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Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 11: Carnage Paperback – January 10, 2007
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This series written by Brian Michael Bendis with artwork by Mark Bagley technically started the Ultimate Marvel universe if I am not mistaken. Since its debut, Ultimate Spiderman has become one of the most influential takes on Spider-Man in recent years. Bendis takes the story of Peter Parker, which hasn’t been revisited to my knowledge since the 1960s and reintroduces him into a world that closely resembles our own and is grounded in our own reality. This means that Peter is very much a product of the early 2000s and deals with concerns and struggles of young adults in a modern setting, which differ from the 1960s in most cases. Peter doesn’t differ too much from his mainstream Marvel universe counterpart. He has feelings for Mary Jane, but it isn’t something that dominates his life. Aunt May and Uncle Ben are pretty much the same figures that we are familiar with, but Uncle Ben seems to have a more prominent role as a father figure to Peter than what he appeared to be in the main stream universe. Bendis perfectly captures the feelings and struggles of a teenager in high school and the angst and raging changes that young adults go through. Obviously, this experience differs from person to person, but Bendis makes it a very prominent force in his run on Spider-Man. Mary Jane differs from her original counterpart as she is very smart and similar to Peter, which she was not in the main stream Marvel universe, initially. She had aspirations of becoming an actress, in the Ultimate Universe she appears to be just as bright as Peter and could pursue careers in the fields of science, more likely. There are plenty of subtle nods to some of the major figures in the Spider-Man mythos throughout the comic and Bendis leaves plenty of plot threads open to explore in further story arcs down the line. Norman Osborn is featured in this story arc as well and he is much more menacing and conniving than he has been in some of his iterations in the past, especially since his inception. My only complaint is that I didn’t really like the Green Goblin in this universe. He is a monster both figuratively and literally, yes, but that’s one of the intriguing things about Norman is that he executes most of the Goblin’s plans himself, but instead he is turned into a giant green demon who can control fire……. yeah, that doesn’t really match up with the Green Goblin. But I do like that most of the prominent figures/ teams in the Ultimate Marvel universe are tied back to the Super Soldier Serum and Captain America and Spider-Man is no different. Mark Bagley’s artwork is very good. I enjoy it throughout his entire run on Spider-Man. Sometimes, I think, when he draws a closeup of a character he puts maybe too much emphasis on the eyes and it appears that they are crying. But besides that, his artwork is amazing and any other artwork that enters the Ultimate Spider-Man line sticks out like a sore thumb and throws off the series. Overall, this is one of my favorite iterations of Spider-Man, very grounded, very human and it is a compelling run to follow.
By far the number one issue fans of the series had was the pacing of Gwen Stacy's death along with the battle against Carnage. In my opinion the casualness of it all is what added the most to Ultimate Spidey. Gwen's death isn't out of the ordinary. It doesn't get a build up to it because death is part of Peter's world now. Things can only get worse. This isn't just a fantasy he's living out or a game he's playing. This is his life. The life of a superhero where tragedy will happen without a moments notice. Where drama takes a backseat to consequences.
He made a mistake and someone paid the price for it. That someone just happened to be another person who was very close to him. As much as people like seeing an angry Peter Parker that's never been the core of his character. He's not a rage filled sociopath looking for revenge. He's a self destructive time bomb who loathes his conscience for making him miserable. As far as he's concerned he's the one who killed Uncle Ben. He's the one who killed Gwen Stacy. He's the one who can't stop hurting Aunt May and Mary Jane. He's 15.
When you're 15 and everything is your fault, and you're confronted by the product of your own negligence (Carnage) your immediate instinct isn't to annihilate the seemingly immortal abomination of science trying to kill you. In my opinion Peter wasn't even there for that fight. His mind was still trying to cope with the realization that this wasn't the first, and won't be the last tragedy to befall him. That being Spider-Man won't get easier and day by day the odds of him hurting another loved one is increasing. It was only after the fight that he came to which is why the story was told through a flashback.
It's not that the comic itself is dumbing down. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Bendis is leaving more and more to subtext for you to interpret for yourself. He doesn't want to build up to a situation where he'll tell you how to feel during the climax and end definitively. He wants you to take what you will and decide what to get from it. This is volume 11 out of 22 and is a great turning point for the character.
This story also features a major revelation for one of the supporting characters at the end of the book, as well as some closure on the problem of Doc Ock. This book sets the stage well for more development between Peter and Gwen Stacy, which I look forward to. Well worth the time and money, I found this TPB to be very enjoyable!