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Spider-Men #4: It’s What Fanboys Would Do

This cover has nothing to do with the story. This issue is entirely fan service in a fun way.

Spider-Men #4

Spider-Men #4 is entirely fan service.

The term 'fan service' can bring to mind images of, say, <a href="http://movabletypo.net/parakkum/2007/05/girls_arent_rea.html">Mary Jane Watson sluttily folding Peter Parker's laundry</a> or other things of an inappropriately sexual nature designed to cater to "shippers" or the baser instincts of fanboys. In this instance, however, I'm referring to the characters in a book doing exactly what we would do in their shoes, and what we always WANT them to do and rarely actually see.

Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Ultimate Gwen Stacy, Ultimate Aunt May, Ultimate Nick Fury and Ultimate Tony Stark spend this entire issue telling each other about how their worlds differ, and marveling at each new freaky revelation about their alternate selves. There's no action, no villainy and no real tension to speak of. It's just constant conversation, and when Brian Michael Bendis is on, he excels at making things like that a lot of fun. And that's just what Spider-Man #4 is.

Our Spider-Man has found himself in the Ultimate Universe thanks to some Mysterio malarkey – and it's fun to learn that Mysterio seems to be smarter than Ultimate Tony Stark, who was made up of 90 percent brain matter, last time I checked (which, admittedly, was a long time ago and involved Orson Scott Card). He foolishly went to go see Ultimate Aunt May and found out that Ultimate Gwen Stacy lives with her, and he shocked the hell out of them both by showing up, since in this world, Peter died young and devastated them. Once they get over that initial brain-breakage, Peter goes inside and chit-chats with the kids about how things are different – fielding and delicately deflecting questions about 616 Gwen Stacy, while he's stunned to learn that his younger self had a big thing with Kitty Pryde.

This is exactly what we would want to do if we ever found ourselves in an alternate reality – go find the native version of yourself and go "DUDE, DID I EVER GET TO GO TO THE PROM WITH PATTY JO BYARSKY HERE?"  And so on. That makes this issue an entertaining little breeze to read. Who knows if these worlds will ever cross over again (oh, they will.)? It needed to happen. There needed to be an issue like this. There needed to be an Ultimate Nick Fury reaction to finding out his 616 counterpart is a white guy. So here it is.

The fact that there's no action (save for Aunt May passing out and Gwen gut-kicking Peter at first out of indignant anger) doesn't mean there's no drama. It all comes from personal interactions – Aunt May finding some peace with meeting an adult version of the boy she lost, Miles Morales hearing the famous spider-line about responsibility from the person he's trying to honor and emulate, and the fact that Ultimate Mary Jane, firmly in a gloomy goth phase, apparently, can do nothing more than catch a glimpse of this adult Peter before running away in tears. Sara Pichelli's art really helps bring these emotional beats out, from sadness to shock to amusement and nervousness about what to reveal and what not to reveal.

It still looks as though there will be repercussions from this one, even though it seems eventless on the surface. Lots of people see an Adult Peter Parker walking from the house the Dead Peter Parker lived and spidered in. That should spread rumors. MJ is going to be shellshocked. Miles may have been given 616 Peter's mechanical web-shooters to add to his arsenal, and Peter may be inspired to try and find a 616 version of Miles when he gets back. Serious ripples, yo!

If anything has the ability to get me back into reading Ultimate Comics, it might just be issues like this. For all the crap I tend to give him, I was a big fan of Bendis' work on Ultimate Spider-Man from the beginning, until Carnage Gwen, Dickhead America and Jeph Loeb eventually eroded my interest in the whole universe. This, however, is a nice reminder of what I liked about it way back when. Characters who feel real without being excessively gritty or too hip for the room, and some good ol' emotional turmoil that was always pretty down to earth despite the consistently elevating circumstances of weirdness.

Spider-Men #4 is fun. Let's see if it can be conisistently so.

8.5