The Email Exchange: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man & The New Reader


The Email Exchange is exactly what it says: two writers correspond by email until enough of their rambling can be made into one coherent read. In our first edition, my brother from another (and Hip-Hop Manifesto podcast partner), Matthew “Chivalry” Spencer and I discuss the new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man series. Which segues into a intense discussion about new comic fans vs. old comic fans. Points were made, points were argued, but I think it came out well.

Conley: I read those issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man you graciously gave me when you visited in April. Read them from cover to letters page and I have to tell you man…I’m not really impressed. I’m used to reading Brian Michael Bendis’ super-slow “for the trade” style and none of it really grabbed me. Miles seems like a cool character but I don’t really buy it. He gets drafted into this special school where he’s supposed to be at during the week but he sneaks out with no problem? The invisibility helps but where are the security cameras? Why is the third roommate such a douche? I also hate how a bunch of shit happened in Ultimate Fallout and is merely referenced in the main book. While I understand the need to sell the separate mini-series following Peter’s death, I hate how his first outing as Spider-Man is barely shown in his actual book. And his uncle is the Prowler and already knows who he is? While I know this storyline is still being told (I haven’t read any issues since the ones you gave me), I think it really sucks that his murderous criminal uncle is already on his ass.

I read the original Ultimate Spider-Man issues online at when they first came out. While I enjoyed them, it wasn’t until I read the few issues approaching #50 that made me a fan. Maybe I’ll change my tune about these new UCSM issues but right now, the magic’s not happening for me.

Still appreciate the awesome gift though.

Spencer: As you know, I have no background in comics or graphic novels. I’ve been introduced to some fantastic books over the past few years and I have found that I have the propensity to be sucked into a good comic. However, there are have been some friends who have lent or recommended classic works that I failed to be find even the least bit interesting. I’ve since come to the conclusion that while I can fully appreciate this media, I just don’t fully geek out over it like I do with many other of my interests and hobbies. So, it’s a bit intimidating when I pick up the latest spin-off or universe or arc of some long running characters and there lies so much backstory, nuggets from the past, references, allusions, and flashbacks that I have no idea what is going on and seriously miss out on a bit of the story. This has even happened with the very first issues of books like X-Men, Wolverine, Batman, Daredevil, Iron Man etc. I know that the comic book industry is always trying to bring in new readers but they are forever trying to appease their most loyal fans as well. It’s a fine balance and I don’t envy that responsibility.

When Ultimate Comics Spider-Man came along, I was leary. It sounded contrived and kitschy. But in a literary and artistic universe of exaggerations, caricatures, and imagination…what isn’t? But I like Spider-Man. And I LOVE Brian Michael Bendis. So much so that I named one of the tables at my wedding after him (Honestly! Alongside other literary favorites like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Hesse, in fact.) So I gave it a try. I don’t know much about Spider-Man. I saw the first two movies. I know the basics, but that’s it. But the first issues of UCSM didn’t have any prerequisites. Pick it up and enjoy it. It also didn’t hold many punches. After reading other Bendis favorites like Powers, I expected a slower evolving story. Spider-Man moves at such a quick pace that I could forget my ritalin meds for two months and still keep track of the story. But yet, despite all of this, I still found that the characters were developed enough that I liked them. Maybe I read into them a bit, who knows. But I was worried about Miles and read on in a mad fervor.

I didn’t read about the death of Spider-Man. I didn’t even know why there was a new Spider-Man series with a different Peter so to speak. It also mentioned just enough of Ultimate Fallout that I felt I was just as informed as the average New Yorker from that universe. Yeah, there are super heroes doing their thing but I got a life to live. Oh shit, Spider-Man died…caught me blindsided.

I like the book. It has it’s weaknesses, yes. I feel like I’m reading something intended for a younger audience but yet I still feel it has plenty of adult qualities. Hell, even Harry Potter was recognized for being a great book and was read by an unbelievable amount of adults so what do I have to feel guilty about? I enjoy it for what it is.


  1. Ooh! Fun topic!

    1: UCSM seems short because it’s like 12 pages.

    2: I’m actually not digging UCSM as much anymore, but really, I read it for the teen interactions and Kitty Pride. Once she left my interest started waning. And even though I like Miles, he’s not jumping to the top of my To-Read pile. I don’t think he has a compelling enough story right now.

    3: I think this might be where New Readers have an advantage over Older Readers. I’m in this weird middle ground. I’m not a super seasoned veteran or anything, but I’ve read enough origin stories that I’m looking for something with a little more personality and UCSM. But, say, I know jack shit about most of the X-Men (the peripheral, not-Cyclops, ones). So, even though there’s (apparently) a lot of re-treading going on in books, I don’t care. I’m seeing a story that’s new to me and completely awesome.

    4: Comics is hard. The majority of comics shops make it harder, too. I mean, I love Gary’s, but, like most stores, it’s mostly superhero books. But that’s not the only genre. Like any form of media, there’s a huge variety that’ll accommodate most people’s taste. It’s looking past the huge sea of spandex books to get to them that becomes an issue. Yeah, randomly buying more diverse books is pretty risky, but I’d say the same goes for indie movies. I don’t know of many good review sites for the more “obscure” stuff, which feeds into this terrible cycle.

    5: I only just got over my OCD tendencies of buying arcs and complete series. I started buying random single issues. It’s going to completely fuck up my organizational system, but I think it’ll be worth it.

    6: Seriously, if you guys still want to do a Comics Dump, let me know. Media mail, baby!

    • 1. I guess it’s also good for the short attention-ed reader.

      2. I really loved Kitty in the book as well, but Bendis went right back to the Peter has to be with MJ well. And like I said in the article, UCSM just isn’t for me. I feel bad because I can’t share in Matt’s love for it.

      3-5 There’s no arguing any of your points here, lol.

      6. And I’m due for a comic dump. And I need to return your books!

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