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Ultimate Spider-Man #3 continues to show the difficulty of doing good in a world undergirded by evil


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Mar 19, 2024
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In my capsule review of Ultimate Spider-Man #1, I described it as the Spider-Man I need at age 30, and it continues to be that in its third installment. Jonathan Hickman, Marco Checchetto, and Matthew Wilson continue to craft a Spider-Man comic book that is funny, poignant, action-packed, and has actual relationships between its characters while to continue to dig at (Not quite construct.) some annoying things about past Spidey comics and superhero books in general. The big, initial shocker in this series was that Uncle Ben is very much alive so this issue goes into his and J. Jonah Jameson’s journalism endeavor as they piece together evidence to take down the Kingpin with the kind of, sort of help of Peter Parker. Uncle Ben and Jameson are competent, driven writers, but they’re not business owners and are light years from taking down New York’s crime boss. This, along with Spider-Man continuing to get used to being Spider-Man and figuring out whether to keep his identity secret from certain people, creates a relatable through-line that being an adult is mostly faking it until you make it.

One great thing about Ultimate Spider-Man #3 is its deadpan comic time. Beneath all the charts and elaborate world-building, Jonathan Hickman is just a silly little guy who spends pages roasting different Spider-Man costumes (Via Peter’s daughter May) and showing how boring and ridiculous stake-outs are. Checchetto’s visuals add to the rhythm of the jokes with his spot-on renderings of the costumes and reaction shots from different characters. I died laughing at a silent beat panel of Uncle Ben and J. Jonah Jameson glaring at Peter when he vouched for the coolness of Spider-Man in a conversation about how the Green Goblin was taking down different Kingpin-owned properties. There’s lots of levity and verbal sparring through the book to go with the actual superhero action. It’s a fond reminder of the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man and Brian Michael Bendis’ snappy patter although Hickman has a much different writing style and doesn’t cover the art with excessive word balloons.

Like the original Ultimate Spider-Man series, Hickman and Marco Checchetto introduce the Green Goblin as a potential threat for Spider-Man and intertwine him with the tragedy that made Peter Parker go from thirty-something family man to superhero. However, they depart from the typical hero/villain dynamic (This is foreshadowed in an earlier conversation between Uncle Ben, J. Jonah Jameson, and Peter.) and have them find common ground in a battle with Bullseye, who works for the Kingpin, but also maybe the Maker. Like the 616 version, this Bullseye is boastful and has wicked aim with a deck of cards in addition to being an unreliable narrator. Instead of the usual fight each other, then team-up, Jonathan Hickman and Checchetto let the battle flow naturally with Bullseye catching Green Goblin pumpkin bombing one of Kingpin’s properties while Spider-Man is on stake-out.

Initially, Spider-Man fights them both, but over the course of the fray, he realizes that he has a common enemy with the Green Goblin, and they make quite a team. Plus Spider-Man’s suit uses some of the same tech as Green Goblin’s cementing their connection. With the reveal of Green Goblin being Harry Osborn, it’s reminiscent of the team-up between New Goblin and Spider-Man in the Spider-Man 3 film, but with less angsty build-up. (There’s lots of Raimi Spider-Man trilogy in Ultimate Spider-Man‘s DNA, and I’m here for it.) Sure, there are bombastic fisticuffs with bright colors from Matthew Wilson and wide screen panels from Marco Checchetto, but the fight scenes also build the relationship between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn while also showing Spider-Man’s improvement as a superhero from the previous issue. (He kicks ass instead of having his ass kicked!) Also, on an emotional level, Peter and Harry are just two young men with extraordinary abilities and deep grief trying to do some good in this world, and it makes sense for them to have a bond instead of just being the arbitrary good guys/bad guys.

With well-timed jokes, flashy art, and fluid visual storytelling, Ultimate Spider-Man #3 continues to show the difficulty of doing good and helping people in a world that is literally undergirded by evil. The scenes with Peter and his family, former boss J. Jonah Jameson, and potential new friend Harry Osborn truly show that it takes a village to save the day and not in the cliched “Avengers assemble” kind of way. Although there’s hints at the Maker and larger Ultimate Universe narrative, Hickman and Checchetto keep the stakes and small and personal in this series, and it’s why this book is easily one of my favorite monthly ongoing superhero comics in recent years.

Story: Jonathan Hickman Art: Marco Checchetto
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Cory Petit
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.9 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: TFAWZeus ComicsKindle

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