I just finished reading the "Death of Ultimate Spider-Man" and the first issue of the new Ultimate Spider-Man and it left me with a lot of thoughts that I wanted to talk about and share. The first being that my Spider-Man is dead and I don’t think I can read the adventures of the new one and it has nothing to do with race or the fact that it’s not Peter Parker. At the end of the death issue I really felt complete, after all its been over a decade that I’ve been reading the series so it’s not illogical that after such a long time that I would be done with it. What it really boils down to, is that I can’t relate to the new Spider-Man and really shouldn’t have been able to relate to the previous one. When I started reading Ult-Spidey I was fresh out of high school and the Ultimate books were some of the first titles that I started collecting seriously. They reminded me of an experience that I just finished myself (minus the superheroheroics) and became something I enjoyed the reminded me of relationships and good times that developed in the years that followed. Even as my life changed dramatically as I moved cities and furthered relationships with others I held a soft spot for Ult-Spidey and have collected nearly every issue.
But I can’t relate to Miles. I don’t come from the inner city, I didn’t have to go to a charter school or pray for a lottery to change my life and as good as the tale is that’s all it is to me… a tale, a story, a bit of fiction to pass the time. With Ultimate Peter Parker he wasn’t just afresh coat of paint on an old character. He was his own character with his own mistakes and pitfalls that I could relate to. He was the character that could have an entire issue of meaningful conversations as he revealed his identity to his girlfriend. If you take out the costume vigilante bit this is very similar to sharing deep truths about yourself and family to a serious girlfriend for the first time.
It’s exposing your inner workings and praying that they don’t run away after what they see and that’s something I can relate to. That’s also something that the book has often times strayed away from. Soon Bendis was having conversations just to have conversations and they weren’t personal, they weren’t intimate. But then the last story before the death arc brought it all back and Bendis remembered what made this version of the character so special and his death was meaningful. It had substance and couldn’t be articulated any better than Peter saying that he couldn’t save Uncle Ben, but he could save Aunt May. He paid the penance for his mistake that had been the driving factor for his life as Spider-Man and this is where he stood out from his 616 counter part as he was clearly traumatized by the guilt of his Uncle's death.
With Miles I can’t relate to him. I can’t relate to his struggles anymore and the soft spot in my heart is for a different character and I’m okay with that. With Ultimate Peter Parker it was personal as I associated a lot of emotions with the character as I read the stories over the years, but even still his life moved at a much slower pace than mine. Now I’m married and trying to turn this writing stuff into a paid career and I’m not sure I can relate myself to a high school kid any more. I don’t know or understand them anymore than they do me. Now I find myself needing a Spider-Man that’s older, married perhaps and going through things in life that I too am experiencing for the first time. Unfortunately that Spider-Man has been wiped out of existence in favor of a bachelor life style that I again, cannot relate too.
I will say that I enjoyed the new Ultimate Spider-Man. I didn’t have that specialness that the first series had where you were dying to see the new take on an old character. They introduced the Prowler and he’s very different, but he’s wearing the same old costume as before and that doesn’t set the world apart like it did previously. I wouldn’t mind giving the series a few issues as the different spider powers that Miles has is interesting and it’s interesting to see if Bendis can do something different with this character and not have the classic Spider-Man to barrow from any more. But at the end of the day, I would only be reading for the stories and not because I have any emotional ties to the book or characters.
Say what you will, but at some point most people tie emotions to fictional characters. Be it their favorite TV show character, a Disney Pixar movie or their favorite Superhero that they read about monthly. The best reading experiences are the ones that make you care about the character, not just a good story and pretty art. Without that character even the most developed worlds can become hallow and uninteresting.As it stands Marvel has now killed two Spider-Men for me, and sure you can argue that Amazing Spider-Man is good again under the direction of Dan Slott,but it’s simply not the Spider-Man I’m looking for. I’m looking for one that relates to me and that leaves me stuck reading old stories of a character that I have always loved.
P.S. Never feel that you have to keep reading a book, just because you’ve always read the book. The biggest problem with comics is that people stay on past their own point and then get burnt out. If you leave with the book at a natural progression and move on to something else you’ll find that your comic reading life is much more enjoyable.