Ultimate Spider-Man #44

Background

In high school, we're all just trying to fit in. A young Latverian man named Geldoff tried to fit in by blowing up cars to impress the in-crowd at his school. This naturally attracts the attention of the police, but more importantly, the attention of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man, clad in a second rate costume, tries to talk Geldoff down. Things go bad to worse, however, when Geldoff again endangers civilians by showing off. The two are at a standoff when Marvel Girl, Storm, and Shadowcat of the X-Men arrive on the scene, causing Geldoff to faint.

After some witty banter between Spidey and Charlie's (Xavier's) angels, they decide to take Geldoff, who may or may not be a mutant, back to the Xavier Institute. Shadowcat, who is a huge Spider-Man fan (with a huge Spider-Man crush), invites Spider-Man back to the institute.

On the plane ride, however, the mutant-phobic Geldoff wakes up. In a panic, he blows up part of the X-Men's Blackbird Jet, causing him and Spider-Man to fly out of the plane. Storm, who can fly by controlling the wind, is left with a choice of whether to rescue the boys or help her fellow X-Men.

Oh, and did I mention that the Geldoff attack caused Peter's school to be closed? And that Aunt May came to pick up Peter and Gwen Stacy (who's in May's custody after her father's recent death)? And that the excuses Mary Jane (Pete's girlfriend and confidant for you newbies) are throwing at the wall aren't sticking? And that Aunt May is extremely worried?

Story 'Tampered'

Back at the Parker home, Aunt May gets a call from Mr Ayers, Peter's Geometry teacher, stating that Peter wasn't in class, a class that took place BEFORE the school was closed due the Geldoff incident. After hearing Gwen swear she has no idea where Peter is, May starts screaming Peter's name and breaks the doorknob off of his downstairs laboratory.

Meanwhile, Peter seems to be in the X-Men's library, reading Ben Urich's book "Kingpin Falls." A psychic projection of Professor Charles Xavier, powerful telepath and founder of the X-Men, appears in the library and tells Peter he needs to wake up. Peter finds himself unmasked, undressed and in the company of Xavier and his students Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Storm, Colossus, Beast, and Shadowcat, otherwise known as the X-Men.

When Peter asks what happens, Storm explains that she and Marvel Girl switched up. Storm commanded the winds to ease the Blackbird, with Shadowcat, a.k.a. Kitty, inside while Jean used her telekinesis to rescue Geldoff, and, at the last possible second, Spider-Man, who had passed out.

After hearing this, Peter freaks out, protesting that yet another group of people had stumbled on to his not-so-secret secret identity, inadvertently blurting out his real name, which Kitty later says no one new (although Xavier must have, since he mentally addressed Spider-Man as Peter, and Jean communicated telepathically with Peter, which means she could have known as well.)

Back home, Aunt May stands in the middle of Peter's Basement Lab (and de-facto Spider-Cave). She tries to access the computer, but she doesn't know his password. It should be noted that one of the mirrored lenses of Peter's Spider-Man mask, though not the mask itself, was in plain view on the computer desk, though it's also uncertain whether May actually noticed it or not.

Back at the Institute, a moderately mellow Geldoff (thanks to a happy thought planted by Charles), is hooked up to part of Cerebro, Xavier's vast mutant-scanning computer. Oddly enough, Cerebro did not register Geldoff as mutant or human, but rather the victim of genetic tampering on the placental level.

In other words, scientists tampered with Geldoff's placenta while he was in utero. Since the placenta's genetic material is not recognized as foreign to the uterus, mutant genes injected into the placenta were absorbed by Geldoff. Xavier and Beast conjecture that the experiment was considered a failure because the gene and resulting powers did not manifest until now (although, in most mutants, signs of mutancy don't emerge until puberty anyway).

Xavier resolves to use Geldoff as an example and take him to the U.N. to get such genetic tampering banned worldwide. Spider-Man (who is now masked since he's in Geldoff's presence) objects to Geldoff being used in Xavier's agenda, regardless of how benign the agenda is.

A frenzied escape from the mansion plays out, with Spider-Man assaulting several of the X-Men while Xavier tries to talk him down. It turns out that it was all an elaborate fantasy which Xavier talks down mid-thought. Xavier promises Geldoff would be treated with respect. Geldoff admits that he never actually wanted to fight Spider-Man, and claims that they're cool.

When Kitty asks Peter if he still needs a ride back home, Peter remembers that he lost complete track of time. Later, while walking back to his basement lab, Peter ponders how he hates meeting his heroes, since he finds out things he doesn't want to know. When he opens the cellar door, he finds Aunt May waiting for him, claiming they need to talk.

General Comments

I'm a little conflicted about this issue..

On one hand, Bendis keeps me on my toes about this impending confrontation between Aunt May and Peter. It's no secret that I love the Ultimate version of Aunt May. It's a much more realistic and modern approach to the character in that she worries, but she's smart and suspicious and it very much seems she will inevitably figure Peter's secret out. Like most parents, she feels disconnected to her adolescent and when a situation like an extended absence causes those questions to mount, she immediately invades Peter's privacy to get some answers.

On the other hand, the promise of Geldoff has mostly fizzled. The once enigmatic, completely original character has become the responsibility of the Ultimate X-Men. While we're on that note, where are Nightcrawler and Rogue, who joined the X-Men toward the end of Mark Millar's run? While Peter giving out his secret was funny, it seems that they should have already known (or maybe Xavier did and he was willing to keep it secret). Questions like this distract my enjoyment of the book. Although, this entire part of the story seems to be more about 1) disposing of Peter's newest nemesis and 2) reassuring fans of Ultimate X-Men that Bendis can indeed write these characters (which he can).

It seems that Ultimate Spider-Man is at its best when Peter is dealing with his own set of issues. Interaction with other parts of the Marvel Universe yield conflicting, if interesting, accounts. As such, I think this issue suffers from the crossover, even if it WAS Bendis' best handling of non-Spider-Man characters. Ironically, as of this review, the X-Men have yet to appear in their own title since Bendis took over the book.

Yet, for all this, I can find no serious flaws with Art Thibert's and Mark Bagley's artwork. In fact, the entire rescue sequence has a cinematic feel to it that enhances the reader's enjoyment of this issue. Bagley's take on the X-Men is cool, albeit influenced by Adam Kubert's preliminary sketches. All the same, it's the same high standard I've seen basically throughout the entire run of this book.

Overall Rating

It seems most of my objections stem from concerns inspired from other comic books. While the Marvel Universe is traditionally interconnected (although Ultimate seems much more so than today's creator-specific, continuity-optional Mainstream/616 Marvel), it seems this book would be a lot better off with a little LESS crossover. Nevertheless, this specific issue is a satisfying, if not great read with solid (and consistent-please take note, mainstream X-Men editors) artwork.

But I'm all X-Menned out. And I'm all Geldoffed out. Let's make Spider-Man about Spider-Man again, shall we?