Each week we take a critical look at some of the best books on the stands, courtesy of Big Guy's Comics (the unofficial comic book store of FanboyPlanet.com). If you publish a book that you want us to be covering, contact us. Or contact Derek. He doesn't have enough to do.

Hey Kids! Comics!

Ultimate Spider-Man #22
writer: Brian Michael Bendis, artists: Mark Bagley and Art Thibert

Just in time for him to be on the minds of moviegoers everywhere, Bendis brings back the Ultimate Green Goblin. Although like Willem Dafoe's screen costume, this version may bug more than a few fans. In the Ultiverse, Norman Osborn didn't just get super-strength and super-insanity; he literally becomes a goblin. Actually more like an ogre, but it just doesn't have the same ring.

Luckily, this over-sized issue proves more of a jumping on point for new readers than a showcase for Norman Osborn. It offers instead all of what makes this book so good. Peter Parker, normal teen with abnormal abilities, dances awkwardly around his responsibilities at home, school, and love. More than occasionally he puts on a costume and fights crime, but it messes up those other things.

And in the background, there is the lurking menace of a returned Norman Osborn, whose son Harry denies was ever a monster. No matter how hard Peter tries, he cannot escape a coming confrontation.

Hopefully, new readers will be coming into this series, both as a result of the movie and Free Comic Book Day. Bendis doesn't so much slow things down as just open the door for people to catch up and hang on. Longtime readers won't feel cheated.


Ultimate X-Men #17
writer: Mark Millar, artists: Adam Kubert and Danny Miki

Ah, how sharper than a serpent's tooth a faithless child. Even sharper a bodiless one. Proteus has escaped from Muir Island, and no one truly recognizes the danger he poses. Which is kind of odd, as everybody drips cynicism in this book.

As the X-Men confront Proteus, the child of Dr. Kerry Weaver/Moira McTaggert and Professor X, they learn even more what a right bastard the ultimate Charles can be. He hasn't just hidden an ex-wife and child from his students (not that he necessarily had to share their existence, either), but he has outright lied about where his money comes from. Much to The X-Men's dismay, they learn that somebody funds Charles. Who is he beholden to, and what does that imply about their mission?

It's all fairly gripping, but the longer this series goes on, the less fun it gets. It's intriguing to see the Machiavellian goings-on, but what made the original X-Men a success (behind the soap operatic elements) was a sense of wonder that Millar consistently fails to inject here, so busy is he re-imagining a realistic world full of mutants. It's not wonderful; it's depressing. Maybe he feels hobbled trying to fit in the same villains.

As Kevin Smith acknowledges in Entertainment Weekly this week, Marvel accepts that kids don't really read comics anymore. But part of the point of the Ultimate Line was to get kids reading them. Somehow, Ultimate Spider-Man straddles the line between kid-friendly and edgy without losing the energy of either; this book is just dank.

But the art is nice.


The Ultimates #4
writer: Mark Millar, artists: Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie

Millar saves all his sense of wonder for this book. Though Hitch and Currie have given mundane if functional looks to Giant-Man and The Wasp, they've wisely left Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor alone. And these big guns of any Marvel Universe are wonders to behold, even if Thor seems like a big hippie.

This book also has a sense of glitz; unlike the outcast mutants, The Ultimates travel in high circles with a natural ease. With their permission, Millar has even inserted a couple of celebrities: Shannon Elizabeth trysts with Tony Stark (her real boyfriend is a huge comics fan), and Freddie Prinze, Jr. tries to get superpowers. It looks like he won't be any luckier here than he was in trying to land the role of Spider-Man; how many fans will be cheering as Bruce Banner cries, "Hulk SMASH Freddie Prinze, Jr.?"

The life of The Ultimates isn't all fun and games. Millar has injected a poignancy into Captain America's revival that won't find him constantly having World War II flashbacks. He really is a man from another time, and his character may just show us how cool the ultiverse can be.

Though long awaited, Thor may be a bit of a letdown here, but give him time. Written off by Fury and Banner as a mental patient, he proves himself the Son of Odin. But the ways of gods are not the ways of men, and as yet he has no interest in joining a super taskforce.

Every issue has been a blast so far, and it shows no signs of stopping.


For the rest of Fanboy Planet's (okay, Derek's) opinions on this week's comics, click here.

For alternate views and other books, check out Daryl Tay's site, Unique Frequencies.

Derek McCaw




All comics were reviewed by Derek McCaw unless otherwise noted.

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