Review by Frank Plowright
As with the previous Death of Spider-Man Prelude, there’s something distasteful about marketing the death of even a fictional character by titling a volume after it.
After twelve years it was decided that this alternate version of Peter Parker had served his purpose, and the Ultimate universe required a different Spider-Man, so death came calling. There’s a gruesome foreshadowing in the opening chapter as Captain America’s training session with Spider-Man involves taking him to a graveyard and pointing out it’s where plenty of soldiers end up. It’s contrasted with the foreshadowing of Norman Osborn and a bunch of other villains escaping, with Osborn unable to see past revenge on Spider-Man.
This occurs as the bulk of superheroes in the Ultimate universe find themselves occupied with another major threat. Spider-Man’s only involvement with that is to be shot by the Punisher. It’s intended to shock, and does, meaning Spider-Man has to face several foes after a bullet’s passed through his side. Brian Michael Bendis presumably intends the handicap to represent his heroism, but it increases the level of unreality too far. The remainder of Spider-Man’s last, desperate fight is tightly written with a cinematic pace, involving all the characters most intimately associated with Peter and their reactions to what unfolds. By the end, if killing a character is absolutely necessary, it’s been handled with the right degree of poignancy and heroism.
Mark Bagley was the artist who introduced Ultimate Spider-Man and defined him for years, and his return for the end is welcome. Spider-Man’s world is restored to a form of realism and Bagley’s first rate storytelling skills supply the required drama, tension and emotional depth.
The collection ends during happier times as Peter considers Spider-Man’s activities for a school assignment, featuring plenty of guests stars, with 21 different artists drawing up to six pages each. These include people like Jim Mahfood, Scott Morse and Craig Thompson whose work and styles are greatly removed from Spider-Man’s usual presentation. Just in case a list of names gives the wrong impression, Dan Brereton and Frank Cho draw several pages each, but the likes of Dave Gibbons, David Mack, P. Craig Russell and Bill Sienkiewicz only contribute pin-up spreads. It’s not a world-stopper of a story, but has some points to make, and a neat twist at the end.