Back-To-Back Back To Basics...a
and you know what the coolest thing about this comic book is? That last bit where Peter Parker (Spider-Man) returns to school the next day and gels up his hair to look like Logan (Wolverine) and mimics his mannerisms in the way teens do with their idols. There and then, writer Brian Michael Bendis captures the essence of Peter as an adolescent first, and super-hero second.
I’m doing this all backwards aren’t I? Fret not, good and faithful reader that is just my way of getting to the point as quickly as possible. But, no, it isn’t all downhill from here.
Let’s state the obvious, shall we? As the title implies, this book involves a “team-up” of the Spider-Man and Wolverine characters we have already met in Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, respectively. Putting the spotlight on Wolverine is also a marketing masterstroke thanks to Hugh Jackman (X-Men the movie’s Wolverine), the character is a even more of a bankable commodity, now not only to comic book fans.
Bendis keeps the plot basic. Spider-Man gets caught in the middle of a fight between Wolverine and his arch-enemy, Sabretooth (also instantly recognisable from the movie) on the streets of New York. The latter has been engaged by Wolverine’s former employers to secure his capture. That’s it! Fill that up with panel-to-panel, kick-ass, super-heroic slugfest galore, and you have your comic book equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer action blockbuster.
At first brush, Matt Wagner seems an odd choice as artist for this book. Wagner is perhaps best known for his work on independent comics like his own Grendel and Mage. However, his fame is likely to spread when Mage, currently in movie development, finally hits the big screen. Oddly enough, although Wagner has been in business for at least 20 years and has worked for DC Comics with Batman and Dr Midnite, this marks the first time that Wagner has been involved in a Marvel Comics production.
These considerations come into focus the moment one opens the book. Wagner’s manga-influenced linework is slightly at odds with the super-heroic draughtsmanship commonly on display at Marvel, usually done with more of a blocky, stocky Jack Kirby style. That said, Wagner’s distinctive style more than wins the battle against unfamiliarity the hyperactive double-page spreads and ambitious layouts carry the dynamism and athleticism for the bare-boned storyline.
If the primary considerations of Bendis and Wagner were to cater to the teenage set, then this debut issue of the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up series has an excellent chance to achieve its aim. It is bright, colourful, straightforward, and certainly vibrant. Bendis, for his part, is doing a great job in delineating characters subtly the chemistry Bendis creates between Peter and Logan is heartfelt. He develops the underlying theme of discrimination (which both Wolverine and Spider-Man experiences as suspicious, super-powered individuals) with a velvet touch, never forcing his point.
Those meaty issues aside, though, this comic is a fun ride, and sometimes that is all you need for 10 minutes of sheer entertainment!