It'd been a while since I'd read an issue of "Ultimate Spider-Man," with the shift from volume 1 to volume 2 turning into a jumping-off point thanks to the general displeasure of the "Ultimatum" event. But with enjoying "Ultimate X," plus the start of a new storyline in "Ultimate Spider-Man," it seemed like a good at time as any to give the series another chance.
I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the "this changes everything" event of "Ultimatum" actually changed almost nothing in "Ultimate Spider-Man." Sure, Peter Parker now has Iceman and Human Torch living with him and posing as his cousins (I guess Firestar was unavailable), but other than that it's really business as usual. Too bad no one at Marvel thought to try and alert or reassure the readership of the original series about this.
My biggest complaint about "Ultimate Spider-Man" #9 is that it somehow feels short. Remarkably little happens, due to the fact that each scene seems stretched out too long. I know that Brian Michael Bendis' rambling dialogue is one of hallmarks, but it almost seems turned into parody here. Scenes just drag on and on, entire pages added on that could've instead advanced the plot a little bit. The plot also felt slightly unfocused, juggling the return of Spider-Woman with a mutant task force coming after Kitty Pryde. The plus side, though, is that the characters are still fun to read about, and despite having not read the previous eight issues I didn't feel lost or confused in the slightest; Bendis does a good job of assuming that every issue is someone's first exposure to the title.
David Lafuente's art is also slightly variable; there are scenes early on where I wasn't convinced that he was the right man for this book. The scene where the Human Torch first appears, for instance, gives him a head that actually looks slightly misshapen. And when I got to see Lafuente's depiction of Peter Parker, my immediate thought was, "Ick, that long hair has to go." (Fortunately, it looks like Bendis agreed with me on that front.) When you get to later scenes, though, Lafuente shines. I love the two-page spread framed in a massive web that shows how Peter's been trying to blow off steam, and the ending two pages showing everyone's reactions to the task force is a nice series of character portraits. So while he's a little all over the map, by the end of the issue I found myself convinced that he was a good successor to Stuart Immonen.
The relaunch of "Ultimate Spider-Man" as... "Ultimate Spider-Man" seems slightly pointless. (Did anyone else notice that the whole "Ultimate Comics" brand never actually appeared aside from in solicitations? Seriously, look at the covers as well as the indicia at the end of each issue, it's not there.) At its core, this is really just "Ultimate Spider-Man" #142. It's not a perfect comic, but it's fun, if slightly overpriced. Business as usual.