After work today, I met my good friend @GentlemanMonstr for some Five Guys and a stop at Midtown Comics. As the undisputed overlord of the comic world (in my opinion), the Gentleman had something obscure in mind. For me, it was the exact opposite: Ultimate Spider-Man #160. In all honesty, it was something I wasn’t looking forward to, but it was, of course, something I needed to read, not only because I’m the Spider-Man fan among my friends, but because I loved the whole Ultimate Spider-Man series, from it’s rocky start to… well…
We naturally spend more time than necessary at Midtown. Then it was a casual walk to Penn Station where we parted ways. I got to my train platform and thought that I should wait until I got home to read how it all ends, but I realized that after the countless hours on the train that I’d burned reading and rereading Ultimate Spider-Man, there was no better time.
Now, I’m not going to explain what happens because this is a no spoiler zone. But I will say that something odd happened; something I didn’t expect:
I wasn’t bothered. I wasn’t upset; when it happened, I got a little teary eyed (yeah, I’ll admit it), but I didn’t shed a tear, which is weird because I honestly expected to at least shed one damn tear–I’m the Spider-Man guy, after all!
Now, is this because the writing was off? Was Peter’s death too sudden? Was it lacking real drama and emotion? Did I not feel it? Well, while I’m not saying those possibilities are absolutely out of line, I think I know the primary reason for my ambivalence:
I had Amazing Spider-Man #663 in my bag.
And you’re thinking, “So you’re fine because Amazing Spider-Man is still alive?” And, I mean, overtly, sure, but it’s more complicated than that. The “Big Time” plot line brought serious changes to Peter Parker’s life. For the first time, we saw Peter get a job that pays his bills, new costumes, new side characters (thank God), and even a new love interest. As the arc’s name suggests, things in Peter’s life finally start looking up for the first time in… well, ever. Finally, finally things actually change for Peter Parker. Significantly.
So, what does this have to do with Ultimate Spider-Man? It’s simple: after all of the changes in Amazing, going back to Ultimate felt like looking backwards. For many of us, there was a time when Ultimate Spider-Man was fresh and young and awesome, and it was probably because at the same time, Amazing was tired and boring. For many of us, Ultimate Spider-Man gave us what we’d always wanted as Spider-Man fans: change. Variety. But then Big Time finally came and we–well, I–realized that… Ultimate Peter Parker is still just a kid. He’s still in high school. He’s still worrying about Mary Jane. Suddenly, Ultimate was the past. A past we’ve all read and watched countless times. A past that some writers burned to the ground by over-using the same tired characters. A past that it’s sadly easy to let go of.
Believe what you want, but somehow, I don’t think the time could have ever been more appropriate for the unfortunate passing of our young, beloved Mr. Parker. Not because I wanted it, but because right now–before a new writer comes along and retcons all of Big Time and FF–right now is the only time I could possibly bare it. In all honesty, while I can’t say I started reading comics because of Ultimate Spider-Man, I can promise you that I never would have become so deeply invested in them if not for the incredible sense of adventure and awe that the Ultimate run instilled in me. For that, I will always be grateful for young Peter Parker and the incredible places Brian Michael Bendis took us with him.
But that doesn’t mean I want to ever go back to how things were. Not after so much has changed. The Peter Parker who was always so worried about Aunt May and MJ and work and J. Jonah Jameson and Venom–that young man is dead. And although I loved him, I’m content to let him rest in peace.