The tone of this series is a strange one. Six months after the mass destruction that was “Ultimatum” (according to the continuity of this series), we get sit-com scenarios and witty banter, coupled with death-dealing robots and sadness. It’s not that the tone feels wrong, it’s just that the highs of the hijinx contrast strangely with the pain and suffering that has just occurred in the Ultimate Universe. This issue hints at that pain and suffering, particularly in the face of a familiar character whose been playing a role in this series since the relaunch under the guise of a mysterious hero in a red cloak.
Yes, we do find out the identity of that “new” superhero here, and though I won’t spoil the surprise, I will say that the character’s presence — and possible reasons for the assumed identity — imply that the events of “Ultimatum” will be dealt with more directly soon enough.
But let’s talk about this issue.
David Lafuente does a great job, as always, with the action scenes. In this case, it’s the attack of a newly-designed Spider-Slayer robot at Peter Parker’s school. Mysterio’s behind it, of course, because he’s seemingly behind everything in this relaunched series, but we still don’t know what his deal is. What is the mystery of Mysterio?
Where this issue doesn’t quite work is in the domestic scenes. Aunt May’s house has become a kennel for wayward characters. Iceman’s living there. Gwen Stacy. The Human Torch. It’s kind of ridiculous, and Bendis plays it up as ridiculous. Even Peter Parker’s kind of fed up with it. But Lafuente’s art is a bit too expressive in these scenes, adding a hammy take on what could be a living arrangement wrought with witty conflict. And, most strange of all, his version of Bobby Drake turns the normally scrawny character into a stubby, lumpen young man. At least his ridiculous do-rag is nowhere to be seen. What’s that? It’s on the cover of the next issue? Oh.
There’s a lot to like about this issue, from the dialogue in the high school halls to the confrontation between Aunt May and Principal Siuntres (spelled “Suitress” here, but modeled on “Word Balloon” host John Siuntres), and, most impressive, the dynamic battle as Spider-Man and friends save the day.
But the legacy of the Ultimatum Wave looms. And it seems that Peter Parker will have to face the reality of that sooner, rather than later.