It’s with this volume that the Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collections are no more, meaning this is only a hardback combining the paperbacks Silver Sable and Deadpool. Both are named after characters familiar to Marvel readers, and introduce their Ultimate universe equivalents. As drawn by Mark Bagley, they may look the same as their counterparts, but as written by Brian Michael Bendis, they’re very different. In the case of Silver Sable, she’s still a very efficient mercenary, but the difference is that her recruitment skills leave something to be desired, and Bendis creates several funny scenes from her crew’s incompetence. Deadpool is here a soldier, but his unique selling point is removed because he’s not constantly spouting stream of consciousness patter. Perhaps Bendis thought Spider-Man alone manages that well enough, but given Bendis’ facility for dialogue it seems a missed opportunity.

Not cover-titled is the début in this incarnation of Morbius, the scientifically-created vampire, and it’s a highlight. Bagley creates a dark atmosphere to match Bagley’s dark script with characters we care about endangered. It’s just one of the varied moods set by Bendis over this collection. The widescreen action comes via a team-up with the X-Men, but even setting aside misgivings about this Deadpool’s personality, it doesn’t grip as it should. It lacks any great invention, and avoids Spider-Man’s supporting cast for too long.

They’re well used in the opening story, where Silver Sable’s mercenaries track Spider-Man to his high school, intending to abduct him as a civilian. Where Bendis steers events from there is fantastic, leading to one surprising place after another, and involving one more of Marvel’s great criminal corporations, the usually more anonymous Roxxon.

Mark Brooks (sample art) draws two longer than usual chapters, originally published as annuals. His art veers more toward cartooning than Bagley, but there’s a similar dynamic flow and attention to detail, but he’s not as strong as Bagley when it comes to emotional expression. He’s called on to illustrate two different moods. His first story is charming in places, and sets up a new relationship for Peter, while the second follows up on events seen in Vol. 7, again featuring a bunch of guest stars. It’s an example of how high the overall quality of this series is. In isolation, it’s a perfectly readable team-up, but rated against the general level of stories it’s unmemorable.

Overall, there’s a lot to enjoy in this collection, but it’s patchy. Never mind, as Vol. 9 features the best story of the entire run.