ART: Sara Pichelli
Well hello, multiverse! In Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli's Spider-Men #2, some revelations are made, some characters introduced to each other for the first time, and we get a whole lot of Mysterio! Last month's premier issue wasn't my favorite. In fact, I felt that Bendis went on an ego trip, writing as many witty one-liners as he could for the web-slinger and turning him into an anecdote machine. It came off as showy and overly-saturated. Spider-Men #2, however, makes a 180-degree turn and sets things right for this series. Miles gets some lines of dialogue, Peter freaks out a lot harder than he normally does, and Nick Fury meets the Peter Parker than could have been. This is an issue of graphic art and storytelling that reminds us why we read comics: for the fun of it.
Mysterio made a confusing cameo last issue, babbling on about "the other Peter Parker" before his machine sucked Peter Parker Spider-Man into some wormhole. Of course, we re Mysterio aders know that Pete has landed in the Ultimate universe, a dimension quite similar to ours, with minor differences like Nick Fury's race, a giant Triskelion outside Manhattan Bay, and a Spider-Man that isn't him. While is one of Spider-Man's oldest and most consistent villains, he hasn't had a major presence in the Ultimate line of books outside of one storyline that didn't reveal much about the character in a significant way.
Ultimate Mysterio's enigmatic nature is finally addressed with the reveal that Quentin Beck has been sending a Mysterio-avatar through the rift, using the Ultimate universe as some sort of sociological experiment. During Ultimate Peter Parker's encounter with Mysterio, he was never able to figure out how Mysterio's head stayed imaterial, a question that might have been minor at the time, but now ties into Beck's control of the dimensional portal and Peter's current dilemma.
Now, about Peter and Miles.
The only thing I really didn't like about their meeting was the obligatory 'fight of misunderstanding.' Peter starts freaking out - more so than usual - as everyone seems to know his real identity. Regular civilians tell Peter his choice of costume is, "in bad taste" in consideration of the deceased. Of course, Peter Parker-616 has never been the most put-together guy, so it makes sense that he would lash out at a different Spider-Man - who still knows the name Peter Parker - who randomly shows up and tells you you're actually dead. And even though it does seem logical, the fight still feels forced, like Bendis was bullied into including it simply for the sake of pitting the Spider-Men against each other. There had to have been better, more natural ways to make these two characters fight. In the pages of Avengers vs. X-Men, Spider-Man even comments on the age-old tradition of 'fights of misunderstanding' and how much he misses them. Each Spider-Man tries to unmask the other. Only Peter is successful - albeit after giving Miles a rather stuck-up lecture on superheros and masks - and Miles is forced to run around covering his face until he manages to knock out Peter and turn him over to Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Now, the inclusion of Ultimate Nick Fury was somewhat inevitable, as this summer's movie blockbuster, The Avengers, featured Fury as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, who was the original inspiration for Ultimate Nick Fury in the first place. If that sounds a bit convoluted, it is, not to mention that the regular Marvel Universe (Earth-616) now has a black Nick Fury to call it's own. Obviously, Marvel is doing everything it can to make connections between the movie Avengers and the comic books that inspired the film (see black Nick Fury, Avengers Assemble, Hawkeye's new costume, etc.), so bringing in Fury was a question of "when", not "if".
Spider-Men #2 is a huge step forward from the first issue, not only in terms of story progression, but also of narrative structure. The subtle hints at past events connecting to current dilemmas is near-perfect, and Sara Pichelli's art just fits so well with the tone of everything going on. Mysterio looks menacing, Peter looks dumbfounded, and Miles looks overwhelmed. There's got to be more to Mysterio's involvement in this situation, and Bendis seems to be taking the series in the right direction. I'm definitely looking forward to next month's issue!