This week’s issue of “Ultimate Spider-Man” kicks off a two-parter that introduces Rick Jones to the Ultimate Universe by giving him superpowers. Given the number of superpowered teenagers in the book already, another makes sense and allows Spider-Man, Iceman, and the Human Torch to attempt to mentor Rick in his newfound powers with some amusing results. Brian Michael Bendis mixes humor and drama very well in this issue, with the focus on Rick freaking out over the possibility of being a mutant and at the sudden onslaught of three superheroes that just want to make nice.
The Ultimate Spider-Man status quo is very different in the post-“Ultimatum” world with Aunt May taking in both Iceman and the Human Torch in addition to Gwen Stacey. In the preview pages, Bendis recaps that by cleverly putting it into a conversation between Peter and Mary Jane while they’re on break at their mall food court jobs. Peter’s wonderment at how much May is loving the new arrangement no doubt mirrors that of readers, as Bendis takes almost an opposite approach to the character that was taken in the regular Spider-Man books. However, when we see May with the kids later, it reads smoothly and naturally, although truncated by the Rick Jones plot.
Shifting the focus from May specifically has both positives and negatives. The biggest drawback is that the new domestic arrangement isn’t explored much in this issue despite it being very interesting and different from what’s been seen before. But, diving into the Rick Jones plot allows Bendis to put the trio of teenage heroes into a funny situation as they debate the best way to confront Rick about his possible mutant powers. Bendis’ dialogue skills are on full display here as he gets the tone of the friendly banter and mockery between Peter, Bobby, and Johnny just right. His tendency to overdo it with ‘witty’ interjections breaks the flow sometimes, but the feeling is just right.
Joining Bendis on these two issues is Takeshi Miyazawa, an artist that Spider-Man fans will fondly remember for his work on “Mary Jane Loves Spider-Man,” and, naturally, he’s a perfect fit for a comic featuring Spider-Man and his cast as teenagers. His manga-influenced art isn’t a far departure from the book’s regular artist, David Lafuente, thankfully, and continues to give the relaunched book a distinct visual style from the Mark Bagley- and Stuart Immonen-drawn first volume. Miyazawa’s style matches Bendis’ light writing as he highlights comedic touches in the writing with visual flourishes. The confrontation scene of Rick Jones becomes a madcap slapstick comedy in the hands of Miyazawa, bringing it to life when it could have fallen very flat.
The focus on Rick Jones takes away from the promising crammed Parker household and a chance to see what a house with four teenagers (three of them with superpowers) is like. That said, the Jones story is interesting and it allows Bendis to show a side of May not seen. “Ultimate Spider-Man” #7 is entertaining and fun, exactly how a teenage Spider-Man comic should be.