It’s worth taking a brief moment to pause and reflect, for this quiet, humble, unassuming issue of Ultimate Spider-Man represents the end of an era. For almost a year, now, Bendis’ title has been an oasis of calm and decency amid an imprint that has been torn apart by Jeph Loeb’s grubby hands – while various other titles have fallen as the Ultimate Universe heads towards a pointless revamp, USM has managed to stick to the values of good storytelling and characterisation that have made it one of Marvel’s most consistently excellent titles of the past decade, by the simple virtue of having a “Note: this story takes place before Ultimates 3” disclaimer on the front page of each issue.
Sadly, with the use of the words “Next : Ultimatum” on the closing page of this issue, that happy time is over. The Ultimate Universe as we knew it is finally gone. It remains to be seen whether Bendis will be allowed to keep USM as the book it’s always been after this point, but it’s certainly to be hoped so. The issue itself is a fairly decent conclusion to a fairly decent storyline – although it’s a shame that we’d already had the resolution of the Gwen part of the story spoiled by Ultimatum #1. Given that USM has been coming out on a pretty consistent monthly schedule for a while, now, it’s hard to see quite how that mistake managed to happen. Ah well.
Meanwhile, Aunt May gets a “badass” moment, while there’s a neat twist on the “Eddie sits on a park bench” device as used earlier in the arc. It’s a shame that the Ultimate versions of both Brock and his black gooey counterpart have been a bit dull so far, mind, but Bendis successfully manages to do something that early ’90s Marvel writers and editors probably only dreamed about – merging Carnage and Venom into one super-being without it being too ludicrous (although for some reason I’m reminded of a fatter, blacker version of the Cloverfield monster).
Immonen’s work continues to be a great fit for the title – there’s little else new to say about it at this point, beyond the fact that his current position as artist makes for a nice bit of visual continuity come the closing pages, given that in his previous guise as Ultimate Fantastic Four artist on Ellis’ run meant that he was responsible for defining the visual style of the technology source here revealed to be behind the Beetle. Otherwise, he simply turns in solid, classy work that fits a solid, classy series – simple lessons that you suspect the likes of Loeb, Madureira and Finch could learn from. Bendis and USM deserve better than to be simply subsumed by inferior creators and titles, so let’s hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this book as one of the best things Marvel continues to publish.