters to play with expectations and develop them beyond simple archetypes. The Daily Bugle becomes a key feature in this collection, and thus we get to see J. Jonah Jameson clashes with his staff, particularly Ben Urich, who challenges his boss’s view on Spider-Man. In addition, a bank robber is running around town dressed up like Spidey, which gets Jameson salivating over the tabloid possibilities. 

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 3 & 4

Ultimate Spider-Man: Double Trouble (2011)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #14-21
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Legacy (2006)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #22-26
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

It was quite an admirable feat. Stan Lee & Steve Ditko were creating a cohesive continuous narrative in comics that hadn’t really been done before. The events of one issue carried over into the next, and the circumstances of an entire year had an actual weight on the direction of Peter Parker’s life. Brian Michael Bendis was writing Ultimate Spider-Man in an era where that continuity was even more expected, and so the ties between Spider-Man and his supporting cast & villains are expected to be even more tightly knit. When villains appeared in the original run of Spider-Man, they had highly loose or no connection to Parker’s world. Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and the rest became who they were independent of each other, but in the Ultimate Universe, they will have much tighter connections. 

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Comic Book Review – Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 1 & 2

Ultimate Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility (2000)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #1-7
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve (2003)
Reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #8-13
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley

Last year, in the build-up to Spider-Man: No Way Home, I read through the entire Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run that created the character. It was a very interesting experience as I’d only experienced these stories fragmented and often not in order before. Reading them straight through did two things. The first was it opened my eyes to what a fantastic artist Ditko was. I may disagree with the guy in his completely bonkers political views, but the man was a brilliant penciller on the title and showed tremendous growth over the years. Second, I truly understood the character Spider-Man/Peter Parker was intended to be in the early days. Parker truly was a complex and sometimes unlikeable hero. His problems were relatable, and so were his mistakes. He was a teenage boy, much like the readership, so his struggles were meant to reflect theirs.

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Movie Review – Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Alvin Sargent
Directed by Sam Raimi

By 2007, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film series had been a massive success. The following year would see Marvel’s first production of Iron Man, which, as we all know, would kickstart the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Audiences were incredibly hyped for this third installment. Through the marketing, it made it clear that we’d finally be seeing the Spider black suit and Venom in the movie. However, we were also told the conflict with Harry would be resolved, and there’d be a third villain in Sandman. Pretty crowded movie, but Spider-Man comics are often filled with subplots and supporting characters. So when I went to see the picture, I didn’t have any apprehensions about going into the theater.

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Movie Review – Spider-Man: No Way Home

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts

This is the second time I’ve written a review for Spider-Man: No Way Home this year, the first being an April Fool’s joke which let me imagine what might happen in the picture. Using leaked details, I pieced together a completely over-the-top film which ended up not being too far off from the actual film. If you are someone for whom Spider-Man films mean a lot too, if they are linked to your childhoods, etc., then you are going to love No Way Home. But I am not reviewing it from that perspective; I want to look at this as a movie and as a reflection on the fundamental elements of the iconic character. When we look at No Way Home in this manner, it really falls apart as a cohesive film.

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Movie Review – Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Michael Chabon
Directed by Sam Raimi

How do you follow up Spider-Man? With what is undoubtedly one of the best superhero films ever made. So many unplanned franchises/trilogies often suffer in their second installments. They seem to follow a playbook that bloats their cast and overcomplicates their plot. The result ranges from disappointing to middling. Even Superman 2, a sequel that was planned at the same time as the first movie, is a mess both in its theatrical and director’s cut forms. I think the key to Spider-Man 2’s success is Sam Raimi and Sony Pictures choosing to step away and let the filmmaker continue his love letters to the comic books he grew up with. 

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Movie Review – Spider-Man

Spider-Man (2002)
Written by David Koepp
Directed by Sam Raimi

Superhero movies are by design intended for children. The audience they should aim for are kids who are just waiting to be awe-inspired by seeing amazing feats and colorful characters. The modern superhero movie began with Richard Donner’s Superman (1978), the first production to attempt to balance the sillier aspects of the genre with more grounded, emotional weight. Due to how successful this movie was financially and narratively, Superman: The Movie became a template for other films. 1989’s Batman played with the formula by presenting a world where the hero was already established and revealed their origin throughout the picture. Both movies adhered to the structure of pitting the hero against their chief nemesis, a clearly defined battle of good versus evil. Sam Raimi came along in the early 2000s to create his vision of Spider-Man, obviously influenced by these previous genre-defining entries but also intent on bringing to life what he saw as a child on those pages illustrated by Steve Ditko.

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Comic Book Review – Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Volume 2: Great Responsibility

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Amazing Spider-Man #18-38, Annual #2
Written by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Art by Steve Ditko

This collection encompasses the final half of artist Steve Ditko’s work on the Spider-Man title, a run that holds a legendary status among comic book fans. And rightfully so, Ditko’s artwork reaches some grand new heights here. I found some of his work in the first seventeen issues to not be all that impressive, but here Ditko has some sequences that are among the best art I have ever seen in the medium. As for stories, this is a more mixed bag. By this point, almost every iconic Spider-Man villain had been introduced, a truly remarkable feat for just a couple years. That means these issues either feature the return of already beloved rogues or the introduction of those villains who would be forgotten almost as soon as they debuted. I doubt we will find many passionate fans of Molten Man or The Looter out there among the fandom. What we do get is the introduction of some vitally important supporting players in Peter Parker’s life.

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Movie Review – Spider-Man: No Way Home (April Fool’s)

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts

For a little while there, it looked like this movie might be made by Sony and take place outside of the MCU. Thankfully Marvel and Sony talked, and so we get this Spider-Man and one more appearance in another property before they go back to the negotiating table again. Marvel cleverly weaves Spider-Man even deeper into the MCU lore with this picture almost as a failsafe to keep the IP integrated. I think you’ll agree there has never been such a cameo-heavy MCU film to date, and it’s almost to the point of frustration. So many characters show up for a scene but then don’t feel integrated into the overall story.

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