So I downloaded and just finished reading the USM annual.
It was quite nice, Petey and Kitty being all happy and smooching and finding out they had a lot in common. It was nice and a pleasant read. I liked it.
But it's still stupid.
Weren't these annuals supposed to be "an event"? Important cogs in the series?
Ultimate X-Men - Gambit dies needlessly, then Rogue 'absorbs' him and leaves.
Ultimate Fantastic Four - Millar doesn't even bother to ultimize the Inhumans. The Fantastic Four find out everything about them instantaneously, and then they leave.
Ultimate Spider-Man - Shadowcat and Spider-Man decide to become a couple.
The Ultimates - Nick Fury jumpstarts the superhuman arms race.
To be an "event" it doesn't mean that something BIG must happen like the Skrulls show up and eat so much meat that the world goes into famine. An event in story means that there must be a change in the value of life of a character we care about, from positive to negative, with or without irony, that is achieved through conflict.
Ultimate X-Men did change a character we care about, but the conflict was marginal at best. Juggernaut shows up looking like a homeless bum with S&M gear, gets jerked around, becomes "even more powerful" because his jeans rip, then Gambit, who can make things explode, and essentially, by destroying Juggernaut's helmet, strapped a dozen pound bomb to his head, beats Juggernaut, the superstrong invulnerable man, by covering him in metal pipes and bricks. No ****ing conflict.
Ultimate Fantastic Four had a little conflict, but no change.
Ultimate Spider-Man had change, but where was the conflict? The only conflict was when Kitty picked up the phone to call Spidey the first time. After that, the spend the next 20 pages realising that they have a lot in common. Wow.
The Ultimates on the other hand did have change - the superhuman arms race is going to happen, which is negative. It also happens through conflict as we see all the problems Nick Fury has to face in preparing for the coming war.
The Ultimates was the only "event".
As for Spidey - yes it was cutesy poo. Why wasn't this just a regular issue? Because Bendis didn't feel having his characters repeat themselves, but they had to repeat each other and a regular issue didn't have enough space? Kitty goes on about how she's a loser, then Spidey says the EXACT same thing, but for two more pages. I understand that there's supposed to be a resonance between the two, but it's handled badly. What's worse, is it's lazy. Anyone can have a character drone on about how crappy they feel. Wouldn't it have been better to have SHOWN us why Peter feels he's the outcast? The same for Kitty? Kitty goes "I'm more of an outcast than Wolverine." Of course she is. Wolverine is the ****ing mascot of the team. It would've been better to show us how Kitty feels alienated in the school, thinking everyone is laughing at her behind her back, how Bobby's just mean to her - instead, the school seems like a nice place, Jean is friendly, and Shadowcat is just a whiny little *****. Same for Peter. If that was the case, the idea is that these two characters are looking at their worlds wrong, well, well-done Bendis. You've made them not worth even reading about.
I'm reminded of a Transformers story in a UK comic. It was black-and-white and perhaps 5 pages long. Starscream, who was the second-in-command of Megatron back in the original days of Transformers has fallen from grace. He's died, tried to take over the Decepticons and failed, he's been humiliated in combat, and now wears a Pretender shell (which is essentially body armour that makes him look like a human). As a result, Starscream's self-esteem is at an all time low. And he invites us to see why he's so upset. He walks around the Decepticon headquarters, narrating to us, about how everyone despises him, how everyone thinks he's worthless, and how they all laugh behind his back when he's not looking. And as he walks through, people stop their conversations until he leaves, the stop laughing, they just stop completely and ignore him. Then when Starscream leaves, they wipe their foreheads in relief because they're ****ing terrified of him. They think he was a ruthless monster before he got that damn shell. Then, Starscream goes out to the perimeter of the base, and sees some Autobots and goes to kill them. When he challenges them, the Autobots **** their pants and try to ****ing peg it. Starscream however, thinks the reason they're leaving is because they don't even think he's worth fighting anymore. He beats the **** out of them, and rediscovers in that fight his confidence and self-esteem and declares, "Starscream's back!" much to the worry of everyone else.
My point is that narration of a character can be a wonderful thing, but Bendis abuses it because he's too ****ing lazy.
Also, why the **** is it Kitty Pryde? So we can have X-Men/Spider-Man team ups? Is Bendis' plan to bump USM sales to crossover to the X-Men and Wolverine guest star when he needs it? He's got ****ing Spider-Man. And it can't be because Kitty's such an interesting character. Lessee, Spidey makes her nervous and she's quirky and on Peter's wavelength. My god, what a departure from Mary Jane.
Did Bendis just copy his script from #13 "Confessions"? Oh, no he didn't because that was actually good. Plus, it worked on a metalevel. "Confessions" was #13 - this was the first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man's second year. The first year was an origin, the introduction of the Green Goblin, and quick and fun adventure with Kingpin. USM was nicely retelling the 616 Spidey. #13 was the first issue of the second year after all the introductions and it had to show why we need USM. What the point of USM was. And here we saw it - Spidey confesses his secret to MJ. It was a wonderfully revealing issue that left us with a sense that they had a bright future together - and that we had a bright future on the series. Sadly, this turned out not to be true, but it doesn't invalidate #13. This annual instead just reeks of "more of the same".
So why Kitty? It's Kitty Pryde because Spidey needs a superhero girlfriend, a girlfriend who can look after herself. This makes a LOT of sense, and I agree.
So here are five other opportunities I came up with an hour after the annual:
Black Cat - She's sexy as hell, if not in the least because she's a criminal and older than Spidey. Let's face it, Spidey would get eaten alive by her, and he'd ****ing love it. The criminal thing wouldn't be too bad because she hates the Kingpin like he does and he'd think he could "change her". Black Cat lost her father to Kingpin too, and this would be a great link for Spidey, he'd identify with her (and at the same time think she was a bad guy). Plus, she can look after herself, fulfilling the superhero girlfriend needs. In fact, she'd probably urge Spidey into being a bit more risky, and even get him to perhaps commit small crimes for her (like stealing the requirements for a romantic gesture such as a firework display, or food or even pearls, or what-have-you) and be a bad influence on him - which would create tension all throughout the series. Also, because he's dating an older woman who's a 10, imagine how much cockier he'd start getting at school. Especially if he actually lost his virginity to this woman. Plus, he'd be in love but feel guilt about all her criminal activities and that internal conflict would eat at him. Plus, Black Cat's richer and in a way, stronger than he is, so he'd feel initmidated by her ability to get him presents and tokens of affection. It would be a short-lived but highly passionate and exciting romance, a crazy love, that would make Spidey irresonsible - which is great, because that's the central theme of the series. It would be tangled and messed up, but it would be brilliant.
Roxy from Gen13 - Okay, I know we'd have to change names, physical appearances and things like that, but this would be great. Gen13, for those of you who don't know, was a Wildstorm comic about a team of five teenagers; Caitlin, Roxy, Grunge, Bobby, and Sarah. Each had their own superpower. Their parents were part of the Gen-active project of International Operations, a government programme to create superhumans. They are the 13th generation of this programme. Kidnapped in the mid-teens and taken to IO to become weapons, one of the Gen12 and heads of the Gen programme, Lynch, breaks them free and they go on the run together. Lynch hides them in La Jolla and tries to gives them normal lives and sends them to school.
Now imagine this is the backstory of a girl in Peter's Midtown class. The girl is attractive and she has a boyfriend, Grunge, who despite being lovable, is a jerk to her and chases after her sister. Grunge is a jock and hangs out with Kong and Flash (that's a good trio of names) and Peter gets picked on by them. Roxy starts being kinder to him and they develop a platonic friendship, which soon blooms into a romance. This is a problem because Grunge finds out and isn't happy. Now, from Spidey's pov, he's worried he'll hurt Grunge. But from Roxy's, she's worried that Grunge, who can turn his body into anything he touches - metal, sand, rock - will kill poor puny Parker. Then imagine as the story progresses, Spidey goes to confess to Roxy he's got superpowers, and Roxy beats him to it. He gets pulled into these five kids who are on the run from the government, which links with the programmes that Osborne was running, and this would scare the living **** out of Spidey. He knows that when he turns 18, SHIELD owns him. Before he thought it might be like the Ultimates, and here he is with five kids who've been tortured and messed around with genetically to be living weapons. Then imagine Spidey's heartbreak as they're discovered and have to run away to a different town and he loses the closest friends he's ever had. He's alone, and he's terrified that IO may one day come after him...
The Venom Suit - In UU Venom was a horror movie cliche. In 616, Venom was good. The suit lived with Spidey, affected his personality, was phyiscally intimate with him, and tried to bond with him permanently. It was a girlfriend.
Gwen Stacy - Okay, Gwen doesn't have powers but she could look after herself. The girl carried a knife with her and didn't mind threatening guys twice her size with it - in SCHOOL. She was ****ing hardcore. She was also extremely weak. It's an amazing contradiction that was wholly appropriate. She's an orphan too, and she hates Spider-Man. Do you see how a romance with Gwen would've been not only wildly different to MJ, but really ****ing exciting? Well done, because Bendis didn't.
Mary Jane with superpowers - Now how's that for USM being different from 616? Bear with me here: Say MJ gets really badly injured during one of Spidey's fights - Rhino and Spidey tussled, and Rhino caused huge public damage and injured hundreds of people - and MJ was watching on and got hurt (this isn't unlikely - this is why they broke up) and Peter rushes her to the hospital. They need a blood transfusion immediately, and Peter is watching on, but because of all the injuries, they're out of the specific blood they need to help her. But Peter has the right type of blood. No time for tests, they do a transfusion. MJ recovers, and guess what - she's got spider powers too. How is that for a ****ing turn-on? At first it would be exciting, then scary as MJ realises just how strong she is, then fun. They swing together, fight crime together. Then it starts to get problematic. The press is mean to her, and MJ feels like **** - or the press is good to her and she feels like a queen - either way, MJ wants to go public, sick of hiding behind a mask. But Peter doesn't want that. MJ then gets scared as her powers start to wane and Spidey points out that the oz formula is being sloughed through her system. It gets worse since MJ just tells her dad to **** off, and guess what - MJ doesn't know the lesson about power and responsibility and starts down that worrying path towards being an irresponsible hedonist. She then asks him for another transfusion. And Spidey, understanding power and responsibility, denies her. That'd **** them up. And it would be really cool.
What do we get? Mary Jane with a different name and a ****ing stealth bomber plane, superhero friends, and superpowers.
Don't get me wrong, I like the way Kitty totally gets Spidey and understands him. I like the way they get on. I just think it's lazy. I just think there were much better options.