Ultimate Spider-Man #54

Background

When Craig Watson found and read Mary Jane's diary, he used this flimsy pretext to try and break up his teenage daughter's relationship with Peter Parker. This worsened an already volatile home situation (Craig cheats on MJ's mom, MJ's mom does nothing). After a fight with Peter at school, Mary Jane ran way from home, only to be found by Peter in the abandoned warehouse that serves as a de-facto headquarters for Peter's alter ego, the costumed crimefighter known as Spider-Man.

The wallcrawler has seen his own share of girl troubles. In a moment of weakness inspired by the situation with Mary Jane, Spider-Man accepted an invitation from the alluring burglar known as the Black Cat. As a result, Spider-Man got tangled up in her spat with the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk. Fisk hired Elektra to hunt her down and retrieve an item the Black Cat stole, which lead to the breakup of this little encounter. Peter figured out the Black Cat is really Felicia Hardy, a girl trying to avenge her burglar father's imprisonment and death, which she obviously blames Fisk for. But Fisk found out first, and Spider-Man was unable to save Felicia from apparent death at the sai of Elektra. However, Felicia managed to throw the item into the harbor first, making it lost to Fisk.

At it stands now, Fisk no longer has the item that might have done something for his terminally ill wife, Felicia is presumed dead but there's no corpse, and Mary Jane is grounded.

Story Details

Peter's Aunt May goes off to visit her mother in Florida for a week, leaving Peter and Gwen Stacy, the orphan May took in, unsupervised. Peter ponders the recent lack of criminal activity in the city and his need to make money to fuel his spider-appetite. Determined to take MJ out on to real movie date once she's no longer grounded, Peter's mind turns to how they just haven't made any good movies lately.

So, naturally, the news reports that a Spider-Man movie is being filmed in New York City, produced by Avi Arad (!), directed by Sam Raimi, (!!) and starring Tobey Maguire. (!!!) Hearing this, Gwen takes the opportunity to express her hatred for Spider-Man over the death of her father.

Meanwhile, a prison guard taunts the incarcerated Doctor Octopus with the knowledge that Otto's ex-wife is cashing is as consultant for the Spider-Man movie, which will feature Ock as the villan.

The next day at school, Kong tries to get people to audition with him for parts as extras in the Spider-Man movie, with no success. Flash hates the idea, Liz declines, Mary Jane is grounded, and Peter has to work. It's worth noting that Liz and Kong go back a long time and Liz still declines to go alone with him.

Meanwhile, Otto mentally commands his robotic arms to escape containment at the Triskellion, brutally killing two research scientists in the process.

On-location filming of the Spider-Man movie is interrupted by none other than the real Spider-Man. Spidey protests the movie being made without his consent. Avi Arad fires back, saying that since Spider-Man is in the public domain, they don't need permission. They tell Spider-Man that, unless he unmasks and gives them the exclusive to his story, Spidey won't see a dime. Naturally, Spidey refuses, and Arad reveals that they filmed Spider-Man during this whole exchange, thus saving a fortune on special effects. Spidey swings off, frustrated, and film production continues unabated.

Finally, Otto Octavius's murderous arms return to bust him out of prison, thanking the prison guard who told him about the movie for shaking him out of his funk.

General Comments

It's an issue like this that reminds us that there's more than just an animal kingdom's worth of criminals that plague Spider-Man.

I like the inclusion of the real-life creators of the coming Spider-Man movie, as it grounds the book in the real world (as opposed to a world where Lex Luthor is the president-oops, did I actually type that?). Avi Arad, in particular, does what few in that animal kingdom could do: he beats Spider-Man, in a way. Also, it casts Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus, who are the two main characters in the coming movie, as the two people who are being ripped off by said movie, while everyone around them is reaping the benefits (i.e. Kong, Otto's ex-wife).

Except Gwen, that is. In case we've forgotten, she still blames Spider-Man for the death of her father, the same death that landed her in the Parker home to begin with. Of course, everyone knows that Gwen is my favorite character in the supporting cast, so any face time with her is good time.

We're treated to some awesome art in this issue. The last two pages in particular gives us a menacing Doctor Octopus overseeing chaotic bedlam. I want to give particular props to J.D. Smith, the colorist. His hues run the gamut from bright and cherry in the happier domestic scenes to smokey and foreboding in the prison, making each and every issue of Ultimate Spider-Man a pleasure to look at.

Overall Rating

A promising start to a promising arc!

Spidey's quote of the issue is: "Well, if we can't have the panky, what's the point of the hanky?"