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Friday, June 24, 2011

Latest Comic Book Reviews (06.24.2011): X-Men Prelude To Schism #3 & Ultimate Spider-Man #160 (Death of Spider-Man)

Two pretty good books from the House of Ideas yesterday.

The dragging Prelude to Jason Aaron's "Schism" event finally shakes up a little bit thanks to Cyclops finally coming up with his decision, and then the death of the one of the most important characters in the Marvel Ultimate Universe finally bites the dust - for good.

All of my reviews after the jump.

X-Men: Prelude to Schism #3
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Will Conrad
Colors by Lou Loughridge
Published by Marvel Comics

"About damn time."

After Professor X and Magneto took turns in issues #1 and #2, Paul Jenkins has finally decided to shift the focus of his story to the man of the hour (or week): Cyclops.

And just like his previous Xavier and Erik Lensherr stories, Jenkins uses the same formula here but he puts a new spin by intelligently writing Cyclops' origin as an allegory to the X-Man's own description of himself as a broken man who has been falling ever since he was a kid - that is until he was found by Charles Xavier and joined the X-Men.

Jenkins' writing is fluid and symbolic, often using a lot of metaphors in Cyclops' narrative which I find very impressive. A lot of writers use the same style, but they often fall into a pit of utter nonsense and boring-ness as they go on, but Jenkins' completely avoids that mistake because the clearly understands the complete nature of his subject. He definitely made sure that this issue will be a reflection of how Cyclops evolved as a person/mutant and leader over the years, and I could say that he successful in doing that, one-upping himself based from his two previous gigs.

He also gives an exciting teaser on what is going to happen in the upcoming event by having Cyclops finally step up to the plate and telling everybody his decision. Not only that, Wolverine also got to say what's on his mind like the no-holds-barred character that he is that clearly shows the rising tension within the members of the X-Men, and signals the eventual disagreement between the calm general and his best, but often impulsive soldier.

Will Conrad's art is very likable in this issue, he is able to portray every character effectively without sacrificing quality.  Loughridge's colors does the trick in this book with that impeccable lighting and tone, especially with the red color. A full splash page with nothing but a plane and a red flash of light was impressive, and it totally gets the job done in terms of conveying the tragedy. 

But despite all of the good stuff, readers are still left to guess as to what is this "threat" that is coming that could possibly eliminate the whole mutant species. And from all the teasers that Jenkins provided, I'm not so sure as to what a 4th prelude issue could possibly provide, unless Jenkins has a big rabbit to grab out of his hat.  


Ultimate Spider-Man #160 
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel Comics

The Death of Spider-Man.

It couldn't get any clearer than that, and that's all you need to know.

Because that's exactly what you get in this issue.

After 160 issues and 10-plus years of groundbreaking story arcs, adventures and emotional roller-coasters - Ultimate Peter Parker finally bites the dust. His foe? None other than the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn.

The road towards the ultimate death was something that many fans were looking forward to, mainly because Marvel "spoiled" fans all over the world by giving away the ending (together with the death scene images) 2 days after the actual issue came out. Well, in a sense it wasn't really a spoiler because the title is the goddamn "Death of Spider-Man" anyway and that's as straight-forward as it gets. 
Bendis was successful in many ways in creating a convincingly real death story for Ultimate Spidey. First, his characterization here is spot on, from Gwen Stacy's frantic expressions, to Mary Jane and Aunt May's delusional screams of fear and sorrowful cries as they witness their beloved Peter getting decimated by a monster, up to Spider-Man / Peter Parker's bravery and selflessness all in the name of protecting those who are dear to him.

Second, Bendis decision to have an unmasked and bloody Peter Parker fight the abomination in his own neighborhood adds a necessary dramatic touch to the story, and third, his decision to have Norman Osborn fight Spidey to the death was definitely the right decision, because that's how it should come full circle for both men. Any fan wouldn't have it any other damn way.

But... (there I go again) there were a lot of things that happened in this issue that I thought was irrational... or wasn't necessary, like Mary Jane crashing a truck towards the Goblin in the heat of battle with Spidey. What was that for? I understand that Mary Jane can't do anything in this issue but cry and scream and cry a bit more, but ramming a truck over a freaking "Doomsday"-like monster? Doesn't make sense to me.

And Peter asking the help of Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch? Bendis didn't need to do that. I could have just been Spidey vs Green Goblin one-on-one, mano y mano, without anybody else intervening. This kind of ruined it.

Oh there's one more thing. What's up with Spider-Man able to carry a ten-wheeler truck above his head and then hammering it down repeatedly to his opponent until he fucking bleeds to death? How did he get that super-strength all of a sudden? I was kind of confused on that one scene and I thought I was reading " The Death of Superman" instead.

Mark Bagley does this thing in this issue and he was able to nail the great moments together with gut-wrenching expressions right on target. I'm not a big fan of his style though, which is a bit cartoony and rushed, but there is no doubt in my mind that he can deliver powerful and explosive sequential art unlike no one else in the industry today. Ponsor's colors makes it even more vibrant, providing well chosen palettes for each scene.

Overall, the emotional impact of this story could have been better if Marvel had not spoiled it ahead of time, but I commend them for giving us what they advertised - nothing more, nothing less - and for creating a pretty good send off for Ulti-Spidey, despite the bad stuff. 

And now that Ultimate Pete is dead, now what? Bendis didn't give a solid conclusion by the end of this issue and that is one of his biggest flaws... among others that I mentioned. I guess that would be answered once the new Ultimate Spider-Man is revealed and how Bendis will handle that new friendly-neighborhood in town. But for now, Spidey is gone from the Ultimate Universe for good, and that's that.


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