After years of reading comic books, I’m beginning to understand the true craft and art to writing them. It’s rhythms, or beats to how the characters express themselves. If a writer can master those rhythms, he can write for any hero. Brian Michael Bendis has mastered many of those beats, but with the latest Marvel mini-series Spider-Men, he shows that he hasn’t mastered Spider-Man.
Spider-Men is the five-issue mini-series where the Spidey from the normal Marvel universe teams up with the Spidey from the Ultimates universe. Yes, Marvel said this type of crossover would never happen, but really, did you ever believe that? Spider-Men #1 is an establishing issue, opening with Peter Parker swinging through New York City, running his inner monologue and stopping the occasional crime. Across town, Spidey sees a glowing purple light. Following the light to a warehouse, our hero encounters Mysterio who is babbling about how he missed Spider-Man die the first time. Clearly, this is Mysterio from the Ultimates universe who has found a purple portal between worlds.
Confused but determined to stop Mysterio, a battle ensues which knocks Spider-Man into the purple light and into the Ultimates universe. I like how Bendis handles this section. The people of this world aren’t afraid of Spider-Man, but their reaction unnerves the wall crawler. At one point, Spidey rescues a man from being mugged only to be told by the same man that wearing the “Peter Parker Costume” is in bad taste. To make matters worse, the last page of issue #1 is Peter Parker’s Spider-Man coming face to face with Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, leaving both wall crawlers dismayed.
While Bendis nails the scenes of Spidey’s confusion and sets up the coming series nicely, his inability to nail the rhythm of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man hurts the issue. Bendis crams every clever idea or quip he can possibly come up with into these pages and it’s too much. Spider-Man doesn’t come off as his usual clever but concerned hero. Instead, he’s like a chatterbox trying way too hard to be funny. It never feels like Spider-Man and that kills the momentum.
The second problem with Spider-Men has nothing to do with Bendis or the story. It’s timing, the timing of this series is flawed. With Spider-Man embroiled in a major plot arc with Doc Ock in Amazing and taking on the X-Men in Avengers vs. X-Men, this Spider-Men has no impact. Something like this would have been better served as part of a What If? instead of something within the actual timeline. If it was going to stay within the timeline, the series should have been put off until after the Doc Ock thing resolved itself and Avengers vs. X-Men ended.
Sara Pichelli’s art is solid. I like her discretion at background detail. If there’s little action in the foreground we get heavy backgrounds, if the action is heavier upfront, the backgrounds are almost nil. Pichelli’s human forms are well executed and I like how she pencils Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. Nothing here is stunning, but it is solid and does help tell the story. I’ll continue picking up Spider-Men to see where the story goes but, as of issue #1, I’m underwhelmed.
3 Story, 3 Art