Perhaps this new volume of “Ultimate Spider-Man” isn’t the perfect opportunity for artist David Lafuente to shine. But it’s pretty close.
Lafuente burst into prominence with his “Patsy Walker, Hellcat” mini, a series in which his talent for dynamic action and physical comedy proved that he was a comic book superstar in the making. And though “Ultimate Spider-Man” #4 may not give Lafuente the type of ridiculously goofy-fun images to draw that we saw in Hellcat’s Alaskan adventure, it certainly brings in a larger readership with more eyeballs to appreciate what he’s doing to liven up the world of superhero comics.
And the events of “Ultimate Spider-Man” #4 give Lafuente a chance to show his range, as it alternates between awkward pick-up lines, to superhero action, to high school hallway drama, to dinner table chit-chat, back to even bigger superhero action. With the Hulk! Maybe.
Lafuente makes all of it visually interesting, and even if he verges on the too-broad with his manga-esque character gesticulations, it’s the kind of “too broad” that we see in someone like Kevin Maguire. The overacting is part of the charm. And it’s certainly charming and light, much more so than the bulk of the Bagley or Immonen issues from Volume 1 of this series. I wouldn’t say Lafuente is better than Immonen, necessarily (though he does leave the workmanlike Bagley in the dust), but Brian Michael Bendis has brought a lighter touch to this relaunched series, and the shift away from angst and death has served Lafuente well.
The status quo may have changed in the Ultimate universe in this post-“Ultimatum” world, and Peter Parker may now have ridiculously long hair and work in a food court, and Bendis may have lightened the tone a bit, but this is the same good-Bendis Spider-Man series that explores the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko implied notion of a teen hero with social problems. Bendis has taken the continuity in a different direction from the original, but he’s accented the emotional trials of Peter Parker, the thrills (and scares) of teen superherodom, and made this a solid read each month.