It’s not unusual for comic publishers to relaunch classic characters for new readers. What is unusual is for them to be any good. Ultimate Spider-Man is a delightful exception. An ambitious attempt to reintroduce the superhero to today’s kids (the comic boasts wide, mass-market distribution), this of-the-moment update (e.g., lots of ”dissing” and ”whatever”s) doesn’t mess with the essentials of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original. Peter Parker is still a scrawny bookworm who gets bitten by a radioactive arachnid and learns that with great power comes great responsibility. But amazingly, Brian Michael Bendis and Co. have improved the wall-crawler mythos by mining richness out of the Lee/Ditko margins; Parker’s ill-fated Uncle Ben, for example, is touchingly fleshed out here. Some quibbles about jokey supporting characters aside, Bendis’ dialogue and detail are top-notch. Known more for his noirish graphic novels (Torso, Goldfish), he’s spinning one of the most emotionally resonant depictions of teendom in comics since Spider-Man’s debut 38 years ago. A-

Ultimate Spider-man

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