The 616 Marvel Universe, where all the main Marvel stories take place and the Ultimate Universe, where all those Ultimate books take place, have never crossed over. They all lived in their little pockets of Marvel comics, and there was never a reason for the two to meet. That all changed in 2012 when Peter Parker, the Spider-Man from the 616 universe, traveled into the Ultimate Universe and met the Spider-Man of that universe, Miles Morales, in my favorite Marvel cross-over to date: SPIDER-MEN.
The Ultimate universe started back in 2000 with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and blossomed into a whole slew of other series. From 2000-2012, the 616 and Ultimate universes have never crossed over, but in late 2012, writer Brian Michael Bendis, who is a staple writer of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, brought 616 Peter Parker into his world.
The two worlds are very different, and the Ultimate universe went through some pretty huge changes in the past few years, including the death of Peter Parker, and when that happened, the world found out the true identity of Spider-Man. Sometime after, a boy named Miles Morales received some spider-powers and took the mantle of Spider-Man on. Miles remains in contact with Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane, so Miles still has a connection to the original Spider-Man, and that comes into play heavily into this cross-over.
In SPIDER-MEN, Peter Parker is on the trail of Mysterio, and Parker is accidentally transported to the Ultimate Universe, where we find that the 616-Mysterio has been sending Mysterio avatars to cause havoc. Peter quickly finds that this world knows that Peter Parker was Spider-Man, and that Spider-Man died heroically. He quickly meets a very excited Miles Morales and a skeptical Ultimate Nick Fury. Then, in one of my favorite issues of all time, Peter meets the ultimate versions of Aunt May and Gwen Stacy in one incredibly emotional and moving issue. From there, the two, with the help of the Ultimates beat Mysterio and find a way to send Peter Parker back to the 616 Universe.
So, why should you read SPIDER-MEN? For me, it's a cross-over done right. There's no tie-ins. There's only this 5 issue story which is a part of continuity, but it doesn't have huge ramifications on either ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN or AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. It's just a nice, self-contained story. It's also a great gateway book. It's the book that got me into reading ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. While both of the characters, in this book, are Spider-Man, they're very different in personality and in age. Peter and Miles develop a bit of a mentor/mentee relationship, and while it's brief, it's a very cool moment to see these two together.
This series also has one of my favorite issues, or any book, of all time. Issue 4 of SPIDER-MEN is pretty dang emotional as Peter makes his way to Aunt May's and Gwen Stacey's place. The meeting of Peter with the Ultimate versions of May and Gwen is a tough one to read, since they lost their Peter Parker. It's a sad issue, yet uplifting at the same time. It's a bit of a detour from the main story, but it works extremely well, and it's something that needs to be addressed.
The creative team of Brian Bendis (writing), Sara Pichelli (art), and Justin Ponsor (colors) does some dynamite work on this mini-series. If you've been reading the current volume of ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN (UCSM), then you'll be very familiar with this team. Bendis puts together an entertaining and very compelling story here, and 616 Peter Parker is written incredibly well. As for Pichelli and Ponsor, if you've never read UCSM, then you are in for a treat. The art is brilliant on that series and on this mini-series as well. The book has a fantastic look to it and the colors are beautiful. That's just another reason why this cross-over works so well. It has a creative team that puts their all into it, and there's no switch-up on the art or writing.
One of my favorite things about this mini-series that it completely changed how I looked at Ultimate Mysterio. We learn quite a bit about this character and his 616 counter-part in this mini-series and it will have you questioning what is and isn't real about this character. Is Ultimate Mysterio the biggest illusion Mysterio has ever played? Are the two connected? It's an idea that really isn't explored within the story and leaves it all up to the reader, and something I became a bit obsessed about while reading this issue-to-issue.
And while this fantastic book comes to a close, and everything seemingly wraps up, there's a little moment at the end that makes you want a sequel or any type of continuation to this book. Luckily, we will be seeing a sequel to this book in the future. If you want to pick up this fantastic book, check out your LCS for the single issues. If you're like me and want to show it off on your shelf, you can by the hardcover, which is super-sized, for $24.99 or the trade paperback $19.99. For me, this is a must have Spider-Man series for my collection. And that's why you should read, SPIDER-MEN!
Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring is a writer, comedian, and host of a really rad/funny/brilliant/stupid podcast called "Mat & Lewis Vs The Internet!" Follow him on the Twitter to check out all his tweets, which are currently being dropped like they are hawt.