One of my favourite openings of any comic book is the opening to the last issue of Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men. It’s pretty much just Spider-Man swinging through the high reaches of the New York skyline while he tells us how much he loves living in New York. It’s simple, it looks great, it’s funny, and it’s damn entertaining. It’s also pretty much how Brian Michael Bendis opens the first issue of Spider-Men.
Reminding me of something that Joss Whedon wrote is a great way to make me instantly like your comic book. Possibly the only surer way to make me like your comic book would be to open the book with a comic version of me on a date with MJ Watson. But Bendis decided to use his words and he really brought the funny.
Since the debut of the Ultimate Spider-Man book back in 2000, folks have wondered when the inevitable crossover between the Ultimate and 616 Universes would happen. Back in 2005 we thought that it was happening, due to a brilliant bit of marketing and misdirection from Marvel. But that turned out to be the introduction of the Marvel Zombies Universe. But now, finally, it’s happening. And after reading the first issue, I think that the timing was perfect for a few different reasons.
The plot of this issue is actually pretty simple, though it would be unfair to call it simplistic. While swinging through New York, stopping crimes, and generally having an ordinary day, Spider-Man sees a strange beam of energy emanate from a building. Upon investigation, he discovers that the energy is not alien, but based on familiar Stark technology. It’s then that he’s attacked by Mysterio and, after a brief fight, Mysterio fires a gun at Spider-Man that causes the energy source to pull Spider-Man in and transport him to a place that is both familiar and different.
In this new place, Spider-Man sees a slightly altered skyline, finds out that the name of Peter Parker is public knowledge, and sees someone else wearing a Spider-Man-type costume. To be continued.
This opening issue could have had a bit more story to it, but it did nicely set up what is to come. The fact that it was hilarious and entertaining too was more than enough to make up for the fact that a whole issue has gone by and Miles and Peter have only just caught sight of each other. Really speaking, they haven’t even met yet. But slow pacing is allowable when the result is this well written.
As the series progresses, I think that we’ll see why it’s mainly set in the Ultimate Universe instead of the 616 Universe. As far as I can see, there are two reasons for this decision. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker gets to see what his legacy would look like. He gets to see Aunt May younger than he’s seen her in a long time. He gets to see what would happen if some of the decisions in his life were different. And most importantly, he gets to see Gwen Stacy. As for Miles, he gets what he wants and needs the most: guidance from the man whose mantle he has taken. And, hopefully, he’ll get Peter’s blessing and acceptance too. Miles will get to see the kind of hero that he could become.
It’s going to be fun, too — we’re going to see the difference in style between the seasoned Peter Parker and the new-to-the-game Miles Morales. We’ll see the difference in their powers and how each of them uses the gifts they have.
But what we’ll also see is that art. And judging by Sara Pichelli’s art in the first issue, we’re going to be treated to a visually stunning story. The art in Issue 1 is pitch perfect, and the 616 Spider-Man has rarely looked this good. Pichelli makes the static look kinetic and Peter’s every movement has a grace to it that a lot of artists can’t match.
Also… what’s up with Mysterio??