I’m reading Ultimate Spider-Man #43 tonight as winter is creeping up on us. This book is from September 2003, which makes it already 15 years old, and that’s freaking me out a bit. Fifteen years ago would mean I was 25 years old when this book was published, and I can barely remember being that young.

This book was celebrated. It had loyal fans that adored it, but for some reason, the book never stuck with me. I read the Ultimates, I could read Ultimate X-Men, but Ultimate Spidey just seemed redundant. It’s odd because, for the most part, I liked Brian Michael Bendis’ writing and I had a soft spot for Mark Bagley’s art, (mostly because of his story. Bagley broke into comics by completing the Marvel Try-Out book, and impressing an editor enough to get a few gigs.)

Bendis, for the most part, is on his game for this issue. Spidey meets Storm, Jean and Kitty from the X-Men, and there is good banter between them. It’s light and fluffy, but it’s also fun reading. Bagley, on the other hand, is a sloppy mess. some of the art is just flat out bad here. It’s lazy and distracting. Bagley is better than this, usually, at least I think he is. I dunno. There are panels speckled throughout the book that are just jarringly awkward. It’s a shame. I know that he and Bendis put together a record run working together on this title, so I understand why he might have been rushed to get the pages done, but if that was the case then editor Ralph Macchio should have stepped in to have the art sent back and fixed up.

Then again, there is an ad for “Trouble #1” in this issue, so who knows what editorial was thinking in these days. Fuckin’ Bill Jemas.

There is also an ad for a DVD of the Dini-verse Justice League, which seems like a bit of a coup to have a full page spread featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in a Marvel comic. I don’t think we’d see something like that happening nowadays. Especially since we’re talking about great DC video content, because goddamn that Justice League cartoon was good. It’s like how “Batman and Robin” made me so mad because “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” was so good, that Dawn of Justice was terrible because I’d already seen such good Justice League stuff on tv.

Talking about the ads, the other thing that’s batshit crazy is how much Hulk advertising is in this book. Full page ads here for the Hulk cartoon on DVD, Hulk selling padlocks for Master, Hulk selling popsicles, a 7″ Marvel Select Ultimate Hulk action figure, then Hulk Underoos. Thirty-two pages in the whole comic, and five of them are ads with the green monster. It’s bizarre why they wouldn’t use Spider-Man himself for this.

Anyways, I’m up way too late and I still haven’t tracked down any ultimate milk yet, so I bid you adieu.

Scott is a writer and founder at 9to5. He’s a host on The 9to5 Entertainment System and does a lot of the graphic design around these parts.

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