Saturday, March 8, 2014

Graphic Novels - Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 5: Public Scrutiny

Well, it’s time to step back in to Spidey’s Ultimate Universe once again. I did say that I would be back soon with another one of these. Luckily, this trade was made to be a quickie. Public Scrutiny contains 5 issues from the Ultimate Spider-Man series. They are #28-#32. It seems weird, but there’s a reason why the trade’s so short. The next volume contains seven issues and is a long story arc. The creative team has remained unchanged. Bendis is still writing, Bagely is still drawing, and Thibert is still inking. With all of that said, let’s see Peter have a bad day.

Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 5: Public Scrutiny
Writer: Brian Michal Bendis
Penciller: Mark Bagely
Inker: Art Thibert

We start out with Peter at school. MJ hears of a villain (The Rhino) wrecking the city, so Peter tries to skip class to kick some villain butt. Unfortunately, hijinks ensue in the forms of a parent-teacher meeting with Aunt May, a sad moment with Gwen about her horrible mother, and a bunch of jocks playing football. When he makes it to the commotion in town, it turns out that Iron Man (cue Ultimates cameo!!!) has stopped it. Relieved and a bit annoyed, Peter heads back to school.

The arc really begins when Spider-Man robs a bank. Yes, that can happen sometimes in comic books. Luckily, it doesn’t happen in real life. Of course, it’s wasn’t Peter under the mask, but this has everyone in a frenzy. Ben Urich, a reporter for the Daily Bugle and a witness, believes that the robber was a fake. Still, the papers go out with Spider-Man being Public Enemy #1. Meanwhile, Capt. Stacy and Aunt May are becoming fast friends and she lets Gwen stay over at the house while Capt. Stacy goes out of town. When MJ hears about it, she isn’t pleased.

When word gets out on the robber, Peter suits up and heads to the site of the robbery. Unfortunately (for idiotic Peter anyway), the cops mistake him for the robber and try to arrest him. Peter gets shot and handcuffed, but he’s able to get out of there. With some help from MJ (who’s having issues of her own), he’s able to get patched up at a hospital. He also gets a little help from SHIELD the next day in the form of Janet Van Dyne aka Wasp (Cue another Ultimates cameo!!!). Peter, MJ, and Gwen head to the Parker household where they are met with some startling news: Capt. Stacy was killed in the line of duty by the fake Spider-Man.

While everyone is still reeling from Capt. Stacy’s death (except for Gwen’s horrible mother), word gets out that the fake Spider-Man is robbing another bank. Peter suits up and goes to deal with the robber. The robber is revealed to be an ordinary robber who’s just using Spider-Man’s motif. Peter goes ballistic on the guy and almost kills him, but he relents and ties the guy up for the police. Since Gwen’s mom is a horrible person and Gwen has no close family, Aunt May takes her in permanently. The next day, Peter and MJ get into a heated dispute. Everything that’s recently happened has overwhelmed her. The trade ends with MJ breaking up with Peter.
Uh-oh... Spidey's about to let loose!

This was a pretty nice read. It’s not big on superhero action nor does it have a big villain in it. While Rhino’s in it, it’s just a small cameo. The fake Spider-Man is also just a random guy and that works for a story arc like this. Spidey doesn’t always have to battle his rogues. Instead of the superhero work taking a lot of importance, Peter’s supporting cast that gets some time to shine. Here, we have the death of George Stacy. While I think it’s weird that they kill him off so quickly, his death scene and the scene where Gwen finds out are pretty sad and effective. It’s Aunt May who eventually steps up and decides to take Gwen in.

Then, we have Peter’s and MJ’s break-up. While that carries a little less weight than the previous event, it’s still an effective scene. You can kind of see it coming throughout the arc. MJ’s not doing too well emotionally because of her house life, Peter’s extra activities, and Gwen moving into the Parker household. At the end, she lets Peter have it and breaks off their relationship. This is something that will affect the two for a while. It’s also something that’ll happen a lot in this universe (those two breaking up, I mean).

As for Peter’s extra activities, he’s back on the hit list again. While the actual fake was caught, Peter may have some cop trouble for a while. The scene where he gets shot and almost arrested is pretty intense. This scene gets homaged in The Amazing Spider-Man from 2012. We also see SHIELD in his life for a bit. Fury sends the Wasp to help Peter heal from his injuries quicker. It was nice to see some other heroes here… and if you’re wondering, no, I won’t be doing The Ultimates. The teenage superhero and the mutants are more interesting to me than some unlikable government superheroes.

The artwork is still top-notch. It definitely helps sell the dramatic scenes as well as the action scenes. Overall, check this trade out. It may be light on superhero-on-villain action, but the quieter scenes make it worth reading.

Unmasking/Reveals of Spider-Man: 0

That’s right, folks! Spidey doesn’t get to reveal his identity this time. He actually keeps the dang mask on. While there is an unmasking of a Spider-Man, that was just the robber. So, we're just stuck at six.

Total Unmaskings/Reveals of Spider-Man: 6

-Fake Spidey Robbing the Bank - It’s just so surreal seeing Spider-Man rob a bank. The robber even tries to look authentic with webbing.

-Spider-Man vs. the cops - Seeing Peter go up against the cops over the misunderstanding was nuts. He gets shot and everything.

-Capt. Stacy’s death – It’s truly a sad scene. It happens so quickly. The scene where Gwen finds out is also shattering.

 -Peter’s and MJ’s breakup – While it’s not as shattering as Capt. Stacy’s death, it’s still sad.

Well, that’s all I got for today. I think it’s time to take a quick break from Spidey and his not-so-amazing life. Before I get to the next volume which should be good, I’m going over to the other side and look at the Dark Knight… done by Grant Morrison. God, help us all.


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