Comics Month apparently continues with a Bendis-fest: Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, vol. 4 and Alias, vol. 1 .

Ultimate Spider-Man continues in its superheroey goodness (I’ve reviewed the previous volumes already), but the series is starting to change somewhat in character: In the first volumes, Bendis was very consciously reinventing the Spider-Man mythology, but at this point, he’s done with that project. The mythos is reinvented, and now he’s just telling stories set in it, without worrying too terribly much about retelling old storylines in new ways. So we have a bit of an X-Men crossover, some Kingpin stuff, and the beginnings of a Black Cat plot, but they feel like organic developments flowing out of the situation, not Classic Spider-Man stories retold for a new audience.

And speaking of Classic Marvel, Alias (which is not connected to the TV show, despite a similar logo) is an interesting take on that familiar old Marvel Universe. The protagonist is a private investigator with a superhero background, which is the same set—up as Bendis’s unimpressive Powers books, but here it works. Why? Well, the foreword burbles on about how amazing it is that Bendis is writing an adult book that says “fuck”, but goes on to say that, okay, it’s not amazing in general, it’s amazing because it’s Marvel.

And so it is. Reading a book about the seamy underbelly of random superheroes isn’t very interesting any more, but reading about the not-all-that-seamy underbelly of Marvel superheroes is. Plus, the dialogue is just great here, with lots of genuinely funny moments that nicely offset a tone that could otherwise be too grim. As with Busiek’s Marvels, I suspect that this would lose much of its appeal for those who aren’t familiar with the Marvel Universe, but for those who are, it’s very much worth reading.


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