Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Power and Responsibility, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Begley collects the first 13 issues of the 2000-01 series reboot. The story arc takes the basic elements from Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), in which Spider-Man first appeared, but updates them for the 21st Century. In this version, Peter Parker still gains his powers from a spider bite, but this time it’s genetic engineering, rather than radiation, that causes the drastic changes to his physiology.
This book does a great job of drawing out the original 11-page storyline into a full graphic novel. The key to refreshing the story for the modern era is Begley’s artwork, which pops off the page. His Green Goblin is terrifying.
This is one of at least four different attempts to explain the origin of Marvel’s poster hero. Why are Spider-Man’s early days so compelling? For one thing, a superhero’s origin story is the one fixed thing about him or her. We know that the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents led him to become the Batman. But beyond this, the other events of his life are a near-infinite series of adventures existing outside of time. After all, he’s been walloping the Joker for eight decades. But the death of his parents is the one event upon which all other Batman stories hinge. This is why film adaptations always begin by showing how the superhero acquired those amazing abilities.
For Spider-Man, though, reader interest in his origins runs deeper. That’s because the key elements of his personality—his insecurity, his wise-cracking—are linked to his youth. Though the comics have portrayed an older Spider-Man at times, the character most recognizable to fans is the teenager struggling to come to grips with his new powers. For this reason, I’m sure we’ll see another reboot before too long.