The issue opens with Miles and Ganke on their way to Peter Parker's house at the invitation of May Parker to celebrate the fallen hero on the two-year anniversary of his passing. From there, we watch the book's supporting cast arrive, including Mary Jane, Spider Woman, Bombshell, Iceman, The Human Torch, Firestar, and Gwen Stacy. There's a nice moment in which Ganke gives Gwen a mysterious gift that wins him a kiss, though we never get to see what it is. Just as the party is getting settled, Tony Stark sends his regards in true Stark fashion via hoards of food delivered to the house, all prepared by a celebrity chef. Once Kitty Pryde and Kong arrive, the party goers and the issue finally settle down and embrace the elephant in the room.
From here, each of the main characters take turns explaining where they think Peter would be today via splash pages that depict the alternate futures they imagine. It's a lovely series of pages that are good comic book fun laced with a solemn emotional backdrop. Brian Michael Bendis certainly dreams up several fun scenarios as Mary Jane imagines Peter in a Scarlet Spider suit leading the Ultimates. Aunt May dreams up dozens of different costumes laced with Peter's gadgets to help the police. Gwen pictures Peter committing to a life of journalism. Miles thinks about what it would be like to be Peter's sidekick. Kitty imagines their love restored, and Bobby imagines an over-the-top action team with homages to the current Ultimate Spider-Man animated series.
Each one is heartfelt and a nice reminder of everything that's happened over the course of the last two hundred issues. It's hard to make these sort of retrospectives seem sincere in mainstream comics. There's just something about the Ultimate Universe that allows its characters to feel the impact of the events they face more than in the mainstream (616) universe. Here, Bendis pens a nice tribute to both Peter Parker and, in a way, himself.
After Bobby finishes, the party goers find themselves saddened by the nostalgia they cloaked their stories in. This is when Miles takes a look at the impossible amount of food around them and invites the team to take it all to a local homeless shelter where Peter's friends and family spend the rest of the day handing out food to the homeless. It's a nice gesture that would have served as a satisfying moment, but it seems Bendis has no intention of slowing things down at issue #200.
A silhouetted figure who bears a considerable resemblance to Peter Parker watches the party guests leave in the final moments of the issue. Usually I'd chalk this up to some kind of shock tactic to get readers to jump on board the new series, but with the demise of the Superior Spider-Man series being used to put Peter back in the suit before Amazing Spider-Man 2 drops, it's reasonable to believe a similar editorial edict may have landed on Bendis' doorstep. Peter may in fact be coming back to the Ultimate Universe as well.
The various alternate futures for Peter Parkers made this issue solid, but the tease at the end really knocked it out of the park. The real triumph, however, is not just the great story, but the fact that it managed to be a landmark issue that really mattered. It seems that every few months some significant character is celebrating an anniversary of some sort, but those issues—all with an inflated cover price—rarely boast a story as solid as this one, let alone as significant.
While the possibility of Peter returning to the book is big, I think the real victory of the bigger take away is the standard of excellence Bendis has achieved for two hundred issues. The short series format is still being tested at Marvel, but books like Ultimate Spider-Man #200 remind readers that a writer with a single, strong creative direction can keep a book exceptional.
What did you think of Ultimate Spider-Man #200? Do you think that was really Peter in the closing moments of the book? Let us know in the comments section below!