Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Making His Mark

My pal Mark Bagley is rapidly approaching the end of his run on Ultimate Spider-Man; his last full issue is #110, although he'll be doing part of #111 before passing the book on to Stuart Immonen, who has one enormous set of shoes to fill.

One hundred and ten issues illustrated by the same penciller in collaboration with the same writer, Brian Bendis. That's an amazing accomplishment: more consecutive issues than Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, Gil Kane's Green Lantern, Carmine Infantino's Flash, Steve Ditko's Spider-Man... heck, more than any other artist in collaboration with a single writer.

The most amazing thing about the run, though, is how consistent and well-crafted it is. Brian and Mark haven't told scores of different stories; they're told one massive story, divided into accessible chapters linked by major plotlines, but the subplots have comprised one fluid, long-running saga.

When Lee & Kirby completed their 102-issue run on Fantastic Four, the only way a reader could enjoy the entire run was to buy some very expensive back issues; today, the comic book market's transition to trade paperbacks makes it easy for a reader to assemble the entire run in trade paperback or hardcover. That's a good thing; this is an unmatched run not only in duration but in consistency of vision and quality. If you haven't tried it, you should; this is without a doubt the finest Spider-Man series ever published--and I really think I'd feel that way even if I didn't know Mark.

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