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2024's Ultimate Spider-Man #1: The surprises, the spoilers, and the hopes of the Parker family and a very alive-and-well Uncle Ben

The newest version of Peter Parker is happily married with kids. Can Spider-Man work as a family man?

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 variant cover
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Can Spider-Man truly have a happily ever after?

Ultimate Spider-Man is a new series from Marvel, bringing the Wall-Crawler in an interesting new direction. The new title (set in an alternate reality) presents Peter as a 35-year-old husband and father. Spider-Man’s marital status has long been a heavily debated subject between readers and Marvel, which makes this direction even more interesting. Of course, there is no guarantee that Spider-Man’s wife and kids are here to stay. Let’s dive into Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (written by Jonathan Hickman and penciled byMarco Checchetto) and meet the Parkers.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (2024)!

Ultimate Spider-Man explained

Ultimate Peter Parker learns about his destiny
Image credit: Marvel

If you’re new to Spider-Man comics, or Marvel in general, you might have some questions. What’s the difference between Ultimate Spider-Man and the other ongoing Spider-Man comics? Does this new comic have anything to do with the old Ultimate Spider-Man comics from 2000, or the 2012 cartoon? Let’s clear up any potential confusion.

If you’re familiar with the concept of the multiverse, then this won’t be confusing. Essentially, this Spider-Man is from another reality separate from the current ongoing comics, cartoons, movies, and lunchboxes. This is a new version of Peter Parker, who has appeared anywhere else. In fact, that makes this series the perfect jumping on point for any potential new readers.

Despite being called Ultimate Spider-Man, it doesn’t have any ties to the 2000 comic book series. So why the name? Ultimate Spider-Man is part of a new line of Ultimate Comics being published by Marvel. The new imprint is trying to emulate the spirit of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. If you aren’t familiar with it, the Ultimate Universe was a new continuity that Marvel launched in 2000 to attract new readers. The Ultimate line proved to be a success, modernizing the characters, attracting new fans, and serving as the inspiration for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

(For more on the Ultimate Universe, check out this handy guide right here on Popverse)

The new Ultimate Universe is a result of some time traveling by the Maker, a villainous version of Reed Richards. Seeking to remake reality, the Maker went back in time to prevent the origins of various superheroes. One of those heroes was this version of Peter Parker, who we briefly met in Ultimate Invasion #1. The Maker prevented the radioactive spider from biting a teenage Peter Parker in the past, branching the timeline and making a new reality. This new reality is called Earth-6160, aka the (new) Ultimate Universe.

This should bring you up to speed. Now, let’s check in on Peter Parker and his lovely family….

Meet the Parkers

Ultimate Spider-Man and his kids
Image credit: Marvel

Ultimate Spider-Man #1 introduces us to the Parkers, a modern Marvel family. Peter Parker is a dad, and he’s embracing the look. Peter has a full dad beard, and it kind of suits him. This version of Peter works at the Daily Bugle, but so far it isn’t clear if he’s a photographer, reporter, or another role. Peter is 35 years old, and going through the sort of existential turmoil that hits many men in their mid-30s. That feeling of restlessness and wondering what your place in the world is. He loves his wife and kids, and he has no regrets there, but he wonders if he’s living up to his full potential in other areas of his life.

His lovely wife Mary Jane Watson is just as stunning here as she is in every other world in the Marvel multiverse. We aren’t told what her job is, but we know she started her own business a year ago. She and Peter seem to have a healthy marriage, as evident by a conversation the two have this issue. Mary Jane recognizes Peter’s midlife crisis but knows it doesn’t threaten their marriage. There is zero drama. In fact, it’s almost too good to be true.

The Parkers have a son named Richard, and a daughter named May. Although the comic doesn’t spell it out, it’s safe to assume that Richard was named after Peter Parker’s father, while May was named after his aunt. We don’t get a sense of May’s personality this issue, but we learn a bit about Richard. The boy is a big bookworm, staying up late to read A Tale of Two Cities. He’s proud of his bookworm status, and playfully blames his dad for it.

In this universe Uncle Ben is alive and well. When we catch up with him, he’s working as an editor at the Daily Bugle. He shares a close friendship with Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. During a board meeting, the Bugle experiences some editorial shakeups, causing Jonah and Ben to quit in protest. The two decide to start their own news organization. I wasn’t expecting this, but Jonah and Ben’s friendship is one of the best parts of this issue. I can’t get enough of this iconic duo.

Aunt May is deceased in this universe, having recently been killed during a supervillain attack in Manhattan. The attack claimed many lives in Ultimate Invasion, and this issue reveals that May was one of them.

Now about Peter’s midlife crisis…

The rise of Ultimate Spider-Man

Peter's new Ultimate Spider-Man stealth suit
Image credit: Marvel

Time travel prevented this version of Peter from becoming Spider-Man, but now it’s going to make him become Spider-Man.

One night a mysterious orb appears before Peter, carrying a startling message. The orb plays a holographic message from Tony Stark, which has been sent from 6 months in the future. Stark has learned about the Maker’s actions and is trying to bring back Earth’s heroes. He explains how Peter’s life was robbed from him and offers him a second chance at heroism. The orb contains a stealth suit and a radioactive spider, ready for Peter to use.

Peter considers his feelings of restlessness, and all the ruminations he’s had throughout the issue. After a brief pep talk with Mary Jane, Peter goes for it. He opens the orb, and we see the stealth suit emerge as a black bubble. Interestingly, this evokes the visuals of Peter donning the alien symbiote for the first time in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8. Is this an artistic choice, or a clue to the stealth suit’s true nature?

Peter then places the radioactive spider on his palm, and the legend of Spider-Man begins anew. Before the issue closes, we get a look at Peter in his new stealth suit. It’s black and lacks the familiar patterns, but maybe that will change in future chapters.

That Parker luck

Peter Parker and Mary Jane discuss Peter's midlife crisis
Image credit: Marvel

Make no mistake, giving Spider-Man a wife and kids is a big deal. Yes, there are married Spider-Men throughout the Spider-Verse, but this is different. This is Marvel using a married Spider-Man as a launch title for their new Ultimate Universe imprint. There is a lot of promotion and creative energy being put into this initiative.

The creative team is no joke. Jonathan Hickman has been one of Marvel’s most consequential writers for the past decade. His long runs on Avengers and Fantastic Four were regular best-sellers. His scripts took the characters in new directions, telling epic stories that rocked the foundation of the Marvel Universe.Marco Checchettohas always delivered stunning pencils, and Ultimate Spider-Man doesn’t break that tradition. I can’t wait to see what he will do when we start getting actions sequences.

Spider-Man’s marriage is a hot topic. In 2023 discussion of Peter Parker’s marital status hung over Marvel’s convention appearances. At times it was due to fan questions, other times it was Marvel preemptively starting the conversation. Whether intentional or not, Ultimate Spider-Man appears to be the next evolution of that conversation. It’s almost as if Marvel is saying, ‘If you want a married Spider-Man, here is your chance to prove it. Here’s a new title.’

It's also an interesting inverse of the original Ultimate Spider-Man comic. In 2000 Spider-Man was married to Mary Jane in the main continuity titles, while Ultimate Spider-Man offered a single teenage Peter Parker as counter-programming. Now Spider-Man is single in the mainstream Marvel titles, and the 2024 Ultimate Universe is offering readers a mid-30s married Spider-Man.

But is it too good to be true? Remember, this is a superhero origin story. If a superhero has a family, they rarely make it out of the origin story unscathed. In one way or another, tragedy has always been a part of Spider-Man’s life. I can’t imagine Marvel doing an iteration of the origin that doesn’t involve some sort of tragedy. Perhaps Uncle Ben will bite the dust again, but I think we should be worried about Mary Jane and the kids.

Killing off Mary Jane would make Peter a single father, which could be an interesting direction for the title. Remember when I said this issue wrote his marriage as too good to be true? Don’t forget, for decades Spider-Man has referenced his infamous ‘Parker luck.’ When it comes to Parker luck, it usually means that when something good happens to Spider-Man, something equally or more tragic is about to strike.

Hug your family tight Peter, because I’m not sure they’ll be around when we get to Ultimate Spider-Man #10.

An advanced review copy of Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (2024) was provided ahead of release by Marvel.

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