This article contains spoilers for Ultimate Spider-Man #1.
We all know the story of Peter Parker, right? After the death/disappearance of his parents, Peter was raised by his kindly Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who gave him a happy life, despite the constant bullying he endured at school. After a bite from a radioactive spider gave him superpowers, Peter made one selfish choice that cost the life of his Uncle. As a result, Peter has spent the rest of his life as Spider-Man, living up to Uncle Ben’s teaching that with great power comes great responsibility.
At least, that’s how it is in most universes, including the original Ultimate Universe from the comics. But with a revamped Ultimate Universe returning to Marvel Comics, courtesy of writer Jonathan Hickman, Peter has undergone a significant change.
In Ultimate Spider-Man #1, colored by Matthew Wilson and lettered by Cory Petit, Hickman and artist Marco Checchetto introduce readers to a very different Peter Parker. Checchetto takes his time walking readers through the morning routine of a bearded Peter Parker, now an adult in his mid-30s. In his kitchen, Peter is greeted by his two children, Richard and May, and his wife MJ. After breakfast, Peter goes to his job as a full-time writer for the Daily Bugle, under co-editors J. Jonah Jameson and Ben Parker.
These are just a few changes Hickman has designed for the new Ultimate Universe, dubbed Earth-6160. A creation of the evil Maker, Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four of the original Ultimate Universe Earth-1610, Earth-6160 is in a parallel universe that features a very different status quo, including a teenage Tony Stark walking in the steps of the original Iron Man, the late Howard Stark, and Reed Richards, the sole survivor of the space trip that gave other versions their powers, as Doctor Doom.
However, the most significant change involves the Maker’s attempts to prevent heroes from manifesting in this Earth without his control. As shown at the end of Ultimate Invasion #4, Maker prevented the radioactive spider from biting Peter, which kept Spider-Man from potentially standing against him. However, when Tony and Reed/Doom discover what the Maker has done, they make it their mission to bring back superheroes like Spider-Man.
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 opens the morning after Tony came to Peter and offered him the chance to have the life that was taken from him. By the issue’s close, Peter has accepted the offer and become Spider-Man.
While Peter’s decision doesn’t come as a surprise, the way he goes about it is. Ever since Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby created Spider-Man for Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, he has been defined by tragedy. It took the death of Uncle Ben for Peter to embark on an often solitary life as Spider-Man.
But although Ultimate Spider-Man #1 takes place after the death of Aunt May, as part of the Maker’s attack on New York City depicted in 2023’s Ultimate Universe #1, Peter comes to his decision through the support of others. Peter talks with both of his mentors, Uncle Ben and J. Jonah Jameson, about his hopes and fears. More importantly, he and MJ talk it over, with Mary Jane giving a pitch-perfect response: “Go get ’em, Tiger.”
The final pages, in which Peter stands on a rooftop, alone but bolstered by his loved ones, lead to his decision to take on the Spider-Man mantle. While the circumstances leading him to this point may be very different from those of any other version of his origin story, Hickman and Checchetto use those pages to remind us that this is still the same Peter, a regular guy who always makes the right decision.
That dedication to doing good is the core of Peter Parker, Ultimate Spider-Man #1 reminds us, and it remains consistent in every universe, no matter what else changes around him.
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 is out now. Issue #2 hits stores on Feb. 21.
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