Ultimate Spider-Man:

Power and Responsibility: Part 2

Ultimate Spider-Man #2-7

The second issue is titled “Growing Pains”. It could have been called “The Longest Day” and fit just as well. It starts off with Peter in class. Coming down with the shakes, he breaks his desk. After a heaping dose of insults from Flash Thompson, Peter ducks into the bathroom trying to come to grips with what is going on. Flexing in front of the mirror he sees a bulging muscle, something that certainly wasn’t there before.

Later in gym class, Peter pegs Flash in the head with a basketball after seeing him flirting with an uncomfortable Mary Jane. Instead of coming to blows in class, Flash catches Peter after school. But Flash’s punches land nowhere near Peter, except for one swing that Peter deftly blocks with his hand, breaking Flash’s own. That night Norman Osborn overhears Kong telling Harry about the schoolyard incident. Wanting a closer look at what his wonder drug has done, he tells his son to bring Peter to the lab after school. Harry’s eyes light up seeing his father take an interest in him, or at least his good friend.

Meanwhile at the Parker home, Ben gets the hospital bill for Flash’s hand: Twenty-five hundred dollars or the Thompsons will sue them. Peter lashes out at his aunt and uncle, defending himself…for defending himself. Ben and May discuss their options; not having the cash on hand means they’ll have to use credit cards, which are maxed out already. Peter heads to his room and falls asleep only to wake up in the middle of the night. Deciding to get some fresh air, the following pages depict Peter jumping around an empty warehouse. After a few flips and somersaults, Peter picks up a beat-up car and tosses it in the air.

The next morning, Peter apologizes to his aunt and uncle, who notice that he’s not wearing his glasses. After school Peter and Harry are touring Norman’s lab, and Harry introduces him to Doctor Otto Octavius, or Doc Ock as Harry calls him. While Peter is looking around the lab, Otto pricks him with a needle, catching him off-guard even though Peter senses it about to happen. Freaking out, Peter takes off and Harry gives chase. Back in the lab, Norman and company are analyzing Peter’s blood sample. What was once thought as a death sentence for the teenager has actually given him the enhanced strengths of a spider. The issue ends with Norman planning to inject himself with the Oz drug, despite protests from one of his own scientists.

Issue #3 starts out with a rumble, a wrestling rumble that is. Taking in a wrestling match, Peter sees the opportunity to make some money. Donning a mask, he jumps into the ring and does battle with Crusher Hogan. Easily defeating him, Peter puts his winnings in an envelope and slides it under the door for Uncle Ben to see. Under the guise of a “faculty collection”, Peter gives his aunt and uncle the money to pay for Flash Thompson’s bill. And with Flash unable to play basketball, Peter takes his place on the team and leads them to victory. Back in the wrestling ring, Peter scores more pins, wins, cash, and even a new costume—a red and blue get-up that Peter plans on customizing himself, namely a spider and some webs.

Meanwhile at Norman’s lab, preparations are being made for his first injection of the Oz drug. A few panels later, one can assume from the amount of equipment and bodies strewn about, that Norman went berserk and trashed his own lab. One panel shows Doc Ock knocked out and groaning in pain. A two-page spread shows the full extent of the damage Norman has caused.

Back to Peter, he’s being accused of stealing the petty cash from the wrestling promotion. After escaping from the wrestlers, Peter crosses paths with an actual robber, this one stealing from a deli. Standing face-to-face with the thief, Peter chooses to let him go and gets an earful from the deli owner for not doing anything. Peter replies, “Well I’ve got my own problems.” When he comes home, he’s confronted again, this time by Ben and May over his failing English grades. Snapping at his aunt, Peter takes off and ends up crashing at Kong’s place.

A party at Kong’s brings Peter two things: a drunken Liz Allan comes onto him only to be seen by Mary Jane who takes off in disappointment. As Peter gives chase, he bumps into Uncle Ben who drags him away from the party. It’s in these panels that Ben gives him the “with great power comes great responsibility” speech. Peter takes off again, and while those words sink in, we see what has become of Norman: he’s grown a few inches and sprouted some horns on his head—Ultimate Green Goblin. In a fit of rage, he crashes his own penthouse suite and scares the pants off his son, which careens Harry into a whirlwind of fright and the desire to skip school.

Later that evening, Peter returns home greeted by squad cars. In a flashback, we see that after Ben came home, the Parkers were help up by gunpoint. Trying to diffuse the situation only costs Ben his life. While comforting his aunt and trying to cope with this sudden loss, Peter overhears on the police radio a description of the robber who killed his uncle. Donning his costume, Peter takes off and locates the thief in a warehouse. Once he gets up close to the thief, he realizes this is the same guy who robbed the deli the other day, the same one he could have stopped.

The speech given by Uncle Ben comes back to Peter, and the next page shows him owning up to his newfound responsibility: rescuing kids from a burning apartment and putting the kibosh on a mugging. Later, he comes home and finds Mary Jane waiting for him. Words are exchanged, and the two teens collapse in each other’s arms in a hug. I thought this was a touching closing to an emotional issue.

Issue #6 introduces us to the staff of the Daily Bugle. The editor of the paper, J. Jonah Jameson, is upset that his team isn’t covering the appearance of a “Spider-Man”. He tells his staff their top priority now is finding out everything there is to know about this Spider-Man character. Even though he’s covering another case, Ben Urich can’t duck out of writing about Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Peter is in his basement, dancing with joy over his latest discovery: using his father’s unfinished formula for a molecular adhesive, Peter is able to complete it using his own ingenuity. The end result: Spider-Man now has webs. He even tests the strength of his new webs by hanging from the ceiling.

The next day in school, after breaking yet another desk, Peter announces that he is quitting the basketball team. While Kong protests, Mary Jane gives Peter support, telling him “it wasn’t you”. Then another shock hits P.S. 163: Harry Osborn suddenly returns to school. Everyone voices their concerns over Harry’s well-being, not knowing what had happened to him when his home went up in flames, and as they stand in the hallway welcoming back their old friend, Peter senses something is about to happen.

Two blasts erupt in the school, sending everyone in a rush for the doors. Harry’s words tell us that he knows what is going on. But before he can explain, Spider-Man arrives on the scene. Entering the school, Spider-Man is confronted by the Green Goblin. A few kicks and punches later, the fight breaks out into…the sky. Soaring through the air, Peter tries to find out who his mystery opponent is, but all he gets in a response is a Frankenstein-like growl—Pppprrrrkkkkeerrrr. Then the Green Goblin drops him and Peter is able to put his webs to the test. Swinging back into action, Spider-Man tries to take down the Goblin. Only this time an N.Y.P.D. helicopter joins the fray and takes shots at the Goblin, who takes off with Spider-Man giving chase.

Once he catches up to his foe, two things greet Peter: fireballs and an order to stand down from the N.Y.P.D. As Peter tries to find out from the Goblin what he wants, shots are fired from the helicopter. Taking one last dive at Spider-Man, he is shot again and the Green Goblin plunges from the top of the bridge. With him gone, the police turn their attention to Spider-Man, but he swings his way to an escape and returns to high school as Peter Parker.

Wrapped in a towel, Peter meets up with his friends. Harry, still in shock over the attempt on his life, tells everyone who it was that attacked the school—his own father. Contradicting what the news had initially reported, Norman Osborn did not die in his lab. Nobody believes him, except Peter, who struggles with telling Harry that it wasn’t him that the Goblin was after, but he, Peter Parker.

So ends the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man. Simply put, it was fantastic. I found very few things to be nitpicky about. Instead, there were a lot of positive things to be said about this first arc. The slow build-up to Uncle Ben’s death made me hold my breath every time I turned the page. I thought he’d be dead by the second issue, but Brian Michael Bendis kept laying the foundations for Peter—his troubles in school, the fatal bite, attempts on his life, the discovery of his powers…and BOOM! Ben is dead. I liked how Peter could have actually prevented his uncle’s death by stopping the robber days earlier in the street. I prefer the Ultimate version compared to how it went down in the movie.

Seeing the Green Goblin was another treat. Instead of pointy shoes and pumpkin bombs, we get a Hulk-sized behemoth. As Spidey’s major nemesis, the Goblin should be portrayed as a menacing monster, able to shoot fireballs from his hands. This is a Goblin to be afraid of, not knowing what other powers he might possess. When Uncle Ben crashed Kong’s party to pick up Peter, I remember turning the page and seeing the Green Goblin for the first time. My initial thought was that he was going to kill Ben, but instead he kept a low profile until the end.

One of the arc’s lighter moments actually came during the heaviest—when Peter’s school is attacked, he dashes into the bathroom to change. But then he asks himself how did Spider-Man get into the school. He figures his classmates would recall his accident with the spider and put it all together. So he bolts out of school and changes in the parking lot. I thought it was a neat way to address the situation, and the two-page flashback covered Peter’s problem well.

Overall I give this arc a solid A. Being able to enjoy this book and not have to worry about continuity was a big plus. Turning the last page, I too was bit by the spider and could not wait to read what happens next in the life of Peter Parker, Spider-Man.

Next issue: Ultimate X-Men Volume 1: The Tomorrow People

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