Monday, December 26, 2016

Trade Tales! - Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 12: Superstars

You know, if there’s one thing that literally gets away from me here, it’s talking about some Ultimate Spider-Man. Luckily, I think I know where I’m going to end it here with that series. I think after the last volume, I needed a break. It’s not that it was bad, but Bendis did do away with a character I liked. For now, let’s get back on the show. We’ll finally get an idea of what the new Spider-Man movie will be soon, so this feels like a good time to get back on the horse.

The next volume is titled Superstars. I don’t know if Bendis was a fan of Molly Shannon’s character from Saturday Night Live, but there you go. Instead of some weird woman, we get some heroes in this new batch. Think of it as “Ultimate Marvel Team-Up” or something. The creative team is pretty much the same as it has been for the last couple of volumes. Bendis is writing and Bagley is drawing. The inking is handled by Scott Hanna, the colors are done by J.D. Smith with Chris Satomayor, and the lettering is done by Chris Eliopoulos. So, let’s see Spider-Man go through some “hilarious” hi-jinks, make a friend, and suffer through a demonic nightmare.

Ultimate Spider-Man Volume 12: Superstars
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors:  J.D. Smith and Chris Satomayor

After a hilarious intro from BMB, this story starts out when Peter wakes up at home and is a little grumpy. He then begins to notice something’s off. We then cut to Logan who’s a bit groggy himself. Both heroes then come to a startling revelation: they’ve switched bodies! Peter calls his house and talks to Logan. They try to set up a meeting before school. At school the two meet and try to figure out what caused this. Before they can really do any more, Peter tells Logan to go to class since he’s had a lot of absenses. Logan tells Peter to lay low until it’s all sorted out. Of course, Peter gets into trouble and is arrested by the police.
I gotta agree with Pete on this one, Jean. I'd be wary of y'all too if ya did this sort of thing.

Logan is able to sneak out of school and heads to the jail where Peter’s being kept. Meanwhile, Peter uses his one call to call the X-Mansion and tries to tell them what happened. Later, Logan dons Pete’s mask and webshooteers and breaks Peter out of jail. After they argue some more, they spot the Shocker robbing a bank and take him down. Suddenly, the X-Men show up in the Blackbird. It turns out that Jean did this since Logan was flirting with her again and she put his mind in the place where he would least think it. After she switches their minds back into their original bodies, Peter rightfully cusses them out and leaves. The story ends in hilarious fashion with he and MJ.

Human Torch
The story starts out in the Baxter Building. Johnny Storm is eating breakfast when Sue Storm comes to him and tells him that he needs to finish high school. He had only one semester left before the accident. Johnny’s hesitant but the rest of the Fantastic Four encourages him to do it. At this time, the Fantastic Four are a secret, so Johnny goes to Midtown High since he’d get questions at his old high school. There, Liz Allen takes a liking to him, so she goads MJ into asking him to come to a bonfire later that night. She also talks Peter into coming. They even plan on going on a fancy date later that week.

 At the bonfire, things go smoothly until Johnny accidentally catches on fire and freaks every one out. This especially freaks out Liz who’s a bit of a mutant-phobe. Peter and MJ talk to him there and the next day at school. Johnny can’t tell them a lot about his situation but he wants to see Liz again. Pete and MJ know that isn’t going to happen, so Peter jumps into costume and goes to talk to Johnny. The two hit it off well and even save some folk in a burning building. The story ends with a renewed Johnny heading back home.

Doctor Strange
The story starts out with Peter and MJ on that fancy date I mentioned earlier. She strangely starts to ask about his day and about the mysterious Doctor Strange. We end up seeing stuff before the date. After Peter gets rebuffed by the Ultimates, he heads to work and gets sent out with Ben Urich to have an interview with Doctor Strange. By the way, this is Stephen Strange Jr., the son of the original Doctor Strange who disappeared years ago. Urich and Peter are turned away by his assistant, Wong. Ben heads off while Peter hangs around. Pete’s Spidey Sense goes off and realizes something not right. He changes into costume, climbs up, and sees Strange on the floor. He busts in ready for action but something happens.
Hmm... smells like foreshadowing...

Back at the date, Peter begins to realize that stuff isn’t right. He finds out that he’s in a nightmare and his worst fears are coming to life. He fears that his loved ones will die because of him. Outside Pete’s head, Strange wakes up. He and Wong realize that the being that took him down is now in Peter. While Peter does what he can in the nightmare, Strange and Wong look for spells to release Pete from it. Eventually, Strange makes it into Pete’s mind and faces the Nightmare. He’s able to root it out of Peter. Even though everything’s good, Peter’s freaked out and heads home. The story ends with MJ coming to Peter’s house and trying to see why he never showed up for the date.

So, what do I think of this trade? While it’s not my favorite from the series, I do like this one. I like that instead of some big 6-part story arc, we get three short arcs. After what happened last time, I think things needed to slow down.  All of the arcs range from good to decent. We really hadn’t seen Spidey do much teaming up or hanging out with other heroes, so seeing him have some one-on-one interactions with heroes is a good thing. I also liked how they were different in tone. Wolverine’s arc was pretty much a comedy while the others were more serious. Strange’s arc was especially strange (pun intended) but in a good way. My favorite from the bunch was actually the Human Torch arc. I also felt that the guest stars got their moments to shine as well.

As for the regular cast, not much changes. There is more fallout over what happened to Gwen and Pete’s decision to step away from Spider-Man for a while. We also get the idea that Peter and MJ are getting to settle down into a groove. Don’t be shocked if this doesn’t last long especially after Peter’s encounter with Nightmare. It was nice that we got to see Liz do something other than hang around too. We even get some Daily Bugle action for a bit. As usual, the artwork was pretty good. I feel like a broken record saying that. Bagley and the art team did their best to make a lot of the moments work. The action especially worked. I also liked that the Nightmare scenes in Strange’s arc. It provided something different from the regular artwork in the book.

As for the negatives, I do have some this time. While the Wolverine arc had funny moments, it wasn’t that great.  It really made Jean Grey come off bad. What’s funny about that mind-switch is that it was actually hinted at in Ultimate X-Men when Wolverine returned to the team and Jean basically threatened him to back off. I get Logan had to get his lesson but why bring Spidey into it? That was messed up. Also, while I liked the Human Torch arc, the rest of the arcs are okay. They’re not bad, but I did feel that something was missing with them. I do wish Peter had gotten to interact more with Dr. Strange as well since the ending felt rushed.

Unmaskings/Reveals of Spider-Man: 1
He gets unmasked at Doctor Strange’s house. I guess it would make sense in this case since Strange had to see what was wrong with him. At least he doesn’t blurt out his name or anything. Still, he gets unmasked by someone here, so take a drink, eat an Oreo, or go to Five Guys Burgers. Take your pick.

Total Unmaskings/Reveals of Spider-Man: 14

While I didn’t enjoy this one as much as others, there were some good stuff here:

-Peter freaking out as Logan – While that arc was pretty lightweight and silly, it was funny seeing those two freak out in each others’ bodies. Peter had it rougher and some good humor came from it.

-Peter’s nightmare – Peter saw some screwy in that nightmare. Mary Jane even turned into Elektra! It might be cool but that goes out the window when she tries to kill you.

-Marvel Team-Up – The interactions between Spidey and the Human Torch were good. It’s literally a friendship in the making.

Overall, this one is fine. It’s not groundbreaking nor is it utter dreck. It’s pretty much filler and not bad filler either. It gives the reader a bit of a break before the heavy stuff comes. Trust me; it’s going to get heavy, Doc! Next time, an old face returns to the book and stuff goes down. For now, Peace, God Bless, and be careful out there during this holiday season.


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