Marvel came out with the Ultimates series around 2000. The idea was to create new series about their most popular characters, without requiring the reader to know all the continuity jazz that clutters up the regular comics. Kind of like what DC did last year with the reboot of the entire universe.
Obviously in one sense these are startlingly modern comics. People call each other on cellphones and the slang appears (granted, I am not up on teen trends even 13 years ago) more relevant. Uncle Ben is an aging dude with a ponytail who reminisces at one point about his experiences in a commune. It's kind of odd, but it makes sense; if the guy is roughly 55 in 2000, then he could easily have been a hippie in the late 1960s.
And the comics are largely interested in establishing the current continuity. Peter always knew Mary Jane, she was his boyhood crush, Norman Osborne is a billionaire biochemist at whose plant Peter is bit by the spider, etc. Indeed, if we look at these comics and the first Spiderman movie featuring Tobey Maguire a couple of years later, it looks like Sam Raimi borrowed more from USM than from ASM.
But at the same time, these are basically Silver Age comics in that they re-imagine those early stories in an updated fashion. The opening sequence (as in Lee & Ditko's intro years ago) shows us that Peter Parker is a much put-upon young lad:
But despite much more hazing, we also see that Peter isn't a tattletale. He suffers the slings and arrows and french fries of outrageous fortune stoically.
As is typical of modern comics, the story takes much longer to develop. In Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter gets bitten, discovers his new powers, becomes a wrestler, fails to stop the crook, discovers Uncle Ben's death and catches the Burglar all in a startlingly compact 11 pages. This first issue has 42 pages of story and art and we only get to the point where Peter is starting to understand the transformation that has hit him.
And yet, it does not seem padded. Part of that is because there is a fair amount of groundwork being laid for future stories. We see that Norman Osborne is aware that Peter was bitten by the spider. Initially, it appears that Peter will eventually die from the bite, and so Norman orders him killed. (Not terribly likely, by the way; what billionaire would care if a teen's guardians sued him for a million or so?) But when Peter displays his extraordinary talents in avoiding getting run down by a car, Osborne calls off the hitman. It is obvious that he is going to pay close attention to Mr Parker. We also learn that Otto Octavius (aka Doc Ock) is one of Osborne's employees.
And some events are shifted around in time. For example, Peter's big fight with Flash Thompson, which didn't come until ASM #8, is a highlight of the second issue:
Overall, I very much enjoyed these first two issues and intend on reading more, although I doubt I will continue to post on them.