Two books, both featuring an unfamiliar character in a familiar, if altered, costume. And the changes that makes to… everything.
Ultimate Fallout #4, as we all now, features a new fellow under the mask, the African/Hispanic Miles Morales. Not that we know this from the comic of course, all we get is a new Spider-Man showing similar powers to Peter Parker, strength, speed, spider-sense, as well as a certain jocular flippancy during a fray, but no webbing. Then taking off his mask.
And yes, obviously this would have had more impact if the news hadn't been splashing with it since Monday night. But there you go.
There are some who see this as a publicity stunt. I don't believe that for a second, I believe that this is something that Brian Bendis has been working towards for a long time, we know now that Brian and his wife have two adopted black children, the youngest four and a half months old, which is also around the time Bendis said he would stop going to comic conventions for a while. Ultimate Spider-Man has always seemed, more than any of his other books, to come from the heart. Given the opportunity to tell the stories that he wants to tell. There was never any danger of the book being cancelled. This is all Bendis.
And we are confronted with a few solid facts in modern superhero comics. There are not enough up front famous superhero types who are not white. And new books featuring any new character have a tendency to sell poorly, whatever their ethnicity And pretty much the only way to do what Bendis has done is the bait and switch, take a character, change the ethnic makeup, sell it to the existing crowd and any newcomers who come along.
As it stands, Ultimate Spider-Man may well be the first time a comic book starring a non white character has been the number one selling comic in America since Spawn #1. And that was quite some time ago. And no one knew he was black when they were ordering that, either.
Of course it's not all Blatino Spidey from Bendis and Pichelli. Hickman and Larroca are bring back Ultimate Mr Fantastic from the dead and Nick Spencer and Clayton Crain are starting a Wikileaks-style media scandal over mutants in America, two stories which are less about the fallout of Spider-Man's death, and more issue zeroes for their respective new series. Hickman even manages to create a very Ultimate version of his Future Foundation here as well. Beautiful painted art for the last story as well… which is going to kill some people as it's used to portray two people sitting down having coffee…
Batman Knight Of Vengeance has a very different style with Eduardo Risso channelling his inner Frank Miller for a number of scenes, the way red is used against black and white is totally taken from Miller's Sin City, and there's chunks of Dark Knight returns here too. Both artists have similar influences, Alex Toth being standout, but this is about creative choices that Miller made that Russo is using to make a more convincing, darker Batman. And it works, god damn him. We see that oh so familiar scene of the death of Bruce Wayne's parents, but this time Bruce dying and his parents living – if you can call it that.
The effects of the death of a child appear far more psychologically damaging than the deaths of parents. Bruce Wayne as Batman is a relatively untroubled fellow, creating a sanity out of the suit. Thomas Wayne is far more unstable, and Martha Wayne, well…
And so this is a book exploding with emotion, spilling out into action, assault, violence and horror. And all of it providing motivation for Batman's actions in this week's Flashpoint… read it first if you can. It gives certain scenes in the main title a little more resonance.
It's a conclusion of sorts. But I feel the real conclusion will be in Flashpoint #5. And Ultimate Spider-Man #1, a new beginning.
Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London.