Review by Ian Keogh
Because they gather vast amounts of material, the average Marvel Omnibus provides a fluctuating quality of read, and sometimes proves disappointing for the money. This one, however, may tail off a little toward the end, but before then it’s supplied the first six collections featuring Miles Morales as Spider-Man, every single one of them hugely enjoyable superhero fun.
A couple of other artists contribute, but it’s Sara Pichelli who designs Miles and his world, teams him with the older Peter Parker, and returns for the terrifying Venom sequence, and David Marquez draws almost everything else. Both of them are superb, Pichelli takes a slightly more cartoon approach, but they both have an imaginative eye for a page design and convince that Miles is thirteen and fourteen both as Spider-Man or at school. They also take the time to embed him in his locations, ensuring they’re convincingly detailed as places where people live or work, and because the population of the Ultimate universe differs slightly from the more known Marvel Earth, their variations on some other characters are interesting. Not everything is changed. Ben Urich is different, but J. Jonah Jameson is the man we know. Spider-Woman is different, but Cloak and Dagger are much the same.
Miles and the uncertain way he’s thrown into a new life has a great sympathy about it, and Brian Michael Bendis makes the effort to ensure the people surrounding him are equally appealing, from his concerned parents to his geeky, but incredibly supportive best mate Ganke. A very clever aspect of Bendis’ plotting throughout is how he echoes elements from the first five years or so of Spider-Man’s adventures from the 1960s. He includes what seem to be familiar items, then twists them. The original Spider-Man was fundamentally formed by his Uncle Ben, and Miles has an Uncle Aaron, although he’s a contrasting character, and while a temporary influence, there’s a very different outcome. Also nice is that Peter Parker’s supporting cast from the previous Ultimate Spider-Man series have a part to play, and this leads to a couple of heartbreaking moments.
As far as the superheroic action goes, it’s equally satisfying, with the Scorpion, Venom, Hydra and Green Goblin the major threats. Each of them are different in this alternate universe, and each of them more terrifying. Pichelli’s redesign for Venom is especially effective, making good use of his morphing abilities to move him away from what we know and re-establish his threat. Over the first three-quarters of this collection there’s barely a mis-step, with thrilling and unpredictable plots the order of the day.
That’s still true for moments of the final quarter’s content, but here Bendis is coasting, coming up with poor solutions to problems and mysteries, and becoming infatuated with his dialogue, extending too many scenes beyond a natural lifespan in order to keep the speech rhythms going. He also takes a two chapter detour into Jefferson Morales’ past during which Miles is barely seen, switching the entire tone. It’s less jarring among the expanded content of an omnibus than it was as part of the far thinner Revelations, but still wrong-headed.
The Omnibus is a luxury item, and cheaper options are available. In paperback the content is available as Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1–5, Spider-Men and Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man Revival and Revelations. That last collection doesn’t include Spider-Man’s participation in Cataclysm, but that is included in the bulkier collections Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man Books One, Two and Three. Longer reviews of the specific stories can be found by following the links.