jbatt's Ultimate Spider-Man #160 - Death of Spider-Man: Part 5 of 5 review

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A boy and his courage.

Unlike DC Comics and the standard Marvel Universe, what happens in the Ultimate Marvel Series, happens for good.  Characters that die stay dead.

The Ultimate Universe started with Ultimate Spider-Man #1.  It was new, fresh and had a much tighter continuity between series.  I picked up issues #1 and have been a devoted reader of everything the Ultimate Universe produced.  Yes, I have read every single issue published under the banner "Ultimate."  It is a beautiful and tightly compact narrative-- it's a super-hero universe that has a level of tangibility that no other publishing venture has been able to duplicate (sorry, WildStorm-- you just didn't make it happen like Ultimate did).

The Ultimate Universe branched into the Ultimates (its version of the Avengers), X-Men, and more.  Characters were different.  Alliances were different.  When tragedy or victory happened, it was key.  Major events in one series effected the other series.  This wasn't a comic continuity that constantly required a significant suspension of disbelief.   

The Ultimate Universe has killed major characters:  Professor X, Wolverine, and more.

So, the announcement of the series "Death of Spider-Man" was a stunner.  The Ultimate Universe started with this Peter Parker and the plan was to kill him.  Here's the Marvel Promo write-up about this issue and the creators thoughts into making it:

10 years ago, Brian Bendis and Mark Millar changed the way people saw super heroes with the birth of the Ultimate Universe. With ‘Death of Spider-Man’ the two have done it again, creating a story just as big, and something that would really resonate with fans.” said Mark Paniccia, Marvel Senior Editor. “But Peter’s death doesn’t signal the end of their larger plan—it’s the start of one of the most ambitious stories you’ve ever read in comics.”

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 debuted in 2000 and is widely considered one of the most important comics of the century. The progenitor of the Ultimate Comics Universe, in which Marvel’s greatest characters and stories were reinterpreted for modern audiences, Ultimate Spider-Man set records for trade paperback sales and its version of Spider-Man remains one of the most popular of all-time.

“We’ve never seen a world without Spider-Man, a world without Peter Parker, so his death is a significant event for the Ultimate Comics Universe and we’re going to see how quickly it changes everything. Readers are in for something very new…and surprising because everything that happens in Ultimate Spider-Man #160 and Ultimate Comics Fallout sets the stage for even bigger stories,” explained Axel Alonso, Marvel Entertainment Editor In Chief.

Issue #160 saw the Ultimate Universe's Spider-Man die.  Actually die.  Not Superman die and return late.  Not die like a thousand other comic characters.  The latest issue of the Ultimate Spider-Man killed Peter Parker 

and he's not returning.

The story was compelling.  Honestly, the issues leading to these have been stunning and building to this issue.  When #160 came in the mail, I couldn't open it.  I knew this was it.  It sat on my desk for a week before I broke it open.  It wasn't a long issue.  This was pure action-- limited dialogue, so the few pages moved quickly.   What came through in the action:  Peter's love for his family and friends and their love for him, Peter's amazing courage, his ability to make incredibly dumb choices mid-battle, his resilience to the end.  The final lines were beautiful.  I won't spoil the issue-- it just perfectly hit every note and every moment.  Spider-Man has never been about someone who super-powers doing super things.  It's always been a frame of an average kid with great courage doing great things.  The scales of danger are raised so his ability to meet those challenges is raised, but in the end, this is just about a kid with great courage making tough choices.  

The art was less than amazing but the Ultimate universe has prided itself on maintaining a clean art feel over stylistic in order to heighten the focus on story and character.  The main Marvel universe is full of examples of sacrifice of story to prominent art style (McFarlane comes to mind).  So, while the art wasn't stunning, it served the story and never distracted.  Perfectly, Ultimate style art-- definitely the way to end the life of Peter Parker.

Is it a buy?  ABSOLUTELY YES!  Maybe buy two or three copies.  Frame one.  Lock the other in a water-proof safe.  Read the third, over and over.  

This was a comic book for people who actually love comic books.

Oh, and what happens next?  From Marvel themselves:

The story continues in July’s Ultimate Comics Fallout, picking up right after the death of Spider-Man and showing just what happens to the world without Peter Parker. New alliances! New enemies! Fans can’t afford to miss the dynamic debut of the new Spider-Man in the pages of Ultimate Comics Fallout—and you won’t believe who’s under the mask!

Yes, someone else is planned to put on the mask of Spider-Man but, rest assured, Peter Parker is dead.  This isn't the DC Universe.  This isn't some stupid time-altering multiverse cosmic reversal event.  It's the Ultimate Universe and it's worth reading every month.

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