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Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #24 – Review

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #24

By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Dave Marquez (Art), Justin Ponsor (Colors), VC’s Cory Petit (Lettering)

Review: Miles Morales fans beware: there ain’t much of him to be seen this month. As you can tell from the cover (and last month’s last-page reveal), this issue is more an introduction to the Ultimate universe’s Cloak and Dagger, a fan-favourite team whose appearance has been loosely teased in the 1610 for years.

I have to admit, I’ve no great reverence for the characters personally. The last time I remember seeing them star in any comic of note was Civil War and that was in…whoa, 2006!? Color me old. Still, if there’s one thing the Ultimate universe could do with right now it’s new blood, and what better place to introduce it than the line’s flagship title.

Bendis basically employs a bit of back and forth between the past and present in order to tell Cloak and Dagger’s story. In the present the duo are battling a new villain (or is she a hero?) called Bombshell, the fight taking place in around the restaurant that Miles, his Dad and Gwen Stacy are caught in. The fight itself is okay – lots of explosions, light daggers and cloakin’ – but the majority of the plot is taken up with an origin tale.

The teenage Ty Johnson (Cloak) and Tandy Bowen (Dagger) meet at Peter and MJ’s old hangout at the Westwood Mall, and they soon fall in love. On their way to the Prom (in the clichéd Limo experience, natch) they get in a car wreck that lands them in hospital. While both in a coma they’re easy prey for a cadre of visiting villains, Ultimate versions of Dr Layla Miller, Nathaniel Essex (Mr Sinister), Dr Samuel Sterns and Dr Arnim Zola III. Working for Roxxon, their aim is to spirit the injured couple away (“They are going to be declared dead soon. And then they are ours to play with,”) and buff them up with awesome powers and junk. The motive for the scheme is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, but it is mentioned that this is Roxxon’s play to try and create something in line with Osborn’s Oz formula. Sure, that’s bound to turn out well.

Away from that, Miles’ is reduced to something of a co-star in his own book; fair enough though considering the fact that he still refuses to put on the Spider-Man costume, even when meta-humans are pounding pavements into dust mere feet away. He does get some action – a mighty slap from Gwen Stacy in a bid to snap him out of his funk – but otherwise you know the score: the kid’s still grieving, and he sees carrying on with the superheroics as a surefire way to put his Dad in danger. Or worse, to have his Dad completely disown him. It’s still a great story and it still engenders empathy, it’s just taking a l’il time out this month is all.

So yeah, that’s about it. It’s a fairly breezy issue – and one that doesn’t add much to Mile’s story at this point – but it’s also a necessary one if Cloak and Dagger were to be given the kind of introduction that sets them in good stead for a solid existence in the Ultimate universe. As it stands their origin does seem a little hokey and uninspired, but there do seem to be secrets and twists tucked away that could beef up the drama. I mean who knows, they might just be being set up as the latest bad guys for Miles to web up, but I think there’s also an outside chance they could be being looked at as an ongoing concern; perhaps as regular team-up partners for Miles a la the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon grouping or when Ult. Peter Parker, Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake used to crew together. That’d be cool. Or maybe this character Bombshell is the real focus? Who knows? As always, I trust whatever Bendis is doing with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. He’s not set a foot wrong with it yet and I see no reason to believe that he will  in the future.

Likewise for Dave Marquez who delivers another assured star turn on art duties. Big, bright, dynamic, kinetic…it’s beautiful work. He’s given a good mix of scenes to work with here, from a super-powered street fight to quieter moments of romance and villainous plotting. He also gets a few expansive double-page set-ups; the one that stands out in particular is where each panel is partitioned by the paths of Dagger’s light blades in flight, creating a semi-conical pattern that details all the action taking place simultaneously in and around the diner fight. The only real problem is a slight one and that’s with the ages of Clock and Dagger, especially in the flashbacks where they’re supposed to be teens…but still end up looking like 30-somethings? As I say, that’s not really a problem (tends to happen often in comics as well as TV) but it’s just unusual for Marquez, the man who usually excels at capturing the ages of his subjects so perfectly. Still, it’s a purely subjective blemish on an otherwise stellar piece of work.

Conclusion: As the cover implies this issue is more devoted to getting the introduction of Cloak and Dagger into the Ultimate Universe right rather than progressing Miles’ story. As long as you’re cool with that then this is issue should be sure to please, though it still represents a bit of a dip in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man’s otherwise impressive forward momentum.

Grade: B

- Matt Sargeson

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