Almost all Ultimate Spider-Man to date has been fun, and it’s supplied a good balance between Spider-Man action and Peter Parker’s civilian life alongside a rich supporting cast, but the downside of Peter’s girlfriend being Kitty Pryde from the X-Men is noticeable in Deadpool. If his girlfriend’s also a superhero, the need to feature the supporting cast is lessened, and that harms the dramatic balance. It was avoided during Silver Sable due to Spider-Man being tracked to his school, but beyond a couple of pages featuring Mary Jane, and a couple spent at the Daily Bugle, when Peter’s out of costume he’s still with Kitty all the way through Deadpool.

This wouldn’t be as obvious were Brian Michael Bendis on top form, but four chapters of Spider-Man and the X-Men against a bunch of mutant cyborgs isn’t his best. For starters, this Deadpool may be costumed like the normal version, but he’s a soldier, so there’s none of his standard patter, which you’d imagine Bendis would be good at writing, and that removes his USP. Beyond that, Spider-Man and the X-Men ought to be fun, but it’s okay without sparkling. This isn’t down to Mark Bagley, who supplies art that’s up to his usual standard and because of the way the story’s structured can deliver a fair amount of big pin-up illustrations across a spread.

Next up we’re introduced to the Ultimate universe version of Morbius, briefly accompanied by the Ultimate universe version of Blade, and this is a much more entertaining proposition over a tense two chapters. Characters we care about are placed in plausible danger, there’s an effective dark mood all the way through, Bagley’s on top form, and there’s a better mix of the superheroic and the personal.

The closing story brings a rapid end to a plot that might have effectively simmered a little longer, as Mark Brooks illustrates a longer piece involving Daredevil, Moon Knight and the Punisher. It won’t make anyone’s top ten list of Bendis’ best Ulitmate Spider-Man outings, but it’s better than the opening X-Men team-up. It also leads into Ultimate Knights, but before then we have Clone Saga.

Deadpool is also available as part of the hardback Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 8.