Its hard to maintain a secret identity these days...or not
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
This issue of Ultimate Spider-Man is one of those rare issues that does not feature the book's title character and/or main protagonist but has a story that is so good that it doesn't matter. Outside of flashbacks Miles Morales appears in a grand total of 2 panels. That's it. And in spite of that, its still a solid issue, with the last chunk of it easily elevating it to the four-star rating I've given it.
The story is essentially the biggest role Ultimate Betty Brant has had thus far, casting her in the tried and true role of intrepid reporter who is trying to figure out the superhero's secret identity. While a plot that is perhaps a bit of a cliche in the world of superhero comics, I suppose in a world that tries to lean more towards realism than mainstream continuity it was only inevitable that something like this might happen to our hero, especially since we had Maria Hill asking the same questions and connecting the same dots a few issues back. So this is probably just a natural progression.
But what about this issue makes this otherwise tried and true story worthy of a four-star rating? Well for starters the art remains fantastic. The colors are vibrant, faces are good, and I don't think I've ever seen Betty Brant look hotter. The way the tried and true story plays out is also good. For one thing, anyone that crazy tenacious and hellbent on finding something in a cleared out apartment warrants some level of respect and admiration. It would have been nice to know more about Betty's connection with the random former Oscorp scientist though.
On the reverse, a line said by Robbie early in the issue, as well as the one real appearance by Miles, are both amusing moments.
But what really gets this issue its 4-star rating is, as already stated, the last bit. While I do find it impossible to believe that Betty would conclude that Miles' father is the one wearing the Spider-Man costume when it is quite obviously someone younger and smaller, J. Jonah Jameson's reaction to Betty's claims is both a complete and total surprise and also honestly, a breath of fresh air. Some may call it mis-characterization, but the Ultimate Marvel U is not the same as 616, so why should all of the characters be 100% identical to their mainstream counterparts? And more to the point, something happened in this universe that will never happen in 616: Peter Parker died, and the world now knows who he is and what his story is. That that influences JJ's reaction here I feel is only natural. And again, its such a breath of fresh air compared to the way he usually is about these sort of things that I can't help but love it. We see here at least one version of JJ who isn't a total jerk consumed by an irrational hatred.
And then there's the very last part of the issue, featuring an appearance from one of my all time favorite Spider-Man characters (even if I don't like his Ultimate version as much). His role is good too, and how it connects to Betty Brant. Just like how the JJ we get here is much, much less of an insensitive jerk than his 616 equivalent, so too is this version of Betty nowhere near as nice as her mainstream counterpart. This is a merciless woman who comes to a fittingly merciless end, and given the aforementioned villain's connection to Peter Parker, its all the more appropriate that he be the one to pull the proverbial trigger.
It may be a much slower issue that is also telling a story we've all seen before, but the quality art and twists at the end ensure that this issue of Ultimate Spider-Man was still a good one, and with the return of an old villain (plus the previews for later issues that show he'll be sticking around) I'm anxiously looking forward to what comes next.