When the universe-bending storyline of “Ultimatum” was announced, the big concern from most people was simple: How would it affect “Ultimate Spider-Man”? If this issue is anything to go by, there needn’t have been any concern at all.
If the goal of “Ultimatum” was to re-energise the Ultimate Universe, then in those stakes it was a great success. Between Bendis’ plot and Lafuente’s art, “Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man” feels fresh and contemporary. The opening sequence is light on action, but full of humour, instantly washing away the grimness that plagued the Ultimate Universe’s final year and re-establishing the tone of the book masterfully.
Incoming artist David Lafuente is, in no small part, responsible for the book’s re-invention. His comic timing is immediately evident, and his characters designs are youthful and stylish. When the time comes to do action, he switches gear effortlessly. Although the round-headed Spider-Man may take some getting used to, it’s hard to find anything to really complain about. Lafuente quickly proves that he’s worthy of the book’s pedigree, and any worries that he might not live up to the standards set by his predecessors immediately give way to the concern that he might one day leave, once again threatening the title’s consistency.
Bendis, meanwhile, is always at home on “Ultimate Spider-Man," whatever name it goes under, and he sets about reminding readers exactly why his run persists to this day. Those who love Spider-Man’s soap-opera life will enjoy the new spin on an old romance, while if it’s super-villain fueled drama you’re after, there’s plenty of that too with the introduction of Ultimate Mysterio and -- I almost hesitate to type the words -- a major character death. After treading water for months during “Ultimatum," Bendis has the story well and truly moving again.
There are a few places where the relaunch may bamboozle readers. A 6-month gap has introduced a few changes to the status quo, but in comics, this is a familiar, easy-to-swallow device. If anything disappoints, it’s actually the lack of shake-ups. This is a good issue -- a great one, in fact -- but it’s not substantially different from what came before. Following a major crossover event and hype from editorial, the title’s familiarity turns out to be both its biggest strength and biggest weakness.