In what is certainly one of the most eagerly awaited new comics of 2024, Marvel has just launched a new Ultimate Spider-Man series. The new Ultimate Spider-Man isn’t a continuation of the old, but rather a brand new attempt at reinventing Peter Parker and his supporting cast for a contemporary audience. The days of Spidey as a teenager struggling to balance school and his superhero career are long gone.
Judging from the first issue, the new Ultimate Spider-Man is a serious departure from the traditional Spidey format. Just what has changed, and why is Marvel focusing on a married, middle-aged Peter Parker this time? Read on to learn more, but beware of spoilers for Ultimate Spider-Man #1 ahead!
Marvel New Ultimate Universe: Cover Art Gallery
A Married Peter Parker
The most immediate and obvious change in the new Ultimate Spider-Man is also one we’ve known was coming. Whereas the original Ultimate Spider-Man comic followed the example of the classic Amazing Spider-Man comics and focused on a teenaged Peter Parker, the new volume veers in a completely different direction.
This version of Peter is a happily married, middle-aged father of two with a receding hairline. His wife is none other than Mary Jane, and his two children are named Ricard and May. And despite his older age, this Peter has yet to become Spider-Man.
There’s a good reason for that. Marvel’s new Ultimate line is built on the foundation of 2023’s Ultimate Invasion. In that series, The Maker (an evil version of Reed Richards from the classic Ultimate Universe) traveled to Earth-1610 and set about systematically preventing the emergence of the world’s heroes. He prevented Peter from being bitten by the radioactive spider as a teen. The Maker’s goal was to create a global society he could control, and for a time, it worked. But with The Maker out of commission now, Earth’s heroes have a second chance at the lives stolen from them.
Uncle Ben Lives
In a twist arguably even more significant than Peter being a married father of two, it turns out this new series is set in a world where Uncle Ben is still alive. Because Peter never became Spidey as a teen, the sequence of events that led to Uncle Ben being murdered never played out, either. Peter’s adoptive father is still alive and well decades later.
What’s more, Ben Parker is shown to be a high-ranking editor on the Daily Bugle staff, running the newspaper alongside J. Jonah Jameson. JJJ himself shows a strong fatherly affection for Peter, who has made a career as a journalist rather than simply scraping by selling photos of Spider-Man.
In this universe, Aunt May is the one who died, though her death is a recent tragedy. As seen in December’s Ultimate Universe #1, Manhattan was the site of a devastating explosion when Iron Man (who is attempting to undo the damage caused by The Maker) was attacked by The Maker’s Council. Thousands perished in the blast, which was framed in the media as a terrorist attack caused by Iron Man himself. Aunt May was among those killed, and both Peter and Ben attend a public eulogy led by none other than Catholic priest Matthew Murdock.
Conflict at the Daily Bugle
One thing is as true on Earth-1610 as it is in the real world – it’s hard being an old-school journalist in a world where the truth doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Ben and JJJ are reminded of that fact when they’re pulled into a meeting with the Bugle’s board. Those in charge – including wealthy businessman Wilson Fisk – don’t like how the paper has been relentlessly digging into the full story behind the Manhattan explosion. They want safer, more lucrative stories, prompting both men to quit rather than compromise their journalistic ideals.
Ben and JJJ quickly decide to launch their own journalistic enterprise. Peter, however, opts to stay behind at the Bugle, which is now being run by Robbie Robertson. Peter views his family as his first responsibility, and that means a steady paycheck trumps all else.
This subplot speaks to what appear to be the two most important themes of the series. For one thing, Peter has always wrestled with the relationship between great power and great responsibility in every incarnation of the Spider-Man mythos. But responsibility means something very different to an aging family man and white-collar worker than it does a wide-eyed, superhuman teenager.
For another, the new Ultimate Universe seems to be built squarely around the importance of freedom and truth in an age dominated by lies. Those in power tell one story about the world and why it is the way it is, but the reality is far different. Peter has taken the safe route by remaining at the Bugle, but what happens as he uncovers the truth about the attack on New York? Does he risk his family’s security and safety to expose The Maker’s Council?
The New Green Goblin
Any Spider-Man is only as good as his villains, and the new series wastes no time before introducing the most important Spidey rogue of them all. Green Goblin makes his debut in issue #1, launching a surprise attack on Fisk after the Kingpin leaves the meeting at the Daily Bugle. This version of Green Goblin seems visually inspired by the 2002 Spider-Man movie, as he’s wearing an armored suit rather than a more traditional Goblin costume. However, we have yet to learn which character is underneath the mask.
Issue #1 does introduce the sole surviving member of the Osborn family. Both Norman and Emily Osborn were among those killed in the Manhattan attack, leaving their son Harry to carry on in their place. We also learn that Peter and Harry have no preexisting relationship in this universe. But as to whether Harry is the Green Goblin, the truth is anyone’s guess.
If anything, this issue seems to paint various Daily Bugle characters as more likely culprits. Could the series shake up the franchise again by revealing a character like J. Jonah Jameson or Robbie Robertson as Green Goblin? Is it possible Uncle Ben will be the one that becomes Spidey’s greatest nemesis? Any of these men is given clear reason to hate Fisk, though that doesn’t explain how they’d conjure up an advanced battlesuit and glider.
Spider-Man’s New Origin
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 wraps up by showing us the new origin of Spidey in this universe. Throughout the issue, Peter alludes to something that kept him awake the previous night. Moreover, he’s spent years of his life burdened by the sense that his life is supposed to be different. He then tells MJ, “I need to change.”
In the final pages of this issue, we learn that Peter received a package from Iron Man sent before Tony Stark traveled into the safety of the future. The package contains information about the life Peter was supposed to have led before The Maker intervened, along with the radioactive spider. Peter heads to the roof of his apartment building and sets the spider free, allowing himself to be bitten.
Contrary to so many versions of the traditional Spider-Man origin story, becoming Spidey is a choice this Peter Parker willingly makes. He understands the potential consequences of becoming a superhero and moves forward anyway. Again, he’s a hero who has to weigh his responsibility to the world at large with the need to protect his family. Expect that to be a major point of conflict as this new series unfolds.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.