Spider-Man’s not a mutant, but he has hung out with them enough times over the years to warrant another SuperiorSpiderTalk.com list! This countdown will take a look at some of the very best stories involving Spidey and a mutant — including team-ups, battles and everything in-between!
For entry No. 8 we look at Ultimate Spider-Man #66-67 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley:
In the early 2000s, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley were in the midst of one of the great creative runs in Spider-Man history with their work on Ultimate Spider-Man — reimagining the origins of Spidey and his friends, family and rogues with fresh eyes and a wonderful sense of style.
And then came Ultimate Spider-Man #66-67.
This two-parter lacks the elegance and wit of the previous 65-plus installments of this series. An illustrated version of Bendis admits as much in the one-page intro to this arc when the snarky writer apologizes to the reader for what he’s about to subject them to (while an illustrated Bagley sits at his drafting table looking absolutely dismayed).
The best analogy I can come up with pertaining to Ultimate #66-67 is that the arc is one big Bendis-spun fart joke. But just because it’s low brow and plays to the cheap seats, doesn’t mean it’s not absolutely hilarious.
There are some far better crafted Spider-Man/Wolverine stories out there, but Ultimate #66-67 is one my brain kept returning to as I was mapping out the entries for this list. It’s one of those stories that, for all of its flaws and silliness absolutely made an impact on me. In fact, whenever I recall the summer I binged on all 160 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate #66-67 is one of the few arcs I always remember the finer points of — maybe because as a story it lacks many of the finer points of other Bendis/Bagley stories.
Its premise is wholly unoriginal: Peter and Wolverine switch bodies a la Freaky Friday, Vice Versa or about 900 other films with a similar plot (Peter even makes light of the clichéd nature of his situation in this comic). Peter is absolutely mortified waking up in the body of a hairy (and apparently smelly) ageless mutant with adamantium claws and a hard-to-believe healing factor that allows him to slice and dice his own appendages with little peril. While Wolverine/Logan acts curmudgeonly about being a teenager, going to school and having to listen to this older woman (Aunt May). Of course Wolverine doesn’t have a problem with Peter’s kittenish red-headed girlfriend Mary Jane (a subplot that gets a rather cheap punchline at the end of the arc).
Despite Bendis and Bagley’s better efforts to paint this storyline as a dramatic exercise for both characters, any real tension attaches itself to Peter. As Wolverine, Peter is a stranger in a strange land, having a hard time coping with his unique powerset while also struggling to meet his moral obligations as Spider-Man while operating as another hero. Additionally, while Peter manages to get into some minor mischief while trapped in Logan’s body, there is something unquestionably terrifying about the idea of dirty old Wolverine occupying the life and body of a teenaged Peter (an idea that would be explored further in a much later arc involving the Chameleon twins).
Watching Logan be Peter is the fruit-filling to this comic’s Hostess pie. Beyond the majority of these sequences just being funny, they also go a long way in demonstrating how Peter is defined by many of the supporting characters in his life. May dismisses Peter as a crank when he grunts and barks at her in the morning, while his teachers and classmates see him as an asocial jerk who refuses to follow the rules. Being the only supporting character at this point to know Peter’s secret identity as Spider-Man, Mary Jane appears to be a bit more in tune with the fact that something’s amiss with her boyfriend, but even she can’t exactly put her finger on it and ends up getting into a lover’s quarrel with Logan-Peter (Loter?)
BMB’s demonstrative apologizing for this arc only adds to its legacy. Even the titles to these two comics are self-deprecating: “Even We Don’t Believe This” and “Jump the Shark.” There is absolutely a sense of the writer doth protesting too much with every wink and nod from Bendis but that’s the point. After spending years telling a dramatic yet soulfully authentic tale about a young Spider-Man — making a rather tragic and sad character even more tragic and sad in some respects — Bendis is letting his audience know that he’s hitting the pause button for a couple of issues to do something off-beat.
Could this joke have been equally effective in one issue instead of two? Sure. Could the actual reveal of Jean Grey being the perpetrator of the mind swap for … reasons … be handled better? Absolutely. But even when purposefully trying to be insipid, these two issues just prove that at one point in time, everything that Bendis wrote under the Ultimate imprint was money.