The third hardcover volume of Brian Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man continues to recapitulate the pre-existing Spider-Man universe by bringing fan-favorite villain Venom into the Ultimate world. I’d never been much of a Venom fan, myself, so I was a bit skeptical at this. Still, I was curious to see how they’d do it — in the original comics, Venom resulted from a whole lot of backstory (including the notorious — but cool, dammit — Secret Wars) that couldn’t possibly exist in the Ultimate storyline.

As in previous volumes, Bendis has done a bang-up job of updating and modernizing the Spider-Man world. There are a few implausible elements, but taken as a whole, the introduction of Venom was handled quite well. Just as importantly, though, there’s starting to be a feeling of deep interlinking to this Ultimate universe — characters from The Ultimates (the updated Avengers) appear here, and storylines from that title are referenced. Also referenced are characters and events from older issues of Ultimate Spider-Man itself.

This feeling of being in an interconnected web of continuity is precisely what the Ultimate line was created to alleviate, but I’m personally quite tickled that it’s popped back up, as it’s always been one of my favorite things about comic books. Increasingly, the Ultimate line is becoming not the outreach comic that Marvel wanted it to be, but a kludge-free reboot of the Marvel Universe for long-time fans.

Strange side note: The back of the book features story-related correspondence between Bendis and much-reviled Marvel executive Bill Jemas. It’s deeply unflattering to Jemas, making him look like a self-important twit who sticks his incompetent fingers into the creative process (but, in this case, seems to have been thankfully overriden by Bendis in almost all respects). Either he’s too clueless to see how bad he comes out in these little excerpts, or he’s self-deprecating enough to let himself look bad so that Bendis can look better. Either way, very odd.


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