BREAKDOWN | Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve, by Brian Bendis

PS4’s Spider-Man has been played, reviewed and completed. So now it’s time to look at some comic-books you may want to check out if you loved swinging around New York City and dug the story behind Marvel’s newest game.

This week we’re looking at volume two of Ultimate Spider-Man, in which Spider-Man fights the Kingpin.

Learning Curve2

Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Brian Bendis
Art by: Mark Bagley
Year: 2001
Pages: 133

SPOTLIGHT CHARACTER:

Kingpin.pngTHE KINGPIN

Real Name: Wilson Grant Fisk
Affiliation: N/A
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #50 (July 1967)

Starting out in life as a poor, obese child, Wilson Fisk was always destined for a life of crime. Teaching himself to fight and building muscle mass on top of his already sizeable physique to fight back against his bullies, Fisk soon found himself in a job as a bodyguard. From there, he was employed by the crime-lord Don Rigoletto, and used his cunning and incredible strength to rise through the ranks. Through his criminal enterprises, Fisk developed a sizeable wealth, which he put into legitimate businesses, allowing him to have a public persona alongside his secret dealings as the up-and-coming Kingpin of Crime. With his wife Vanessa Mariana at his side, Kingpin slowly took over all of New York, dominating the underworld and the public sector alike. His crimes would bring him into conflict with superheroes such as Spider-Man and Daredevil, but due to his many connections, any charges levelled against him rarely stick.

WHAT’s THE STORY?

In PS4s Spider-Man, the story begins with a twenty-three year old Peter Parker assisting the police in bringing down his arch-enemy. However, surprisingly, unlike the comic-books and films, Spider-Man’s ‘big bad’ is not the Green Goblin, Venom or Doctor Octopus (who don’t yet exist in this universe), but Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime.

While Spider-Man has battled the Kingpin many times over the years, and indeed, the character originated in Spider-Man’s comic-books, generally the Kingpin is now thought of as a Daredevil villain.

Spider-ManPS4 Kingpin 1

But in the PlayStation story, we’re instead given hints to the various conflicts Spider-Man and the Kingpin have had over the past eight years, and while Daredevil is hinted at in the game, the Kingpin of this reality is very much a Spider-Man villain first and foremost.

So when thinking of comic-books that may mirror that scenario, my mind found itself drawn back, once again, to Marvel’s ‘Ultimate Comics’, as after Spider-Man’s origin and battle with the Green Goblin, as seen in Ultimate Spider-Man: Power & Responsibility, the next volume moves on to tackle the likes of Kingpin, Electro and the Shocker. As, in Ultimate Spider-Man volume two, Peter Parker is still in the early days of his superhero career, it wouldn’t surprise me if this comic served as inspiration to the writers of the game when creating a background for the various characters.

WHAT’s THE PLOT?

Learning Curve1Fresh from his battle with the Green Goblin, Spider-Man is trying to return to his normal life as Peter Parker. Still strapped for crash and struggling with the various social pitfalls of High School life, Peter finds himself taking on more responsibility as he takes on a part-time job at the Daily Bugle newspaper.

However, when this world of fast-paced journalism reveals a powerful figure behind the killer of his Uncle Ben, and organised crime in general, Peter realises it’s up to Spider-Man to bring down this nefarious ‘Kingpin’ of crime.

Out of his depth and against an untouchable enemy, Spider-Man is going to have to think smart to topple the Kingpin’s criminal empire.

IS IT ACCESSIBLE?

It’s volume two in the series, so if you’ve already read Power & Responsibility, then you’ll have the complete picture.

But surely, by now, you know Spider-Man’s deal. Bitten by a radioactive spider, uses his powers to become a wrestler, neglects his responsibility to stop a criminal, and is later haunted by the death of his uncle – gunned down by the very same crook he refused to apprehend.

Knowing that, you’re pretty much all set for this volume. And really, if you’re wanting to read a true Spider-Man tale, it wouldn’t hurt to start here as it means you skip five or so issues of Peter slowly trudging towards actually becoming Spider-Man, as seen in volume one.

WHAT’s THE VERDICT?

As with volume one, reading this comic reminds me why Brian Bendis is so popular (something you might not understand if you’d only read his contemporary writings). He just gets these characters so well; capturing the youth of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane, their voices, their trials and their mannerisms; the grief stewing inside Aunt May; the anger of Wilson Fisk. It’s all golden.

Plus, further seeing the naivety and development of a young Spider-Man makes for an immensely enjoyable story. It has that ‘classic’ feel about it, seeing Spider-Man interact with some of his major foes for the first time in simple stories, but with a modern twist that means it’s not just ‘Spider-Man faces ____ for the first time, and must contend with his madcap scheme!’ Wilson Fisk and Electro have a purpose beyond just being your typical sixties supervillains, and so it makes their fights with Spider-Man seem more real and thus, acceptable.

learning-curve3.jpg

In fact, reading this, the further into the book I got, the more I began to think how this story-line would have made for a great movie adaptation. While I loved Spider-Man: Homecoming, imagine how effective it would have been to see him truly work his way from the ground up by facing foes who, effectively have no superpowers, and yet, through their experience are more than a match for him. Replace Electro from the comic-book with Shocker from the movie, and you have more or less the same cast. Furthermore, it would have helped Spider-Man have his own world outside of it just being yet another story where the hero deals with the fallout from Avengers (2012).

Of course, it couldn’t have happened without a lot of forethought on Marvel and Sony’s part, because the Kingpin present in the Marvel Universe does not suit Spider-Man stories at all, but still it would have been cool.

Overall, this is a strong follow-up to Power & Responsibility, and the perfect comic for entry-level Spider-Man fans. 10/10, would recommend.

RATING:

RATING1

Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve is available on Amazon.co.uk

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2 responses to “BREAKDOWN | Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve, by Brian Bendis

  1. Pingback: BREAKDOWN | Ultimate Spider-Man: Learning Curve, by Brian Bendis | New to Comics·

  2. Pingback: Superhero Vault | New to Comics·

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