Ultimate Spider-Man #31

Background

When someone dressed as Spider-Man gets involved in a standoff with the police, the real Spidey, Queens teen Peter Parker, swings over to investigate. For his trouble, he suffers a gunshot in the shoulder from the police. Peter escapes police custody, but the wound needs to be treated. Enter the ever-loyal Mary Jane Watson. Called in the middle of the night by her wounded vigilante boyfriend, she bravely helps Peter get to the emergency room to receive treatment for his wound.

The two just barely escape the police, who, knowing Spider-Man is shot, are at the hospital looking for gunshot victims. Once they get back home, Peter feigns sleep to hide the wound from Aunt May, and then turns on the TV to discover that the police have adopted a zero- tolerance stance toward Vigilantism.

So-how was YOUR day?

Oh, and here's another important piece of information, in case you've all forgotten. Gwen Stacy, that firecracker of a girl, is staying with Peter and May for the weekend while her father, Captain George Stacy, attends a police convention in Atlantic City.

Story 'Black Van'

George Stacy is talking with two of his fellow police officers at the convention site in Atlantic City, when the scream of an armored car driver forces investigation. Looks like the cops aren't the only out- of-towners in Jersey, as the imposter Spider-Man is robbing an armored car.

Back in Queens, Peter is clutching the shoulder with the gunshot wound during English class. The pain has him so distracted that he can't even define "allegory" for the class. And that's important, because the class is covering "Animal Farm" today! He asks to be excused to go to the nurse, and Mary asks to go with him. The teacher declines Mary, and then moves on to her next target: Kong. It just so happens Gwen is in this class, and it seems she's putting two and two together!

Peter walks to his locker, clearly in a tight spot. He finds a letter addressed to "Peter Parker" instructing him to meet someone in a black van in the parking lot, promising to take care of the shoulder. Turns out to be Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. The Wasp, of a certain high-profile super-group known as the Ultimates (think Ultimate Marvel's Avengers). The connection here is that The Ultimates were put together by S.H.E.I.L.D.'s head honcho Nick Fury, who was recently involved in Peter's life as the third party in his latest throwdown with the Green Goblin.

Janet serves up a "genetic cocktail", a combination of Peter's own blood (of which S.H.I.E.L.D. just happens to have a sample handy) and a chemcial in chickens that speeds up healing in humans. She called cCAF, for those of you curious. When Peter asks her about Harry and who the imposter might be, Janet replies that these are "small potatoes" to the Ultimates. Though, she does concede that she would "beat the holy snot" out of anyone who impersonated her.

Peter, Paul, and Mary...I mean, Peter, Mary, and Gwen all walk back home. Peter's feeling much better, Gwen observes. Then, our blonde drops a bombshell. She knows. But it turns out she doesn't KNOW. Confused? Well, so were Peter and Mary, until Gwen says that she knows the couple have been sneaking around at night. Approaching home, there are three cop cars parked outside Peter's house. Peter fears the worst for his Aunt, but instead finds a saddened May and the two police officers who were with Captain Stacy earlier today.

One of them presents George Stacy's badge to Gwen. She's a cop's daughter. She knows exactly what this means. Her father is dead.

Bugle Reporter Ben Urich's investigation reveals that Stacy and his fellow officers opened fire on the imposter Spider-Man and hit his knapsack, which began to smoke. Turns out there was some sort of explosive in there, and the cad of an imposter chucks the bag away from himself and in the direction of a young boy. George Stacy throws the kid of the way, only to find the bag in his hands just as it's about to explode. He died a hero, but all of this is little consolation to Gwen, who mourns on the rooftop of Peter's house.

Feeling better, Peter stops by the Daily Bugle, where Robbie tells him that the imposter is in another standoff with the police. Peter dons the webs and swings right into the situation, where the fake is holding a tazer to a hostage, threatening to kill her.

General Comments

Captain Stacy's dead!

This is the break, folks. Rather than merely re-hashing old stories, Bendis is creating his own classics. Sure, Captain Stacy still died saving someone else from a villan's carelessness, but he's gone a whole lot earlier than expected. Or wanted. Bendis has this sneaky habit of developing a likeable character, then killing him off. His Uncle Ben was so well received fans had hoped that Aunt May would kick the bucket instead. And that extra character development gave the death meaning.

But then the good Captain's passing reminds me that EVERYONE in this book is quite mortal. I can't help but start the countdown on how long Gwen...or possibly Mary has left. Which sucks, because I think those two are infinitely more interesting here than they ever were in mainstream Marvel.

Speaking of continuity, though, Janet "Van Dyne"'s appearance brings up a whole slew of questions. On one hand, in "The Ultimates", she's always introduced as Janet Pym, although in that same book, Jan and Hank recently had a falling out (to say the least, but I digress). The point is, Ultimate Janet is an Asian-American, and the writer, Mark Millar hasn't established that Van Dyne is her last name. Point being, Bendis should be more careful with the fledgeling Ultimate continuity if he's gonna tap into it.

Overall Rating

A good story, brought down by editorial decisions and Bendis's refusal to tread lightly when bringing out-of-title characters into the fold. Four webs, which is quickly becoming the Bendis minimum standard.