Two Ultimate comic books out today. Both part of the Ultimate Death Of Spider-Man. And both back to being incredibly separate from each other.
Read Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs New Ultimates before you read Ultimate Comics Spider-Man if you want the comic to make a lick of sense.
When we left both book last week, they were both at the same position. Spider-Man had been shot trying to save Captain America's life from The Punisher during his fight with Nick Fury.
Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs New Ultimates sees Captain America, Fury and Punisher coming to their senses and helping the fallen Spider-Man, only for things to really kick off, Spider-Man left handing on a section of a bridge, before going on its merry way into conspiracy, counter conspiracy going all the way to the top, as Mark Millar takes on the political system wheterver it may emerge.
While in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man we open with Spider-Man abandoned a bridge with nothing inbetween., He doesn't seem to recall the event of Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs New Ultimates. And it just doesn't join up that well.
But enough of that, the books separate into their own concerns. And Spider-Man patches himself together, ready to make a last stand against the Sinister Six – but not before the Human Torch and Iceman get their kicks in. Because that's the difference with Ultimate Spider-Man. He's got friends who can also kick up some serious shit. And that's where this book differs from the Ultimates title, it's about heart, it's about family, it's about being there and finding the strength within to do whatever is necessary. There's an emotional resonance here that's absent in the Ultimates' chess game, which seems more concerned about making points, restoring characters away from the way they've been written by other creators. I'm getting flashbacks to issues of Fantastic Four where John Byrne dismissed other people's Doctor Doom stories as being robot Dooms…
But here's the thing. On it's own, Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs New Ultimates, is an entertaining, witty puzzle of espionage and derring-do, with bluffs and double bluffs, but in a crossover of with Ultimate Spider-man, it comes off as being glib, shallow and transitory. It's like the first part of a story being a Live and Let Die while the second part is Dirty Pretty Things, and you're meant to read them as a whole. Millar writes his more, it seems, as a plot exercise in entertaining himself, and wanting to show his working out to the audience, while Bendis is more about portraying characeters, showing real growth over a long, Russian-novel style approach. It's a shame then that this approach is belied by Bagley's art that doesn't show the emotion well. It always feels restrained, something you can't say of Leinil Yu's work. What would it be like if they drew each other's books? Are they more suited to the other writer? It's certainly possible.
The link in continuity between the two books was totally absent at the beginning of their respective arcs, grew together in the previous issue but the pair have now separated again. They've got two issues to join back together, and I've heard plenty of rumours as to how that may happen. But these books, promoted as a pair, have not lived up to their promise, a weakness of marketing rather than creativity, possibly, but it may breed disappointment.