Reviewer: Paul Sebert
Story Title: Detention
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Mark Bagley
Colored by: J.D. Smith
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editors: Nick Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Joe Quesada
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Summer has traditionally turned into a time of big-name projects, promotions, and crossovers, but this year seems to be different. From Sue
Dibny’s murder in Identity Crisis, to the slaughter of the Guardians of the Globe in Invincible, to the opening of Avengers Disassembled, to the shooting of one of Tim Drake’s classmates in War Games this summer has been marked with blood. And even though we were all brought up thinking that “only Bucky stays dead” a jarring air of finality runs through these casualties.
Perhaps no death from this summer was more predictable, yet more jarring than that of Gwen Stacy during the Carnage arc of Ultimate Spider-Man. From the character’s debut early during the book’s run, the possibility of Gwen’s demise hung in the air, yet the more we got to know the character the more it felt like she was here to stay. A permanent fixture in the Ultimate universe.
So perhaps one of the reasons Brian Michael Bendis chose to off the character just after fans got to know her so well was a means of saying that nothing is permanent. Or perhaps a commentary on the mainline Marvel Universe version of Carnage. During stories like “Maximum Carnage” Cletus Cassidy slaughtered numerous New Yorkers, but Carnage’s rampages always lacked consequences. His victims were ultimately targets for him to knock down like something out of a video game. Meanwhile in the Ultimate universe, Carnage did indeed slay a character very dear to many readers hearts and the ramifications of that rampage will hang heavy for the rest of the hero’s life.
Entitled “Detention” this issue follows Peter Parker’s first day back to school after Gwen Stacy’s passing, and as you guess by the title things do not go well. Here we see a good chunk of the supporting cast reunited for the first time in a few arcs, and I must say it certainly good to see them back together again even under these dire circumstances.
In this issue we see Bendis returning to the type of character-driven stories that made him famous (not that he ever really left). The feeling of loss and regret is just palpable and hangs over every single panel, every line of dialog. You can see how the tragic turn of events has really affected this cast, and how different ways of coping with the loss has drawn a wedge between them.
The climatic final speech of this issue, in which Peter Parker delivers a soliloquy on his new more cynical world view we realize just how much he’s changed as a character since the series began, and just how much he’s lost.