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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Comics Review - Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley


Issues: #1 - #110
TPBs: Power and Responsibility, Learning Curve, Double Trouble, Legacy, Public Scrutiny, Venom, Irresponsible, Cats & Kings, Hollywood, Carnage, Superstars, Hobgoblin, Warriors, Silver Sable, Deadpool, The Clone Saga, Ultimate Knights

SPOILERS GALORE

Oooooh yeah. What a series. The Ultimate reboot of Spider-Man, and the first Bendis comic I read. I've always liked Spider-Man, especially the Saturday Morning cartoon in the 90s, but find that there's so much history that it can be hard to keep up. Spidey's been going since the 60s, and there's a whole mess of awful storylines throughout the 90s such as the Clone Saga.. Ultimate Spidey's greatest strength as a series is that it's not tied down to any previous storyline and can start fresh. Much like the first Tobey Maguire film,  it really benefits from putting the young Peter Parker back into a high school setting, where he's a geeky outsider picked on by ogrish bullies, something that most people (most comic reading people anyway!) can relate to.

Bendis' greatest tool is his dialogue. It's very rare that you'll find such natural, flowing dialogue in a comic. You can believe that these are school kids, and modern school kids at that. The only more modern dialogue I've seen is in Ultimate Galactus by Warren Ellis where a frat boy says "Dude, you are teh suXXor". The teachers sound like teachers, one or two especially, and the kids sound like kids, well, teenagers. The primary characters are teens, and it's all about teens having to grow up and adjust to this world full of costumed villains, Ultimates, and the Hulk. There's some great highs and many many crushing lows, but it always does it without being emo or melodramatic.

Power and Responsibility

Hard to think this all started back in 2000! Over 10 years of Ultimate Spidey :) Love it. This first arc naturally has Peter being bitten by a spider. Was it radioactive? Was it f**k! I've seen on a documentary that most of our comic characters were results of the Cold War and Nuclear Threat. Radioactive spider, "gamma rays/bomb" creates the Hulk, "cosmic rays" creates the Fantastic Four. In the Ultimate universe it's all about genetics. Nick Fury (now Samuel L Jackson) says many times, "The next war will be a genetic war", and that is a strong undercurrent in the Ultimate comics. Normal Osborn is attempting to recreate the Super Soldier serum that created Captain America, and are doing tests on animals, and it just happens to be a genetically-altered spider that bites Peter.

Uncle Ben's character was excellent. He had a ponytail! o_O Unexpected to say the least. Ben and Aunt May are clearly ex-hippies, and probably in their late 50s to 60s rather than being a decrepit old bat like in regular Spidey comics. May is a strong woman, and she really cares for her family. Mary Jane was another character, and Peter's first love interest and his best friend. She is also a brainy geek, and actually has feelings for Peter before being bitten, and it's wonderful watching their relationship develop.

Norman Osborn naturally doesn't miss the fact that one of his spiders bites a boy, and that boy is on death's door, and then miraculously survives. He's a smart man and figures out Peter now has powers and attempts to recreate the accident with himself as the first human test subject. The lab explodes killing just about all the scientists, with Otto Octavius being one of them, and Harry Osborn nearby. Enter the Green Goblin, a huge fireball-throwing monster thing. Certainly a far cry from the original. 


Without doubt it's a very modern telling of Spider-Man. Naturally that means a lot of things get reinvented, and not always without scrutiny, but get on the bus because the stories are incredible. It's a little rocky of a start, looking back, as it tries to find its feet, but lays the foundations for one of my favourite comic series.

Learning Curve

Peter learns that Uncle Ben's killer had ties to the Kingpin, thus introducing another of Spidey's longest standing villains. It's funny reading Daredevil and Ultimate Spidey at the same time, having two versions of the Kingpin written by the same writer, and both so brilliantly done. I enjoyed this trade, watching Spidey fight his first super powered villain, Electro. Where's the awful yellow and green outfit? It's gone! Lol.. Bendis made the no-doubt-difficult decision to redesign the quote worst costume ever unquote.
The series really goes from strength to strength from here, and Peter reveals his identity to Mary Jane in a really wonderful and touching scene. The two then become boyfriend and girlfriend, and I really found myself cheering for them. 

I realise I haven't mentioned the artist Mark Bagley yet, and the artwork is brilliant. It leaps off the page, and the colouring is always top notch as well. I love that Bagley did the art for SOOO many issues, because the characters are so recognisable with signature looks, and the action and emotions are displayed so clearly and vibrantly.

Double Trouble

First appearance of Doctor Octopus, and again completely redone. The arms were actually fused to his body during the accident that created the Green Goblin, and that trauma has driven him over the edge. He's a frightening and dangerous character, and has one of the highest body counts in the series! Not just a bowl cut with metal arms. Also Kraven the Hunter, a reality TV star, says his next hunt will be Spider-Man. Peter naturally sees this declaration on TV, and wonders why everyone hates him. He really has no luck.
Gwen Stacy makes her first appearance as a punkrock

The climax of the arc has Doctor Octupus holding a press conference outside of an illegal genetic lab ran by Justin Hammer (a rival of Norman Osborn), and ends up in a brawl with Spidey right in front of the press. He beats down Doc Oc, and Kraven shows up and gets layed out too in a great comedy moment. Spidey then has his first say in the press about why he wears a mask and that he's trying to make a positive difference. It was a very "Awww" moment, with great dialogue as always

Legacy

Norman Osborn returns! Dun dun DUUUN. That's Norman and Doc Oc who know Spidey's secret identity, and Norman intends to use this to get Peter to work for him. If he doesn't, Mary Jane and Aunt May will pay the price. You really feel the tension and drama in this, especially as Mary keeps getting in the middle no matter how many times Peter tells her to stay away from the returning Harry Osborn. "They're dangerous!" he tells her, but manages to never actually explain to her why. The Goblin ends up kidnapping Mary Jane and takes her to the top of the Queensboro Bridge, where in the regular Marvelverse is where Spidey's first girlfriend Gwen Stacy died.

I could hardly breathe when Mary Jane gets thrown off and Peter catches her with web and yanks her back before swinging to safety. He puts her down, and she's not moving. I was like, "NOooooo.... they couldn't..." and mercifully she's alive. But for those few seconds I really believe they could have killed Mary Jane, because anything is possible in this series. 

I realise by this point I am COMPLETELY invested in all the characters, and I am strapped in for the roller coaster that is Peter's life

Public Scrutiny

A bank robber dressed as Spider-Man ruins Peter's reputation, and ends up killing Gwen Stacy's father who had started getting friendly with Aunt May. May losing her sister (Peter's mother), her husband and then her new friend Captain Stacy all in very quick succession really takes it toll on her, and again you really come to care for her character by this point. She invites Gwen to live with her and Peter, and is a great addition to the cast, but this really causes problems between Mary and Peter, as Mary Jane gets insanely jealous.

Pretty understanding really. Some great drama in this one and some moments that really had me thinking, "Daaaaaamn...."

Gwen Stacy is a brilliant addition to the main cast, and as with all Bendis writing, she really has a unique voice. In fact Bendis recommend a book on story writing that I've read, and the author writes that if a character doesn't offer anything worth saying or doing, why have them at all? If you have three friend supporting characters and two of them sound too similar, you should make them into one character because they're wasting space effectively. Gwen Stacy wastes no space. Every character has LIFE. Even jerks like Flash Thompson. I find it hard writing jerks, because you don't want them in your life, but without them there's no drama! And it wouldn't be realistic or interesting if everyone was nice.

A random note; Mark Bagley's art is brilliant. And here's a random panel from this trade.


This trade ends rather sadly with Mary Jane breaking up with Peter because of Gwen. And honestly it feels like she broke up with us the reader!! Really involving stuff

Venom

How much balls does it take to reinvent Venom? One of the first Spider-Man comics I read was Maximum Carnage, and through that I worked backwards and read some Venom comics (the one Todd McFarlane did) and it was great. Venom was joined to a unemployed reporter called Eddie Brock that Spider-Man basically got fired, and ended up with a massive Spider-Man vendetta. What I always found interesting was that Venom himself saw Spidey as the villain, and himself as the hero.
The Ultimate reimagining of Venom was surprising, and if you can put everything you've read before out of your mind, it's a damn good read. I can understand why you'd want to change things up. What fun would it be for a writer or reader to read the exact story that's been told before? Peter finds a trunk in the basement full of things belonging to his father. This is the first time in the series so far that the Parker family's past is dug up, and it's very resonating. Peter sees a video of himself as a kid at a picnic with his parents, Aunt May and Uncle Ben, the Brocks and their son Eddie Jr. From there Peter ends up tracking down Eddie who's currently in university in New York.

Eddie has continued their fathers' work, which is a black goo called The Suit, which was designed to be a cure for cancer. It was supposed to bond to a person's body, and use their own immune system to fight any disease or affliction. But it was never finished.

Eddie was another great character, as he appears likable and charming, but as time goes on you realise he's a bullsh!tter and really not very pleasant, especially after he makes a pass at Gwen, a 15-year old who's just lost her Dad.. And then gets annoyed when she rejects him... Nice.

After a brief appearance by the Black Suited Spider-Man, naturally things go from bad to worse for Peter, and ends up fighting with Eddie who's now a big freakin' monster thing. Another person who knows Peter is Spidey. Eventually Venom gets shot, electrocuted and exploded, leaving Peter feeling massively guilty and down-spirited. Nick Fury quips, "In our business, if there's no body, they ain't dead"

Irresponsible

Peter still feeling rubbish over Eddie's death and being single. Gwen convinces him to go to a party with her, where they feel awkward and loserish. In walks Liz Allen and Mary Jane looking like sluts! Peter now feels even worse. Que random guy blowing up cars with the power of his mind.

This arc introduces a mutant (probably) exchange student called Geldof who goes to another high school, and enjoys blowing up stuff to impress his jock friends. A perfect opportunity for Peter to teach him about some power and responsibility, which of course doesn't go over at all! As always I really found myself in Peter's corner feeling that everything around him was incredibly unfair. Every time a policeman shoots at him or gives him a hard time, I feel bad for him.

I think this was the X-Men's first appearance in the series too, as they turn up to take in Geldof. After a bumpy ride in the X-Jet back to the mansion, Peter finds himself unmasked and in front of all the X-Men. I loved this scene, as Peter curses, "Great! Now another bunch of people who know I'm Peter Parker!" to which someone says, "Uhh... we didn't know your name..". Poor kid can't catch a break

Cats & Kings

The Kingpin is back, and also has the Black Cat's first appearance. Love the redesign of the costume, and her flirty relationship with a baffled Spidey is comedy gold. Black Cat steals a mysterious tablet from the Kingpin, and Spidey finds himself in the middle, and of course being blamed in the papers as an accomplice. Ends up with a big fight between Black Cat and Elektra (who's also had great costume redesign), and Black Cat getting killed but again with no body.

Great moment at the end of this wear Spidey is left saying, "I bet the Kingpin is laughing his butt off right now at us", and then shows Kingpin looking despondent by a bed with a woman tied up to machines. From watching the 90s cartoon this resonated a lot, as his wife Vanessa was in a coma and he tried using some magical tablet to revive her. This was the first glimpse of an actual person behind the Kingpin persona.

Hollywood

This was a terrific arc. Peter happens to walk past the TV with a mouthful of cereal as the news announces filming is beginning of a Spider-Man movie right there in New York City. You can practically hear his jaw hit the floor.

This was a very clever and amusing mix of the real world, as Avi Arad appears as the producer to discuss the film, and they have Sam Raimi directing and Tobey Macguire starring. Spidey storms down to the set to have words about how they can make a movie about him without his consent, and naturally pandemonium erupts.

After his earlier fight, Doc Oc is languishing in prison and also hears that a Spidey film is being made, and that his ex wife is a paid consultant about his character. That pushes him over the edge and soon he's storming the set too and runs into Spidey. I really enjoyed how upset Oc was about having to fight him again, knowing how the last encounters have gone down. This showed some believable depth to the character of a villain.

The ending of this one was terrific, as Doc Oc kidnaps Peter and hijacks a private jet and flies off to Brazil. After another great flight, the realisation Peter's not even in the same country anymore is classic. Aunt May was out of town for the week, but was due back that same evening, so Peter did the only thing available... to stowaway on a flight back to the US. In the cargo hold it gets freezing and he's just wearing tights, what can he do except raid suitcases and end up wearing a Hello Kitty jumper and earmuffs. Beautiful.

With his web-shooters mashed by Doc Oc earlier he has to race through the airport and hitch a ride on roofs from New Jersey all the way back to the Queens, with Aunt May making the same trip. Peter comes in through his basement door breathing a sigh of relief and comes face to face with Gwen holding a gun to his face, having figured out his identity and blaming Spider-Man for her father's murder. My heart skipped reading this for the first time. No way was I going to be able to put the book down without reading to the end. Before they can resolve anything, Aunt May comes through the front door!

Carnage

This was a brilliant read, but heartbreaking. Finally now Gwen knows the truth, she and Mary Jane start getting a lot and we get a real feeling that the three of them will be a fantastic group.

After the mess with Eddie and Venom, Peter got to know Eddie's professor Dr Curt Connors (who appears to have met Spidey as The Lizard in a comic not in any of the trades I own), and goes to Doc Connors to get patched up after a fight with The Gladiator. Doc Connors can't help himself and takes some of Peter's blood (he did leave it all over the table to be fair..), and later with Peter's permission start running tests. I thought this was an interesting and very logical choice of plot, as Peter's a big science brain and I'd wonder why he wouldn't do more to investigate what it is that makes him Spider-Man. Bendis acknowledges this with Peter saying to Mary Jane, "I always thought I would. Just like, when I'm in college".

While on the topic of Bendis' dialogue again, I notice all over his books how natural the conversations are. The story book I mentioned earlier expressly says that film dialogue shouldn't sound like a real conversation full of "Umm"s and "Aah"s, but Bendis seems to completely ignore that teaching and yet gets away with it so naturally.

Just as things with Gwen are going so well, she comes home and encounters a weird red blob thing that escaped from Doc Connor's lab which has wreaked some CARNAGE on it's way to Peter's house. I felt so sad as Gwen becomes the next victim, leaving an aged husk on the lawn for Aunt May to discover.

Peter naturally feels rubbish that he couldn't protect her, and knows that this was somehow his fault. The more people Carnage eats it seems to get more humanoid, until it looks like Peter! They have a massive battle for survival, with Peter fighting in his street clothes. The fight itself is told in retrospect, and Peter's monologue is quite powerful. He says about how this creature isn't actually alive, it's just hunger personified and seems to need Peter to survive, and only one of them would walk away. Eventually Peter realises that it hasn't taken his form, but his father's! The original black goo of Venom was based on Peter's father's DNA, and so this thing was a like a mix of the black goo and Peter's blood. The fight ends with Peter throwing Carnage into a foundry, and feels proper rubbish afterwards, so much that he vows to stop being Spider-Man.

That lasts about two minutes, as Peter overhears a mugging taking place. Well Pete, with great power comes great responsibility.

A real downer on this arc, but it just goes to show how invested in the characters I became.

Superstars

Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, gets sent to get his high school diploma, and of course ends up in Midtown High School. This was a nice story showing the whole group of school friends in their element. Bendis always writes the school scenes so well. Liz Allen falls for Johnny, and as in real life, gets her friend Mary Jane to approach him and ask him out on her behalf in a fun exchange of dialogue, especially Mary introducing herself as Mary Jane Watson-Parker!

There's a been a strong undercurrent of mutantphobia from Liz since the very beginning, and when a campfire on the beach goes all wrong, igniting Johnny on fire, Liz naturally freaks out and that's the end of Johnny's very brief school experience. There's a great touching scene where Mary convinces Peter to suit up and go talk to Johnny about what it takes to be a hero, and that not being able to go with the girl is often the sacrifice that they have to make.

There's also an interesting little story with Peter having deja vu about meeting Doctor Strange. The origin of the Ultimate Dr Strange was interesting, as it basically used the regular history of Stephen Strange, but that he disappeared years ago, and the current Dr Strange is actually Stephen Jr. Everything else the same, just very inexperienced

The most interesting part of the story is Peter and Mary Jane saving up all their money to go on their first real proper date to a romantic restaurant they can't come close to affording. Mary is sexy, but kind of dangerous-looking, and as the dinner goes on and Peter recounts his tale of meeting Dr Strange, things take a turn for the worst and we realise Peter is trapped in a nightmare. He is faced with the most horrible things of his life, Gwen and Uncle Ben in particular being thrust in his face, and his rogues gallery like Norman Osborn and Doc Oc all pursuing him. What sticks with Peter the most is Mary Jane trying to kill him, and when asked why, she says "Isn't it obvious Peter? Because you're going to kill me! Someone is going to come here and kill me because you're Spider-Man". After being freed from the nightmare, that still sticks with him.

The very last pages were heartbreaking, as Peter sits with his knees in his chest in his basement, with Mary Jane calling him from outside in the pouring rain. "But this was our fancy date..." are the last words of the comic.

Awwwww :(

Hobgoblin

Harry Osborn is back, and he knows Peter's identity. The last time Peter saw him was after S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates put down Norman Osborn, and Harry muttered "I'll kill you all..". Of course everyone else is all excited to see Harry back, except for Peter. The undertone for this arc is Peter trying to keep Mary out of harm's way, but keeps finding her talking to Harry. Eventually Harry transforms into a big goblin monster and fights Peter, who tries desperately to stop the fight.

Who turns up on the scene mid-fight? Mary Jane of course, and Peter desperately tries to get her out of harm's way. Nick Fury appears with a unit of Hulkbusters, and Harry is put down.

The whole affair completely drains Peter, and his is furious with Mary for getting in the way again, and breaks up with her! Gutted. I can see Peter's point, as he wants so much for her to be safe and well.. alive, but it's also pretty unfair on Mary Jane. She argued in another confrontation with Norman Osborn that Peter had never actually told her what was going on with the Osborns, and again he never really explained why she should stay away from Harry

Warriors

This was a terrific action book. Hammerhead is in town, and looking to muscle in on Kingpin's territory. There's heroes and villains all over the place, with first appearances by Moon Knight, Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, and the return of Black Cat and Elektra.

Moon Knight was a real stand-out in all of his appearances in Ultimate Spidey, as his personality(s) is so well written. A man with four separate personalities, each displayed and conversing well inside his head in some great scenes.

A now-single Spidey ends up with Black Cat all over him, and he just has no idea how to handle her. Her determination to see the Kingpin's downfall ends up putting her on Hammerhead's side, and Elektra also switches sides with the offer a payout, also with the Kingpin's old Enforcers. That leaves Spidey, Moon Knight, Iron Fist and Shang-Chi on the other side. It's an awesome battle, very well drawn as always by Bagley, and Spidey ends up flying out of a window to swan dive into a police car. Ouch.

Meanwhile Moon Knight gets stuck by Elekra, and soon Hammerhead gets stuck and thrown out the window too, and just as Elektra is about to kill another hero, Moon Knight throws one of his moon discs into the back of her head! What a bodycount in this arc!

The ending was hilarious, as Black Cat apologises for switching sides on Spidey and understands what she should have done. She makes a move on Peter and decides she's going to kiss him and pulls off his mask. Pete looks shocked and puckers up, but gets greeted by Black Cat spewing on him and running off. Awww, bless 'im

Silver Sable

Another great arc here, plus with the Annual #1. In the annual, Peter gets a call from Kitty Pride of the X-Men and they start dating. It was a touching and "Awww" comic, and was a wonderfully played out teen romance, but at the same time I felt bad for Mary Jane.

By this point there are have been a ton of sightings of Spidey around Midtown High, and of course it's only a matter of time until a group of bounty hunters turn up to capture him. Sable and the Wildcats were great characters and as always well written with unique voices from the other dozens of characters who've appeared in the series by this point. They follow Spidey to the school and see him drop down into an alley, and pounce on the boy they find there.. Flash Thompson. It was great to see Flash cry in front of the mercenaries after all the bullying of Peter, and after escaping and running to the media, TV crews are pretty much permanently camped out in the school parking lot. Speculation flies about that Spider-Man is either a student or a teacher.

Turns out the man trying to capture him is the head of ROXXON, a company name that crops up again and again, and turns out all the times that Spidey has swung in and beat up some technological villain it's pretty much always been to the rescue of ROXXON. This was a great moment for Peter and the reader, as everything starts clicking into place. The Vulture ends up swooping in and causing chaos, and ROXXON's nemesis is revealed to be The Tinker. Nick Fury shows up to arrest the Tinker and offers him a choice, "Work for me, or go to jail and I'll take all your inventions anyway". He naturally chooses the former..

Deadpool

I have no doubt this one caused a bit of controversy when it came out, hehehe. An automated X-Jet picks up Peter and drops him off at the X-Mansion, where the X-Men have been kidnapped by Deadpool and the Reavers. They're dropped off on Krakoa, an island off the coast of Genosha where mutants are hunted and killed on a reality tv show the X-Men had closed down.

They were prepared to fight the X-Men, but having Spidey there as well just fudges up everything for 'Pool. Another great action comic, but fans of regular Deadpool were probably miffed, but then if they want Deadpool they can read a Deadpool comic..

The fight is broadcast all over the net, and so everyone (Mary Jane) included sees Spidey and Kitty together. Awkwaaaaard...

The Clone Saga

This one no doubt had some controversy too when they started it. I never read the original, but I've been told second-hand what happened, and it sounds like it was a bit of a mess. The benefit of knowing exactly what story you want to tell I think Bendis and Bagley certainly had on their side.

I read this one in one day in work, and couldn't put it down. It's so involving, as Peter struggles to understand what's happening, we're desperately there with him. The Scorpion turns up to trash the mall, and after clobbering him and breaking his mask, Peter is faced with a clone of himself! He takes it to the only people who could possibly have some insight, The Fantastic Four.

Meanwhile Mary Jane gets kidnapped by a disfigured Peter clone who is determined to make her like him, so he'd never have to worry about her getting hurt, and injects her with Oz.. While looking for her, Peter runs into Spider-Woman, who is later revealed to be another clone of him, only a girl, and the most successful clone.

Who else turns up while Peter is looking for Mary Jane? Gwen Stacy! Aunt May is obviously aghast, and to explain Peter reveals his is Spider-Man. May is well pissed off and tells him to take "it" (Gwen) and go, only to be stopped by Peter's dad! My eyes are popping out nearly every page with blow after blow of shocking revelations. As Pete's dad explains where he's been all this time, Nick Fury turns up outside with an army of Spider-Slayers made by the Tinker with the express purpose of taking down Spider-Man. Nice...

Gwen Stacy goes nuts and transforms into Carnage and rampages through the Spider-Slayers and S.H.I.E.L.D. while Aunt May keels over having a heart attack. Peter tries to help, but is assured by his father that he can help instead as he's a doctor. Next the Fantastic Four turn up to stop the fight, and Sue takes Pete's dad and Aunt May to the hospital. Just as Peter is about to give himself up, Spider-Woman swoops in and rescues him, taking him to the only place Mary Jane could be, the abandoned Oscorp building that birthed Spidey and the Green Goblin.

Freaky Pete as I shall call him releases MJ, who promptly transforms into a big red hairy man-beast thing. My heart and Peter's sunk at this point.

The climax of the book had Peter and Spider-Woman as the only surviving clones, and the baddy responsible subdued. Peter stood down Nick Fury who explained that with everything Peter had been through and lost and experienced, that the odds said they were watching the birth of the next big super villain. This didn't please Peter too much, and Nick Fury conceded that against the odds he's actually come out on the other side as one of the greatest heroes. A really touching finish. My pulse really got racing when Kitty convinces the X-Men and Professor Xavier to visit Peter and Aunt May in hospital, and Kitty begs Xavier to wipe May's memory that he's Spider-Man. I was screaming, "Nooooo!!" at the page, and I honestly thought as I was turning the pages that they were going to do it. I breathed an actual sigh of relief that Xavier refused.

Ultimate Knights

Another great action comic, with another great appearance by Moon Knight. Daredevil is recruiting a team to take down the Kingpin after the city's heroes keep bumping into each other rather than helping. Shang-Chi, Iron Fist, Dr Strange and Moon Knight join Daredevil and Spidey. DD tells the group how the aim is to kill the Kingpin once and for all, which Spidey totally objects to. He even goes so far as to say, "If you decided to go through with this.. I'm telling on you. I will go right to Nick Fury and tell". Genius

For the majority of this, Aunt May is recovering in hospital, and so it leaves this huge unanswered question of how she's going to react to the fact he's Spider-Man once they get to finally sit down and talk about it.

The Kingpin is short of a powered assassin after Elektra's death, and so sneaking in someone to replace her is their best bet. Moon Knight is their best bet, and becomes a new personality called Ronin. There's another fantastic scene inside his mind as his three personalities watch on in horror as Ronin battles Moon Knight for dominance, and wins! Ronin pretty much has become the Kingpin's henchman rather than being just a mole, and eventually Spidey ends up in the Kingpin's grasp again. Unfortunately for both Spidey and Ronin, there's a mole in the group, and so Kingpin already knows that Ronin is actually Moon Knight and pounds seven shades of poop out of him before he's dragged away to be executed. It shows two henchmen dragging Ronin's body to a river and shoot him in the back of his head, leaving his body to send a message to other costumed heroes.

Before leaving Spidey to escape, Kingpin lets Peter know that the mole is his lawyer, Matt Murdock, who he knows is Daredevil. Peter swings back to the group and starts pounding on DD, all the while DD is trying to figure out what the hell he's on about. Spidey tells the whole group there's a mole and in a really chilling moment DD turns his attention to Iron Fist. "Did you tell him how my powers work?" he barks at Iron Fist, "Of course. You don't know how they work, do you? I'm a human lie detector Danny!". Soon DD's law office explodes nearby, so Kingpin has officially lain down the gauntlet to DD, who certainly picks it up and takes the fight back.

The climax was really gripping, as Kingpin enters his bedroom and finds Daredevil with the comatose Vanessa Fisk in his hands, threatening to snap her neck. Spidey arrives to try and talk him out of it, and we see a complete change in Kingpin. "Please, don't" he pleads, "It was just business". It was a real sense of human vulnerability, and stood out for definite. DD keeps threatening to kill Vanessa, and Spidey tells him how he tracked down Uncle Ben's killer and had the same choice to kill him. This is the test, he points out, and no matter how much good you've done, if you kill an innocent now, all that other good you did was meaningless. You can never take that back. Especially poignant after the whole Clone Saga affair. Daredevil eventually makes the right choice.

Kingpin is naturally furious, and is on his way to fly himself and Vanessa out of the country, planning on how to completely mess over Daredevil and Spider-Man. Shockingly, the police are there waiting for him. This had me smiling as it showed inside Moon Knight's head, the Ronin persona and the others pleading for the Moon Knight persona (face down in a puddle, dead) to wake up. Moon Knight eventually drags himself to a police station to press charges against Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin for attempted murder and reveals his identity. This was an unexpected move given costumed heroes and villains never seem to stay in jail, but made complete sense and was a terrific finish for this arc.



And so that brings to a close the partnership between Bendis and Bagley for one of my favourite runs on a comic. Bagley had such a signature style, and the characters were so familiar and easily recognisable, and with such great action. The writing as always is just phenomenal.

Coming up next will be Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

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