Ultimate Spider-Man #71

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Strange: Part 2 of 2

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencilled by: Mark Bagley
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: J.D. Smith
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics/ Ultimate Marvel

When the first issue of this two-parter came out, a reviewer online that I read (perhaps it was one of The Fourth Rail fellas) admitted that he did not know what the story was about and that it detracted from his enjoyment of it. While I liked the first part, I had to admit that he had a point. Now with the mini-arc completed, what it is all about has become clear.

Spider-Man is embroiled in a nightmare world that was left open by (young) Doctor Strange’s recklessness. At first chaotic, the visions begin to form a more coherent picture of what is going on in Peter’s mind. Despite having returned to the spider duds and slowly to his “normal” life, Parker is still wracked with guilt in the wake of Gwen Stacy’s death. He is convinced that he is a bad luck charm, that his presence in the lives of the people he loves guarantees them a horrible death.

It is a strong script, but the bulk of making it work falls to Bagley’s art. It is a challenge which Bagley meets head on. The evolving, morphing nature of the nightmare-verse is well realized by his pencils, selling it as a world that is both mundane enough to be believed by its captives, while still being horrifying. The colorist, Smith, also deserves praise, as the introduction of an empty, pastel palette signals Strange’s presence in the nightmare world as it adjusts itself to another intruder.

However, far and away the best sequence, art and story wise, belongs to a simple scene, in the real world, of Mary Jane waiting outside Peter’s hatchway for their “fancy” date. It is quiet and totally unflashy, but I defy anyone to not have your heart broken by it.

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