Released on June 13, “Spider-Men” #1 reunites the team that introduced readers to Miles Morales: writer Brian Bendis, artist Sara Pichelli and colorist Justin Ponsor. It is, in no small way, one of the most momentous Spider-Man stories to be published in years, promising to unite Peter Parker with his much-celebrated alternate universe counterpart in a way that few readers thought would ever happen.
For all his work on the Ultimate version of Peter Parker, it’s surprisingly rare to see Bendis writing the Marvel Universe Spider-Man in anything approaching a starring role. Spider-Man may be a constant presence in Bendis’ Marvel Universe titles, but only ever as a supporting character. It probably isn’t intentional, except as a measure to avoid diluting Peter Parker’s voice between the two comic lines, but it’s worked out for the best. To have Brian Bendis inside the head of the “real” Peter Parker in “Spider-Men” #1 gives the issue an immediate air of significance. Even before anything’s happened, we know it’s something special.
Similarly, we’ve never seen Pichelli draw the Marvel Universe like this either. At its best, New York is as much a character in Spider-Man’s stories as the hero himself, so it’s fitting that the visuals concentrate heavily on the look of the city. Indeed, the contrast between Marvel Universe New York and Ultimate New York is a major element of the first issue, and one that helps to build a huge amount of excitement for the events we’re witnessing. But everything, from Pichelli’s character designs to environments to page layouts, is designed to impress and entertain. It’s cinematic not in presentation, but in ethos: visually sumptuous and escapist, yet instantly familiar.
Structurally, there’s an obvious complaint about this issue, and if you’ve ever read a Bendis event book before you can probably guess what that is. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of groundwork and only a little of the main event. You’re not asked to wait for the story to begin and it isn’t long before the two universes are interacting, but the big moment? The one we’re all waiting for? Don’t expect to find it early on.
The waiting is the only hard part about the issue, though — in every other respect, it’s a joy to read. Technically excellent with well-judged pace and tone, it’s everything a Spider-Man fan could want. Now let’s see more of it, and soon. The wait for issue #2 is going to be a hard one (especially for someone reading the issue two weeks before it’s street date!) but one thing is sure: when the second part of the story arrives — as the saying goes — action will be our reward.