Tuesday, May 17, 2016

'Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates: Death of Spider-Man' trade paperback retro-review

In my no-spoiler review of "Captain America: Civil War," I say the third part of the Cap film trilogy feels like "Avengers 2.75," but it's a great film regardless.

This "Captain America: Civil War" collage appears courtesy of screencrush.com.
In this Cap-centric, pseudo-"Avengers" film, we get our first look at the Marvel Studios take on Peter Parker and Spider-Man.

Nineteen-year-old Tom Holland is just great, giving us the socially awkward Parker who is science whiz. He also nails the blabber-mouth Spider-Man. In short, although I was weary that Marvel could deliver a Spidey/Parker I could care about (especially since this was the third cinematic wall-crawler in less than 15 years!), I quickly found that Holland and Team "Civil War" gave me a character I quickly adored.

At the end of the climactic and super-fun Avenger vs. Avenger battle, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man tells the injured Spider-Man "you're done" with the fight and he needs to "stay down ... or I'll tell Aunt May" (aka "Aunt Hottie," played by the perpetually hot Marisa Tomei).
GIF courtesy of moviepilot.com
All that being said, this gives me a great excuse to repost this review of a story featuring another hero vs. hero battle. In mid-December 2011, I reviewed ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS VS. NEW ULTIMATES; DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN, a trade paperback with possibly one of the wordiest titles ever. And just like in "Civil War," Spidey plays a prominent role when one superhero team faces off against another.


Dec. 12, 2011 -- Truthfully, the death of Ultimate Comics’ Spider-Man is almost a subplot in this storyline and isn’t given much weight.

There are a few panels of true, well-told drama, but that’s it. Spidey’s death isn’t given enough significance to substantiate being given the subtitle of this trade paperback.

(Here's a review of the prelude to the Ultimate Spider-Man storyline I wrote back in February 2012.)

Sure, his death is how Col. Nick Fury manipulates Col. Carol Danvers to resign as SHIELD’s director and get his old job back. But, er, ultimately, Spider-Man’s heroic death (he’s shot accidentally by The Punisher when Spidey leaps in Captain America’s way to keep Cap from being shot — supposedly in the knee caps — by the sniper) isn’t given the gravitas it should have been.

Admittedly, I’ve never “gotten” the appeal of the Ultimate Comics line.

Given them a second and third chance hasn’t made the publications any more enjoyable. (However, I will say I very much enjoyed ULTIMATE X-MEN, despite me not remembering anything at all that happened there, as well as the first volume trade paperback of THE ULTIMATES.)

And it was only a few months ago that I swore off reading any more Ultimate trades after the despicable depiction of Captain America.

This time, Cap felt more like Cap.

Right after Spidey is shot, Cap tells him he’ll be fine since “it’s a clean shot” and he has a first aid kit with him. In an even more compassionate, Cap-esque moment, Cap, while holding the severely bleeding Spidey in his arms, says the teen hero shouldn’t chastise himself for getting involved in Ultimates-Avengers-SHIELD business.

“Are you kidding? You took a bullet without even hesitating. When you grow up, you’re going to be the best out of all of us,” Cap says.

The Ultimate Captain America is still a tough customer, though.

Just a few pages earlier, he gave Fury a serious butt-whoopin’. Iron Man/Tony Stark also reminds me more of the original. (Although, admittedly his Ultimate characterization has been fairly consistent with his original, real counterpart.)

In the final showdown, after Iron Man takes out his brother’s technology using his electromagnetic pulse, Thor nails Dr. Gregory Stark — no, actually fries him to a crisp — with a lightning bolt. Tony is rightly outraged, wishing Thor had only knocked him out.

Earlier, Thor has the best line in the entire storyline, explaining why he gave up his “faux Shakespearean speech” in exchange for Stark, who donated a tone of money to charity.

“Tony said he hated the Norse god speech pattern I’d developed and (he) promised to give $10 million to charity if I spoke like a normal person again,” Thor says.

Unlike so many of the ultimately brainless Ultimate stories I’ve read, this one cleared up a lot about who’s who, what they do and had a halfway decent story.

Straight from the dust cover: “Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man and Black Widow are the Ultimates. Led by Carol Danvers, they are the force of American superheroes and the country’s first line of defense against its greatest threats. Meanwhile, black-ops mastermind Nick Fury has his own team of superhumans: The Avengers. with the likes of the Punisher, Hawkeye, Blade and War Machine at his disposal, Fury can resolve any conflict, no matter how messy it gets.”

The story all comes down to a suspected inside job, superhuman arms dealers and enough international and interpersonal traitors to make things even more complicated.

So yes, I admit it: I enjoyed this story. It's by no means perfect (there’s once again another needless murder), but there are less scenes that turn my fanboy stomach than usual and it’s actually somewhat memorable. Grade: B (Amazing, huh?)

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