Tangled Web of Relationships: Bendis talks "Ultimate Spider-Man"

An era ends today as Marvel Comics' "Ultimate Spider-Man" #110 hits stores. This issue is the concluding chapter of the "Ultimate Knights" story and the final full issue of artist Mark Bagley's record breaking run on the title. CBR News spoke with "Ultimate Spider-Man" writer Brian Michael Bendis about what's next for the series.

The "Ultimate Knights" storyline detailed Dardevil's efforts to assemble a team of heroes in order to finally take down the Kingpin of crime, and issue #110 will pick up with the stunning revelation that ended last issue: there's a traitor in the group. "Danny [Danny Rand AKA Iron Fist] is the traitor," Bendis told CBR News. "But one of the heroes does something and I can't think of another time where a superhero has done this specific act to specifically get the villain. So the Kingpin gets a hurting because somebody does something dramatic. None of them knew this was going to happen but at the last minute someone really pulls something out of their hat."

"Ultimate Knights" is Peter Parker's latest clash with the Kingpin, and their previous battles have usually left Spider-Man physically bruised and emotionally battered. "I don't want to ruin the ending for people, but I will say the Kingpin does get what's coming to him -- but it may not be as romantic as one would have hoped," Bendis said. "It's a real good end of a Kingpin chapter. Something really happens to a lot of the characters. The payoff is big and we've been back and forth on this story for awhile now. So it definitely needed to go to a head. Plus it's Mark's last story and I thought let's have a satisfying conclusion to it for him as well."

Issue #110 marks an end to Bagley's final "Ultimate Spider-Man" storyline, but it's not his last issue . "Mark does half of issue #111," Bendis explained. "That served a couple of purposes. The ending of #110 is a tad bittersweet and we wanted to have Mark get his chance to do one of those great Spider-Man swinging through the city shots; one of those final pin-ups that any artist who's done a real achievement on a book gets to do, the waving good-bye page. The story in issue #111 was better suited to that kind of ending.

"Also it's a perfect opportunity for people to be introduced to Stuart Immonen's work on the title and to see that though it's completely different from Mark's it's not a jarring direction for the book to go in," Bendis continued. "So Mark gets to say goodbye. He gets some really great emotional stuff and Stuart gets to introduce himself and off we go."

Bendis believes there are a number of reasons why Immonen is the right artist to take over "Ultimate Spider-Man." "First off he's a phenomenal penciller," Bendis stated. "He's got a plethora of styles available to him as anyone who has read his 'Superman' work, or his 'Nextwave' work or his 'Ultimate X-Men' work knows. It always looks like a different guy. His design sense is phenomenal. His characters' face acting is a dream for a writer like me, who likes to have characters saying one thing but thinking another. Stuart has already done a couple of issues and they're phenomenal. I'm so excited for people to see his work. It's just fantastic stuff."

Immonen's work on "Ultimate Spider-Man" means a stylistic change for the book, but not a tonal change. "He draws a wonderful Peter and Mary Jane and they're as youthful and exciting as they've ever been," Bendis said. "And not to take away at all from what Mark accomplished on the book but there have been a host of other artists who tackled the characters in books like 'Marvel Team-Up' and David Finch did a lot of Spider-Man in 'Ultimate X-Men.' Stuart isn't the only other person to have drawn these characters, his work is just another interpretation and I think with Stuart's work ethic hopefully he will be on the book as long as he wants."

Issue #111 finds Peter Parker having at last the discussion with his Aunt May that he never wanted to have. "They get the have the, 'Okay, you're Spider-Man? Is that what you said before I keeled over?'" Bendis explained. "They get to have that conversation and it's funny because maybe about six years ago Straczynski got to do a similar take on this story in 'Amazing Spider-Man,' and I remember having a conversation with Greg Rucka about how both of us would have written the story with Aunt May just letting him have it and yelling, 'You lying bastard.' It's funny that was both our instincts to write that version of the story. Then we both realized, 'Oh yeah, we have Jewish mothers that's why." We have a completely different perspective on how our mothers would react to the news.

"In this story Aunt May did have that reaction," Bendis continued. "In the 'Clone Saga' she had the 'Get the fuck out!' reaction but now cooler heads have prevailed and they can have a conversation worthy of their relationship and all the trauma they've been through together."

Bendis felt that were a few reasons why it was time for Peter and his aunt to have the "So, you're Spider-Man?" conversation. "I know people think I hate secret identities and I don't," Bendis remarked. "I just don't see them as the cliché that someone as relatively intelligent as Aunt May would not figure something was up; and to think the way Peter's life was going that the drama wouldn't get to his front door? Once it gets to your front door people are going to find shit out and you're going to have to deal with it. When you get to that theme of power and responsibility, now it's up. What are you going to do? Are you going to lie or be a man? Peter is being a man and having the conversation regardless of where it takes him."

Peter's next big adventure begins in "Ultimate Spider-Man" #112 and will take him into a confrontation with his oldest and most dangerous foe. "The next big storyline and Stuart's first storyline is the six part 'Death of a Goblin,'" Bendis said. "A Goblin does die. We don't know which Goblin it is. Is it Norman Osborn? Harry Osborne? Or Demogoblin, which was MJ? It could be any Goblin but there is a Goblin Death."

Readers of "Death of a Goblin" will see that Norman Osborn has undergone a number of changes since he was last seen being blasted by Iron Man's gene altering ray in "Ultimate Six." "There have also been a lot of changes to the Ultimate Universe," Bendis said. "This will connect to what's going on in 'Ultimate Power' and the other Ultimate books as well, all of which I can't speak about just yet because those are other people's stories. There have been a lot of changes in S.H.I.E.L.D. and who's in the Triskelion and Norman being in there trapped away with what he can do with his power. All of that will be shown in the first issue."

"Death of Goblin" won't just examine the changes to Peter's villains and the world around him. "It's a really big story for Peter and how he handles a genuine threat to his life with his new relationships," Bendis explained. "He'll have a new relationship with a lot of people in his life and this is the first test to those relationships."

One such relationship in Peter's life is that with Kitty Pryde. "Kitty and Peter are dealing with the fact that there are now two superheroes in the neighborhood," Bendis said. "So they keep bumping into each other whether they like it or not. There's a lot of drama in Peter's life and Kitty is in a position to help him regardless of the fact that their relationship has fallen apart. She goes to school with Peter. If he's trouble what she going to do? Just sit there and let him suffer? So, there will be a lot of Kitty and Peter team ups. I know people enjoy that a lot and Kitty has a horrible new costume."

Kitty and Peter's romantic relationship may have ended, but romance is blooming for Aunt May and her new boyfriend. "Aunt May has a new boyfriend in the form of Miles Warren, who we meet," Bendis explained. "That's already been hinted at and said in previous issues. People thought during 'The Clone Saga,' 'Oh, Miles Warren . . . the Jackal!' But that was a little bit of a red herring. Miles will be serving another purpose and if you remember Miles Warren was Harry's psychiatrist."

While Aunt May has her eye on her boyfriend, Jessica Jones has her eye on her new rival for the position of the school's top reporter, Mary Jane Watson. "Her focus on MJ has kind of focused her on Peter too, more than she would have been," Bendis stated. "So there are clearly shenanigans afoot with her seeing that something is up with Peter. So that will continue as the story continues. MJ's budding career as a journalist and Peter's relationship with the Daily Bugle will connect as well, which will put Jessica Jones in a pissy little area."

Following the "Death of a Goblin" storyline Peter's relationship with two other heroes takes center stage. "I'm so excited. The whole point of being on this book was to tell this story," Bendis said. "It took me 120 issues but I've finally found a way to do 'Ultimate Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.' Now that Kitty is at the school, there's a reason to have Iceman in the book that I'm not just pulling out of my ass. Now he would show up at the school to visit his old friend and girlfriend. We invent a new Firestar. Someone near and dear to the book debuts as Firestar and we get to have 'Ultimate Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.' I'm telling you I have waited and waited to do this story and get all these pieces in a row so that everything fits organically."

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