“Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #23 from Brian Michael Bendis and Dave Marquez is an enjoyable comic that hits enough right notes to leave readers with a smile. The book has a pure superhero backdrop to a soap opera for teens. This issue picks up one year after recent traumatic events with Miles Morales no longer web-slinging as Spider-Man. He has three conversations of varying levels of importance and entertainment value, and the issue ends with an explosive cliffhanger.
The fact this issue is basically just three different conversations for Miles Morales might deter some readers, as might the fact that there’s not actually any Spider-Man in this issue. Yet, Bendis manages to hit many sweet beats in his staccato dialogue back and forth. At times, it feels like he doesn’t know a sharp way to express what could be done with half the balloon space, but mostly it’s Bendis playing with his favored style. He’s a writer who knows his characters enough that he doesn’t need them to soliloquize to each other for the audience to get it. He can drop a five-balloon back-and-forth that tells readers a lot with very little. It’s the familiarity that shows ease.
Considering the lead character has given up his superheroic vocation for the past year, this issue is wise to deconstruct how he feels, why he’s still out of costume, and what emotions are on the table. Bendis actually restrains from playing with the time leap too much, which allows Miles to really take center stage. It’s actually once the action starts, in the last two pages, that things fall apart as some of the thickest action scene dialogue is dropped in order for new introductions.
Dave Marquez is just a straight-up fantastic artist. His characters are lifelike, but just malleable enough to express an obvious range of emotions. His page layouts move the story smoothly and his double page spreads massively impress. Marquez delivers dense and emotional information across his double page spreads so those sequence earn their real estate. Justin Ponsor does a great job at conveying a real life tone that’s still energetic and distinct between scenes.
“Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” is the sort of Bendis comic that he quite often nails. The issue is a talkfest, but gives readers plenty to feel and think about with a few smiles along the way. This is a fun issue that packs some emotional punch.