Ultimate Spider-Man #69
Quick Rating: Great
Title: Meet Me
Spider-Man’s got a new mission – help the Human Torch.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: J.D. Smith & Chris Sotomayor
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Cover Art: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The conclusion of Spider-Man’s first encounter with the Human Torch may stand to go down as one of the best issues of this title ever. Brian Michael Bendis pulls a very clever reversal on one of the earliest meetings between the characters in the regular Marvel universe. (Anyone else remember how the Torch helped an unwitting Peter Parker bounce back from getting his butt handed to him by Dr. Octopus? Remember that.)
Last issue, Johnny Storm tried his hand at being a normal high school student, even joining Pete and MJ on a double date with Liz Allen. But things fell apart when he accidentally caught a flame from their beach bonfire. This issue picks up a few seconds later. Liz is panicking, Peter is confused and Johnny is crestfallen.
The Spider-Man/Torch dynamic is one of the all-time great friendships in the Marvel universe, and this issue goes a long way towards establishing that here as well. The book is basically a very strong character study, mostly of the Torch, but also of Peter in that he finds a way to make a difference that doesn’t involve putting his life on the line for a change. Bendis, as always, succeeds with strong characters, snappy dialogue and funny moments that help to lighten up the more serious bits.
Mark Bagley, as always, is in great form with the artwork. He and the colorists, Smith and Sotomayor, give a really strong look to the Torch. The character has come a long way, visually, from the days where he would flame on into a form with no face, no detail and bizarre pinstripes that appeared out of nowhere. There’s a little action in this issue, but it’s mostly talking heads, and Bagley still manages to keep the book strong and keep the story flowing.
Next up, Pete meets Dr. Strange – hopefully, though, this friendship will come back around again, because it’s one that always has a lot of storytelling potential.