The Chameleon arc continues in Ultimate Spider-Man #13, but the biggest question that arises is ‘Who is the real Brian Michael Bendis?’ Is it the guy who has deftly moved Ultimate Spider-Man back into an awesome book following the big Ultimate U reboot? Or is he the same old BMB who can’t stop writing self indulgent (and admittedly witty), rambling, page filling, plot-free dialogue? If this latest installment is any indication, it’s the latter.
I was already a bit perturbed when the focus of the comic moved in a new direction and away from the superbly written and thought provoking previous arc, and since then I’ve become increasingly frustrated. The entire premise is Chameleon captures Peter Parker and attempts to replace him, hijinks ensue. This was boring enough after the first issue, especially since the title has been sans Spider-Man, but if the story thus far has been a crap sundae, this is the cherry on top.
Not once, not twice, but three times captives J Jonah Jameson and Peter Parker have the exact same conversation. I know it’s a story device used to show where we’re at in the timeline of the narrative, but it wastes serious page real estate and is totally unnecessary. I could understand if this was a murder mystery and we were shown the same event from different view points, but that isn’t what’s going on here. It’s the exact same conversation, THREE TIMES!
And the dialogue! Don’t even get me started. When did every single resident of New York suddenly become a fast talking verbal fencing artist? Am I really supposed to buy this? The back and forth wordplay is fun to an extent, but just because Bendis is the Muhammad Ali of deconstructionist humorous writing doesn’t mean he has to kick my ass for the entire book. In attempting to prove how clever he is, BMB actually comes across looking worse for it.
Ultimate Spider-Man #13 is a D grade comic except for one thing. As wonky and unpredictable as Bendis’ writing can be, the art team of David Lafuente and Justin Ponsor can be relied upon to deliver stunning visuals that never disappoint. Page after gratifying page, the work these two do is a pleasure to behold. The colors pop off the page, each character is rendered as an emotive being, and the backgrounds are filled with interesting details. Good stuff all around.
Not that some pretty pictures can totally save what is otherwise a frustrating and boring experiment gone awry. It gets a C-, worth checking out only if you are a regular reader of the Ultimate version of Spider-Man or if you want to see the best way NOT to write a comic.