Ultimate Spider-Man is the most beloved Spider-Man series of the 21st century and has a better legacy than the rest of the original Ultimate Universe. Almost a decade after ending the original Ultimate Universe, Marvel is bringing it back and launching it with a new Ultimate Spider-Man. However, there’s a twist: Peter Parker is married. The new Ultimate Spider-Man may be a sign that Marvel is finally listening to fans who have been disappointed since the infamous One More Day arc and who want to see Spider-Man grow and change.

Ultimate Spider-Man began the original Ultimate line in the year 2000 and has gone down as the most beloved Spider-Man series of the 21st century. While it wasn’t always a perfect series, it was never bad and has a better legacy than the rest of the original Ultimate Universe combined. Marvel is bringing the Ultimate Universe back and, of course, launching it with a new Ultimate Spider-Man. Writer Jonathan Hickman has remarked that it’s a “Peter B. Parker situation,” which refers to the older, married family man Parker of the Spider-Verse movies, and released covers celebrate the Parker family in all their glory.

This development flies in the face of the last sixteen years of Marvel orthodoxy, where the publisher have completely ignored fans’ cries to allow Spider-Man to grow and change. Considering how some fans have found the current run of The Amazing Spider-Man underwhelming, it seems like Marvel may have learned its lesson with Spider-Man.

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One More Sin

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Spider-Man is an interesting character in Marvel history. On the one hand, he truly gave Marvel its “heroes with feet of clay” reputation, allowing Marvel to pull ahead of its distinguished competition. Spider-Man grew and changed as the years went on, albeit in an extremely slow time frame, starting as a fifteen-year-old and growing into an adult. However, it’s that growing into an adult that Marvel seems to have a problem with in the 21st century. Spider-Man’s 1980s marriage to Mary Jane was the ultimate expression of the character’s maturity and growth, yet it also wasn’t exactly popular behind the scenes at Marvel. The editors and writers had grown up with a younger Spider-Man. They believed that young, single Peter Parker was the most successful Spider-Man, despite the bestselling Spider-Man comics of all time starring an older, married Spider-Man, like 1990’s Spider-Man #1. That’s where One More Day comes in.

During the 2000s, writer/artist/editor Joe Quesada took over Marvel. As an editor in chief, Quesada was wildly successful for the first several years of his tenure. He started the Ultimate Universe, got writers like Grant Morrison and J. Michael Straczynski, and made Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar stars. In essence, he righted the ship after the tumults of the 1990s. In 2007, Quesada decided it was time to fix Spider-Man, something that he and writers like Straczynski and Bendis had already done with The Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man. One More Day would end Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane, trading it away to Mephisto so that Spider-Man never would have revealed his secret identity in Civil War. In the process, Spider-Man could also save Aunt May, who was accidentally hit by an assassin’s bullet after revealing his identity.

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One More Day was controversial, to say the least. Most Spider-Man fans had grown up with Spider-Man and Mary Jane. No one thought their marriage was a problem outside of Marvel’s editors and some of the writers. It felt like it came out of nowhere, especially since Straczynski’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man had made Mary Jane such an important part of its stories, and their marriage was pretty much fine. For a character who was all about responsibility, One More Day was basically about Spider-Man deciding not to take responsibility for his actions. The story left a sour taste in fans’ mouths and has gone down as the worst Spider-Man story of all time. The backlash was immediate, and while it has slackened off in the intervening years, that’s mostly because most fans have already done their share of complaining about it.

However, the outrage didn’t equate to lost sales, so Marvel stayed the course. In fact, the Brand New Day publishing initiative that came after it was pretty successful, but that had as much to do with the talent that Marvel assembled and the fact that the book started coming out on a weekly basis. One More Day was still something of a disaster, changing something that fans loved and replaced it with nothing. None of Spider-Man’s girlfriends since have been memorable and none of the stories have really needed a single Spider-Man to work. This was the beginning of Spider-Man’s problems.

The Not-So Amazing Spider-Man

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The Amazing Spider-Man is in trouble, but it’s been going this way for years. Writer Dan Slott’s long run on the book gets a lot of undue hate, but Slott was always trying to give readers something new and interesting, even if he did always go back to the rather depressing status quo. Nick Spencer’s time on the book seemed like it was going to undo One More Day, but instead it just undid Sins Past and several other parts of the OMD retcons, like the return of Harry Osborn. The latest run by Zeb Wells has drawn the most controversy, using a controversial mystery box to kick everything off, marrying Mary Jane to the newly introduced Paul, killing off Ms. Marvel, and most recently have Spider-Man take on Green Goblin’s memories. Some online fans have pointed out Spidey’s similarity to the Batman Who Laughs, calling him the Spider Who Gobbles.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a consistent bestseller, but that’s mainly because Spider-Man is the most popular Marvel character. The Amazing Spider-Man never changes because sales will never hit a low enough level to inspire change. Marvel editorial can just point to the sales number, despite the legions of unhappy fans and the many negative comments online, and keep things going the way they have been for years now. This makes The Amazing Spider-Man a source of agitation for readers. There are many who wish that it would get a patented Marvel House Of X-style reboot. While that doesn’t look like it’s in the cards, the new Ultimate Spider-Man may be exactly what the doctor ordered for Spider-Man fans tired of Marvel not listening to them.

An Ultimate Solution

10 Best Spider-Man Events That Involved All Of New York City, RankedWriter Jonathan Hickman bringing back the Ultimate Universe with Ultimate Invasion has been a big deal, but this isn’t the Ultimate Universe of twenty some-odd years. This is an entirely new universe, so that means that there are new opportunities. The original Ultimate Spider-Man was a comic that focused on a much younger Peter Parker who was just starting out. This was the complete opposite of what was going on in the mainstream comics at the time, and that made sense. The Ultimate Universe was built for new fans who didn’t want to be bogged down by decades of continuity. Looking at what has been announced so far (Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Black Panther,) it feels like the new Ultimate Universe is going that way. The one caveat is Ultimate Spider-Man, which Hickman has said has a Peter B. Parker vibe. This makes more sense to bring in new fans than going back to teenage Peter Parker.

Peter B. Parker is the main Peter Parker of the Spider-Verse movies, which are wildly popular. In fact, it’s hard to say who is more popular, Peter B. or MCU Peter. MCU Peter seems like the wise choice, but the Spider-Verse movies have been a cultural phenomenon in a way that the MCU Spider-Man movies weren’t until Spider-Man: No Way Home. An argument can be made that the movie was only so beloved because it starred multiple versions of Spider-Man. Far From Home, the last MCU Spider-Man movie before No Way Home, wasn’t nearly as loved. MCU domination of the superhero conversation has waned lately, so going with the older, Spider-Verse influenced Peter B. feels like a smarter way to get Spider-Man fans to start buying comics.

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On top of that, using Peter B. Parker would also prove that Marvel has finally listened to fans. The Amazing Spider-Man has long been considered toxic by the biggest writers at Marvel. Upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man writer Jonathan Hickman went on record saying that he didn’t want to deal with the baggage of writing that book, and that he only agreed to write Ultimate once he found the perfect hook for the character. Other writers have expressed similar sentiments over the years as well. The Amazing Spider-Man, and Spider-Man in general, is often looked at like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of book. It’s Marvel’s consistently bestselling solo comic, so it almost certainly pays well, but the fan backlashes and tight editorial control of the book are a big problem for creators. Readers want one thing. Marvel brass wants another, and nary the twain shall meet, unless it’s to go to war.

Recent announcements have shown that Marvel is going much further down the road of a mature Spider-Man than most fans ever imagined. Released cover images show Peter and Mary Jane, as well as two older children. This is more than anyone could’ve hoped for. A more mature Spider-Man, one with a family, is a big change from what readers have gotten in the last sixteen years. It’s also a change that many have wanted. For Marvel to backtrack on Spider-Man, even an alternate universe one, is a big win. Spider-Man comics have a bad history in recent years, and this is something that could change that.

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At this point, Marvel seems dead set on keeping The Amazing Spider-Man in one place for as long as possible, especially judging from comments made by editor-in-chief CB Cebulski and Spider-Man group editor Nick Lowe. The flame wars will never end, but the new Ultimate Spider-Man hints that maybe Marvel will start to take note about what Spidey’s fans are saying. Spider-Man fans have never learned to vote with their wallet, making it easier for Marvel to stay the course they’ve set since One More Day, but Ultimate Spider-Man represents a big step forward.

Giving fans who want an older Spider-Man their own book, one with an A-list team like Jonathan Hickman and Marco Checchetto, is huge. Marvel giving readers a Spider-Man they actually want to read about seems to be an olive branch. It’s not exactly the victory one side wants, but maybe if it’s successful enough — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be — Marvel may finally give readers what they truly want in the 616 universe as well.

 The fact Spider-Man is married in Marvel’s New Ultimate Spider-Man comics may be a sign they’re ready to give Spider-Man fans what they really want.  Read More