Recently in the Ultimates, the team fought the drug-pushing gang, the Serpent Skulls. In the aftermath of their battle, the main gang members all escaped. Diamondback was among them, and she has an interesting relationship with Spider-Man in that she forcefully kissed him during a fight. The hero Bombshell's boyfriend was killed by the Skulls during the whole affair, and she took a leave of absence from the team. Terry Schreck is a detective who was killed and then revived following a Ultimates/Skulls battle. He now looks like a zombie, but retains his mind and doesn't eat BRRAAIIINNNNSSS! The villain Scourge recently escaped prison.
More importantly, a villain wearing a skull mask has been stalking the Ultimates. He shot Cloak and Dagger at the end of the last issue and plans on going after the remaining team members!
The story begins with Lana Baumgartner standing in front of her mirror with her costume on. She plans on meeting her team for the first time since the Serpent Skulls battle. After contemplating leaving the super-heroing business altogether, Lana has decided to make a comeback … yet it feels unnatural. She’s nervous to return to her costume, but she decides she needs to give it “one more shot.” Lana dons her regular clothes over the costume and leaves her apartment, wondering, “What difference do I even make anyway?”
Meanwhile in Midtown Manhattan, Spider-Man lifts a damaged truck as the paramedics pull an injured man out of it. When the job is done, the paramedics thank him, and a mysterious diamond hits him on the shoulder. Spidey finds Diamondback in the shadows of an overhang and threatens to arrest her. She refuses his attempts to apprehend her and explains she needs his help. Befuddled, Spidey releases her and she decides that they should leave the “dirty alleyway” and find somewhere private to talk. The flirty villainess begins teasing Miles sexually, but he claims he has a girlfriend. (Well, that’s a little up in the air if you’re reading Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, but…)
On a nearby rooftop, Diamondback gives Miles a sob story that she only joined the Serpent Skulls originally to get money for her sick sister. Miles asks why she doesn’t “get a job and stop stabbing people with diamonds.” She gets to the real problem she has: “The Skulls are disbanded and all…but we broke the gang truce, and now they all want revenge.” Atop an adjacent rooftop, Diamondback’s partner in crime, Sidewinder, sits with a sniper. He is waiting for a clear shot to kill Spider-Man so he and Diamondback can turn him in for a bounty. It’s a trap!
In the meantime, Diamondback keeps bulling a story about how rival gangs are trying to kill her family. As soon as she whispers “I’m afraid I’m too bad to be good” in Miles’ ear, the villainous French-kisses him … with his mask on … Thankfully, before we can really think about it, she is hit in the head with a dart and passes out! Quickly, Spider-Man finds that the man who shot the dart is none other than … Taskmaster (last seen in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (Vol. 2) #27! He shoots Miles in the head with a dart and carries the two teenagers’ unconscious bodies away. Sidewinder is perplexed on the sideline.
Later in Jessica Drew’s Chelsea Apartment, Kitty Pryde is finishing packing up to leave the team leader’s apartment. Kitty figures that she can go back into the public since everybody is “on to the next big shiny thing” after she defeated Galactus (Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand #5). After bantering about Jessica’s OCD and how Cloak and Dagger aggravate it, Jessica asks if Kitty is actually quitting the team. “At least be a reserve member!” she pleads. Jessica jokes about how the Ultimates can branch off into the “Queens Ultimates,” “West Coast Ultimates,” and “All-New Great Lake Ultimates.” The mutant Ultimate reassures her team leader that she is still an Ultimate, but she wants to move to her old apartment and spend time with her mother. Suddenly, Taskmaster opens a door behind them, shoots his dart gun, and asks the girls’ unconscious bodies, “You’re not even going to invite me in?”
Soon in a private gym, Detectives Brigit O’Reilly and Terry Schreck are angry about how they were fired from their department for “violating strict mandates regarding street gangs” and they are no longer allowed on the Scourge case. O’Reilly wonders what the other fired detectives, Brooks and Dennis, will do. They begin talking about how Schreck hasn't visited O’Reilly’s apartment since they broke up. “All it took was … coming back from the dead,” he jokes. Suddenly, she wonders how she can pay her rent, and the conversation turns back to how the department screwed the detectives over. “You still have access to all that unregistered gear we kept accumulating?” Schreck asks, and she replies yes. He decides that they will get the gear, track down Scourge, and “do [their] thing.” He says, “Let’s go rogue.”
In the Deladier Tower sits Ecstasy A.K.A. Renee Deladier, a business woman, and Mr. Jip, her second in command. She finishes up a light call with one of her employees who accidentally lost a company account. After finishing the conversation, Ecstasy orders somebody to arrange the employee’s assassination. Mr. Jip sneezes and she becomes aggravated, saying, “You sound like a wet bag of garbage.” He explains that he is sick because he “inhaled an entire shipment of experimental narcotics.” (See All-New Ultimates #3.)
After explaining how Spider-Man’s bust of their operations damaged their operations, Mr. Jip says, “Brock (AKA Crossbones) is M.I.A. Our most valuable inside man is, for all intents and purposes, dead.” Ecstasy is even further annoyed upon hearing that the Ultimates are still living. She asks how difficult it is to stop a bunch of kids, and sneers, “As if Roxxon’s going to refund me the money these children cost me!” Suddenly, Mr. Jip has a violent coughing fit and feels like he’s going to throw up. “Ms. Deladier, would you mind -- calling an ambulance for me?” he asks. “I can’t -- seem to feel my arms.”
Meanwhile outside Jessica’s apartment, Lana approaches the door, thinking about how she can’t escape the stigma of being a villain. Inside, Taskmaster calls his boss, explaining he hasn't captures Bombshell but has Kitty Pryde instead. For Kitty, he wants “triple the fee” and offers to kill somebody else. Directly outside, Lana knocks on the door and instinctively feels something is wrong. Even before Taskmaster answers the door, Lana explodes it and sends him to the floor. She dodges his gunfire and she fires explosive blasts at him. Recovering from being fired across the room by a blast’s impact, Lana finds that the villain fled with her teammates. Also, the fire alarm has been set off.
Outdoors, Sidewinder has successfully hot wired Taskmaster’s truck. The villain returns to his vehicle and drops Kitty and Jessica in the back with Spidey, Diamondback, Cloak, and Dagger. “You’re no good to me dead so stay put, kids … I’m going to see if I can add your friend before the cops show up,” Taskmaster says. He is surprised to find that Sidewinder suddenly begins to drive the truck away and latches onto it with a grippy-wire gun or something. (Hey, give me a break! I don’t know much about super villain weaponry! At least I’m not reviewing the Kirby/Lee FF run because there is no way I could describe any of that machinery!) Anyways, as the van and villain get away, Bombshell follows, obviously pissed off.
As far as everything goes, the story telling of this issue wasn't bad. Michel Fiffe has definitely improved in plot pacing and dialogue. Everything flows better than when he began writing the series, and the characterization is solid. He is very good at voicing Lana, the main character, and he correctly capitalizes on the big plot points during the script. For example, he uses a whole page to introduce Taskmaster and the cliffhanger. The plotting for the fights also has more room to breathe.
Sadly, Fiffe largely fails with the basic plot. (Ha! You thought this would be a positive review!) It’s a major mistake to bring back the whole Serpent Skull thread from his first arc. Diamondback, Sidewinder, and Crossbones are all bland, unimaginative villains and I honestly wouldn't mind if he had left all those plot threads hanging when the book ended. With that said, I like Taskmaster’s use in the script. It’s nice to see a nod to Bendis’ great arc in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (Vol 2). Of course, this advantage is destroyed by the fact that he introduced the boring villains Mr. Jip and Ecstasy. They are both one-dimensional and don’t bring anything interesting to the script. Additionally, I’m tired of Detectives Schreck and O’Reilly.
Another problem is Fiffe’s scripting of Spider-Man. I know writers like to display Miles as a complete idiot and newbie, but by this point, he really isn’t. We must remember that he’s been at this for at least two years. He’s faced the major villains Venom, Galactus, and Green Goblin. With that said, I’m sure that he would have known that the B-lister Diamondback was tricking him and planning on trapping him. In fact, it was annoying how easily Taskmaster defeated each of the Ultimates. Surely, one of them would have been able to put up a fight of some sort!
Quickly the worst aspect of this issue is the return of Amilcar Pinna’s artwork. His anatomy is strange, the art doesn’t flow, and the characters have creepy faces I cringe at when I see. I hate to say this, but there is no possible way this book could end on a high note with this type of art. Marvel could bring in Roger Stern to write the final issue and it could be the best darn book he’s ever written … but with this terrible artwork, I still couldn't love it. No matter what, good writing must always go with good art. I know this sounds pessimistic and petty, but think of your three most favorite comics. Now name the artists for each one of them.
While the overall scripting is fine, the plot brings back terrible villains and Spider-Man's characterization is frustrating. Of course, Pinna's artwork is horrid.