I should seriously consider just changing the name of this blog to Jon's Once a Week Thoughts on the Ultimate Spider-man Trade Collections. But I'm not totally into the whole, overly descriptive thing. If you've read any of my posts, you'll most likely agree. Anyway, I do have some Corto Maltese comics at home but reading in French takes a lot more effort than I'm able to give these days (new job, started yesterday) and I've been slowly enjoying the first Essential Avengers collection – more marvelous marvel machinations soon! Ugh, too much Stan Lee in my brain.
So, on with The Decompression Project. You know, I have to say that for the most part I've been enjoying my time spent with Ultimate Spider-man. I think this is a great interpretation on both Spider-man and Peter Parker. It works well with him as a high-school student although it would be nice to have him a bit more science geeky and just once I'd like him to remain confident and non-emo for one entire story arc. Okay that's probably not ever going to happen, since that is the core of the character. Bad things happen, he feels bad and perseveres simply because it is the right thing to do no matter how much he tries to dress it up with recurring inspirational quotes. He almost can't help himself and that point is brought home in this story where we have the Ultimate version of Spider-man No More for about a half issue or so.
I do find this a weird series though because while on the one hand it is very slow on the other hand it is guilty of skimming the surface of the conflict. Yes, I like the character moments but there needs to be further examination into the conflict as well as the personal. The formula appears to be spend a lot of time with Peter and MJ (as well as the rest of Peter's personal life cast) then the same amount of pages only with big splash fight panels for the villain of the week. I have no problems whatsoever with the villain of the week approach, in fact I quite like it. No, I just find that each issue feels like wasted opportunity to really delve into the differences, themes and metaphors presented by each conflict as Spider-man.
This book is obviously about Carnage. Now, I'm lucky in that I managed to never read a Carnage comic. I mean, Venom I can handle but giving the suit to a maniac, okay more maniacal maniac, was just a bit too much. It always felt like, hey kids, Carnage, the new Spidey villain is like Venom only more extreme, to the max! And in that regard I do like what they did with the Ultimate Carnage. Simply removing any humanity from the character helps make it actually somewhat terrifying and moves it into Dr. Frankenstein territory for Dr. Connors. That is not such a terrible move.
Having Curt Connors as a sympathetic character was a decent break from the Ultimate villains as actual scary threats. It allows Spider-man to not only have a scary brainless thug to beat on, in the doctor's monstrous creation, but a victim of circumstance for Peter to interact with. It's never a bad thing to add a bit of humanity to your villains when you are exploring potential for conflict. The good doctor is trying his hardest but is fated to fail because he cannot see beyond himself and his own beliefs in what he is doing, in his own reasons for acting.
And then we have the death of Gwen, which cheapens the whole thing for me. Okay, I don't need total rehash of the original story, but why the heck was Carnage the villain to do the deed? I guess it should work because it is a creation of Peter in a certain sense. That Peter's life has a direct effect on those around him is probably what the driving idea was but it just felt like the book was required to set Carnage up as a major threat and since everyone knew Gwen was fated to die anyway….. So it goes.
It's too bad because I think it should have all been handled a bit better, and could have been within the story. There were some great aspects that simply weren't connected as well as they should have been – Peter giving birth to a perverted image of himself and his father, Dr. Connors in the role of Dr. Frankenstein, and well just evil genetic stuff. There was some very strong stuff to work with but in the end it rang hollow to me. I won't presume to be able to do a better job or anything but while the connections are there under the surface of the story, I may just be seeing things that were never intended and that's where my criticism comes in.