Ultimate Spider-Man #1 Review: A Fully Realized and Fresh Take

Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man #1 is the perfect jumping on point.

Picking up the threads planted in Ultimate Invasion and the Ultimate Universe one-shot, the new Ultimate Spider-Man is about as fresh of a jumping on point as you can get with not only mainstream comics but especially Spider-Man. Readers need to know just a few things from the pages of those two preceding storylines, but Hickman makes clear what you need to know if you didn't read them, and does it in a story-centric manner. The basic premise is that Peter Parker never became Spider-Man as a teen, and now that he's a 40-year-old man who is married (to Mary Jane!) with kids he has the wall-crawling life put upon him. It's the version of Spider-Man that reflects a lot of the readership in a way that they'll no doubt find amusing.

The great thing about this version of Ultimate Spider-Man is that it's not your run of the mill alternate universe. When it decides to flip the script it's not just for the sake of doing anything new, this isn't a "Red lights actually mean go" or "This Character Is Actually Evil!" kind of universe, but one that builds on the foundation of readers' familiarity in a satisfying way. Ultimate Spider-Man isn't just asking "What If...?" style questions of its world and characters, it's using the answer to each of these as a propelling force in maintaining its the focus on the larger narrative. Which isn't to say that the surprises planted by an alternate universe's version of certain characters won't be surprising, but the deliberate choices made with the specific ones shown in Ultimate Spider-Man #1 are the kind that paint a big picture in the reader's mind and offer major windows into what might be in front of us.

Series artist Marco Checchetto, aided by colorist Matthew Wilson, has been a force of nature with street level Marvel superheroes, doing tremendous work previously on Punisher (with writer Greg Rucka) and then Daredevil (with writer Chip Zdarsky). Now he's graduated to the biggest one of all, and he's putting his talents on display in a major way. What really separates Checchetto's work from many other pencilers is that he puts as much detail and design into each new panel as he did the last. Even a page featuring one person speaking is as full and intricate as a large crowd scene with a hundred people. 

Marco Checchetto also has an amazing quality that Hickman exploits expertly here, he makes everything visually interesting. A lot of Ultimate Spider-Man #1 is exposition, perhaps to be expected considering the scribe, but at no point is it not engaging for the reader nor is it ever boring. Checchetto also finds way to put his own stamp on things. This is a new universe after all, and though we're still dancing around the familiarity of Spider-Man archetypes there's just enough of a fresh coat of paint that this doesn't feel like a gimmick. This is a fully realized world.

I think two things are true about modern Marvel Comics more than almost anything else: 1. When the company allows Jonathan Hickman to carry out his plans unabated, more often than not he's going to deliver something that will stand the test of time and 2. Marvel Comics as a publishing entity are in their best possible position when Spider-Man comics are most accessible to readers. All due respect to the many writers that have put their stamp on the character over the past two decades, but when the Webslinger is easy for anyone to pick up and read—to enjoy without the frills of anything else in the line—Marvel thrives creatively. Jonathan Hickman and Marco Checchetto have given Marvel the chance to let both of these things be true at the same time in Ultimate Spider-Man #1; so please Marvel, for the sake of your readers and your characters, let them cook.

Published by Marvel Comics

On January 10, 2024

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Marco Checchetto

Colors by Matthew Wilson

Letters by Cory Petit

Cover by Marco Checchetto and Matthew Wilson