Someone would have to do a page by page comparison to verify, but it certainly seems Brian Michael Bendis is spending far more time with Peter Parker in this series than Stan Lee and Steve Ditko spent with his equivalent over the first three years of their Spider-Man run. That was temporarily tossed to one side for the phenomenal battle with Norman Osborn’s monstrous form occupying most of Legacy, but Peter’s problems return in a fine opening chapter in which he’s foiled at every turn, and he continues to be the focus. Overall, there are a couple of super-villains that Spider-Man hasn’t faced before in this incarnation, but they’re secondary to Peter’s problems as Bendis delivers a string of surprises.

The drama in this series is so consistently good, believable for both a high school student and a world where super powered individuals exist, and Bendis adds a new twist to the Betty and Veronica situation introduced last time. Due to relevant circumstances best enjoyed when reading, Gwen Stacy has to stay with May and Peter, and Mary Jane isn’t happy about that. Matters come to a head during a well scripted final chapter conversation.

Spider-Man’s main problem is that someone’s going around impersonating him, robbing banks and having no concern about harming bystanders. It’s a little fudged if any thought is applied, as this isn’t anyone able to crawl up buildings or fire webbing, just an athlete in a Spider-Man costume, but J. Jonah Jameson sure is happy about the situation. Eventually, though, as anticipated, something goes seriously wrong, and by then Spider-Man’s in a very different place. Because Spider-Man’s mask can’t be used to display emotions, Mark Bagley has to use other artistic techniques to convey the emotional content, and he’s smart in doing so, using wavy lines around Spider-Man’s head. The storytelling is his usual high standard, but the eye is sometimes drawn to niggling proportion errors, heads being slightly too large for bodies occurring here.

This isn’t quite the stunner that Legacy was, but it’s a lot of fun and thoroughly enjoyable superhero drama. If preferred, it’s combined with the following Venom in hardcover as Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 3, and in bulkier paperback as Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection Vol. 3.