A Conversation About ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #3

Ultimate Spider-Man #3 came out last week, and I sat down with MFR editor Zac Owens to discuss the issue!

About the story:
PETER PARKER’S NEW LIFE GETS EVEN MORE COMPLICATED… Spider-Man sizes up the new hero Green Goblin! As they team up to fight a new super villain, secrets about the corporations running North America are revealed… And you’ll never guess who discovers Spider-Man’s secret identity!

The series is by writer Jonathan Hickman, artist Marco Checchetto, colorist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Cory Petit.


Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Anthony Composto: Zac, you’re our resident Hickman fanboy here at MFR. How is Ultimate Spider-Man stacking up against your favorite Hickman runs so far?

Zac Owens: Honestly, I feel like a fraud, having only read House of X/Powers of X of his X-Titles. But compared to what little I know of that, plus my comprehensive knowledge of his incredible Fantastic Four run, his psychedelic run on S.H.I.E.L.D., and of course the entire arc he created with AvengersThe Ultimates, and Secret War, this feels… different? It’s one of those things where I almost don’t even want to “stack it up” against any of his other works, because it feels like it occupies a whole other space. Which is even cooler to me, because he led into this whole thing with Ultimate Invasion and Ultimate Universe, which are very “Hickmany” books. So this change of tone is obviously incredibly deliberate. I’m loving the light-hearted feel here.

Anthony: Yea, I love how much fun Hickman and Checchetto are having with this book. We have all the moments between Peter and his daughter, or between Ben and Jonah, and then you have pages like where Spider-Man is bored out of his mind on a stakeout. Do you think we’re being lulled into a false sense of comfort, though? Are we going to have the rug pulled out from under us soon?

Zac: I think that’s entirely possible. For one thing, my theory is that with this Ultimate Universe, Hickman is doing the opposite of what they did in 1610. (Sorry for the shameless plug, I couldn’t help it.) Instead of making comics that are aiming towards a younger audience, 6160 is gearing itself towards a more mature demographic. Momoko’s X-Men, which is subtle and deeply haunting, is a great example. Hill and Caselli’s Black Panther is about terrorism and political war games. Ultimate Spider-Man sticks out like a sore thumb, and yet it’s the one series so far that’s actually penned by the architect of this new universe. I don’t know what it will be, but something is brewing on the horizon. That’s my guess, at least.

Anthony: Well, speaking of things brewing on the horizon, we get a lot of hints to the Maker’s Council in this issue, reminding us that there is a larger, overarching story happening in this new Ultimate Universe. I’m interested in that story, but I also really like the idea of Ultimate Spider-Man being in its own little pocket where I can enjoy its story each month without having to read a bunch of other titles and tie-ins. Is that a concern for you with these new Ultimate titles, that the greater threat of the Maker is going to disrupt the flow of the individual stories?

Zac: Aaaaaah! You’re killing me here. I’m very much in the other camp. I love the Maker, I loved the worldbuilding that happened in Ultimate Invasion and Ultimate Universe. I want all of that stuff to start affecting everything. I want it all to feel like one big story.

Anthony: I think I’m just burned out on big crossovers where you have to read a bunch of tie-in issues to get the full picture.

Zac: Yeah, I get that.

Anthony: I’d like to read an intimate story about Spider-Man and his family for a little while longer before he gets dragged into Tony Stark’s war.

On the topic of Spidey’s family, as of this issue, May is still the only member of the Parker household who knows Peter’s secret. Do you think they need to keep this going for a while to maintain some dramatic irony, or do you want MJ and Richard to find out soon?

Zac: I don’t know? I think there’s lots of room for storytelling to take place in Peter trying to figure out how or if he should tell them. But then again, that all feels a little “been there, done that.” So you know what? I’ve convinced myself. Yes, I would like them to rip the band-aid off. I think it would be more interesting to see MJ grappling with the news, and all of its implications, than to see Peter agonize over his secret.

Anthony: Yea, we’ve had decades of stories concerning Peter (and a million other heroes) trying to conceal a secret identity. If they bypassed that sooner than later, I’d welcome the change. This isn’t the Spider-Man origin story that we’re used to, but there’s still a clear love and reverence for the source material here. I geeked out on page three when Peter is trying out different suit styles, and they’re variations on classic Spider-Man costumes. I’m glad they landed on the iconic red and blue, but do you think they should have taken more liberties with the suit for this new universe?

Zac: See, this is absolutely your domain, my friend. I know some classic Spider-Man stories, but I am not familiar enough with the webslinger to recognize all those references. I don’t usually care too much about suit designs, but I did like the black suit a lot. The black suit era is one I’ve actually read, and I thought it was interesting to see the costume re-introduced, but in a world where it doesn’t have the same baggage. In a way, it was like a secret Hickman and Checchetto had with the reader. Like it was foreshadowing a dark twist long before it happened.

Anthony: The black suit holds a very special place in my Millenial heart. I loved seeing it for a second, but again, I’m glad the final Spider-Man design is faithful to the classic design.

I also really dig the variations to Green Goblin and Bullseye’s costumes. They’re familiar, yet modern. Something as small as a mouth covering takes Bullseye’s iconic suit from goofy to intimidating. It’s just scarier that you can’t see his eyes or any part of his face. What are your thoughts on the costume variations we’ve seen so far?

Zac: I think costume designs, in my mind, come down to what they have to add to the story. You mentioned this to me before, that you noticed there are more designs in this universe that fully cover each person’s face. And that makes a ton of sense. This is a more realistic version of 616, they would be thinking about things like that. Similarly, the Iron Man-esque Goblin suit, while I definitely prefer the classic look esthetically, adds a lot of layers to what’s going on. Where did he get this tech? Did Osborn work with Howard Stark? Did Oscorp steal the tech? One way or another, this creative team is flagging to us that the Starks and the Osborns have a connection in this world.

That was a whole thing. Next time you ask me a question like that, I’m just going to say “Yep.”

Anthony: I have the same questions! How was Harry able to control Peter’s suit? How is it proprietary to Oscorp if Tony stole it out of the Maker’s vault? I need to know, Hickman!!

So what do you think the deal is with this Green Goblin? I think it would be a really interesting turn in this universe if Spider-Man’s iconic archenemy was truly changed into an ally.

Zac: Yep.

Anthony: You’re the worst.

Zac: Just kidding. We both know I can’t help myself.

Well, I think we’re not going to have a cut-and-dry answer to that question. I hope that Green Goblin turns out to be enough of a layered character, that we get people on both sides of the conversation. Some who trust him and some who don’t. First impressions, do you trust him?

Anthony: All of my instincts (Or should I say my Spider-Sense? No, I should not.) keep me from trusting an Osborn in a goblin suit. But my more critical brain really hopes for a fresh and interesting take on this dynamic, even if it ultimately ends with the Goblin as a villain.

I want to talk about the art, because it’s some of the best work Marvel is putting out right now. With all respect to Hickman and Petit, I have to say that I feel like Checchetto and Wilson are the MVPs of this title. I’ve wanted these guys on a Spider-Man book since they did Daredevil together, and they’re exceeding my greatest expectations. The action sequences are full of energy, but I’m in love with their small character moments, like the aforementioned stakeout scene, or the scene between Peter, Ben, and Jonah. I feel like these moments are even harder for artists to pull of than action, because you have to nail the characters and the tone of the scene and keep your readers’ interest without the aid of superheroics, which Checchetto is able to do through sympathetic faces and Wilson can do with bright, yet soft color choices. Do you have a favorite, “small” moment from this issue?

Zac: Checchetto and Wilson are superb. I think my favorite small moment is when Peter asks Ben and Jonah about the map on their wall, and they get all shifty about answering the question. It’s a funny moment, but it also suggests that we might be in for an espionage story on top of the action-packed stuff we’re used to. I’m excited to see more of what Ben and Jonah get up to.

Anthony: Yes! Give me a Front Line spinoff series (assuming that’s what Ben and Jonah name their company). Great moment. The action sequences are pretty great too, though. I keep coming back to the page turn where Spider-Man punches out Bullseye. There’s so much power and momentum throughout the whole fight, culminating in that awesome moment. Did that hit you the same way it hit me?

Zac: Well, I ducked in my chair while I was reading, so yeah! I think there’s this awesome wind up that happens in the page before. The biggest panel you have in that previous page is really zoomed out, so there’s a ton of dead space. And then the next page, it’s Spidey sending Bullseye flying in our direction, like he’s bursting out of the art. So. Freaking. Good.

Anthony: SO freaking good. And, of course, Petit rounds out the art team with his lettering, which complements the work perfectly and keeps those fight sequences moving along at a fast pace.

The smaller, lowercase lettering is something that’s set the Ultimate comics apart from the mainstream Marvel comics for years. How do you feel about the Ultimate lettering style?

Zac: I like it, because it leaves more room for a letterer to work. Even simply having the choice of putting something in all-caps. I love the rhythm and versatility Petit shows in this issue. Yes, the Ultimate-style lettering is subdued and small, but Petit’s sound effects are not at all. Everything from the giant but see-through “CRASH” letters of a crane hitting the ground (you hear the noise, so deafening that it almost seems hollow) to the colorful lettering of Green Goblin’s suit blasts. And I love that little “THWIP” that shows up, so small on the page, when Spider-Man is trying to nab one of Bullseyes’ cards. It feels so cheeky.

Anthony: Ultimate Spider-Man has genuinely become my favorite monthly title that Marvel is currently putting out. I still have a million questions about this new universe, and about the ramifications of Peter not being bit by that spider as a teenager (what happened to Gwen??), but I’m not even sure I need the answers. I’m just happy to be along for this ride.

Zac: It is such a fun ride. This creative team is killing it, and I think that with people as amazing at their jobs as Hickman, Checchetto, Wilson, and Petit, things are only going to get better from here!

Anthony Composto - EIC
Anthony Composto - EIC
Editor-in-Chief for Monkeys Fighting Robots. A lifelong fan of Spider-Man and the Mets, Anthony loves an underdog story. He earned his B.A. in English because of his love for words, and his MBA because of his need for cash. He considers comics to be The Great American Art Form, and loves horror movies, indie dramas, action/thrillers, and everything in between.
Ultimate Spider-Man #3 came out last week, and I sat down with MFR editor Zac Owens to discuss the issue! About the story: PETER PARKER'S NEW LIFE GETS EVEN MORE COMPLICATED… Spider-Man sizes up the new hero Green Goblin! As they team up to fight a...A Conversation About ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #3