. (Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160/MARVEL COMICS)

Today, Peter Parker was officially pronounced dead, perishing at the hands of perhaps his greatest villain. Fans reacted as Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 hits shops and shelves this morning — some responding as emotionally as writer Brian Michael Bendis, who told the AP that “tears were rolling down my face” as he scripted Spidey’s demise.

Today, too, guest contributor David Betancourt shares his reaction to the death of Spider-Man:

True fans are not easily saddened by the announced death of a comic book character. A superhero dies and the countdown begins as to when he or she will return.

Superman. Dead and back. Didn’t Batman die a few years ago? He’s back. Possessed by Parallax, Hal Jordan went nuts and killed a bunch of Green Lanterns before dying (perhaps he got an early look at the Green Lantern movie script).

(Ultimate Comics Spider-Man/MARVEL COMICS)

The death of Peter Parker in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #160 however, is reason to get a little emotional.

When Marvel debuted its new Spider-Man and Ultimate universe in 2000, the launch was a chance to bring in a new generation of fans who wouldn’t be forced to learn decades of stories from the “real” Spider-Man. The Spider-Man for new readers quickly became the definitive Spider-Man for the 21st century.

Brian Michael Bendis’s 11-year run on Ultimate Spider-Man has put him on another level. If this truly is the last we’ll ever see of Peter Parker in the Ultimate universe, then this 160-issue epic by Bendis will be not only required reading for anyone being introduced to the webslinger, but also will go down as one of the greatest contributions to Spidey ever, no matter what universe you’re talking about.

And let’s not forget about the art of Mark Bagley, who was already one of the most popular Spider-Man artists before he came into the Ultimate universe. That was just the icing on the cake.

Bendis and Bagley succeeded in doing something that is a rarity for superhero comics: They made you care about who was underneath the mask. Nobody cares whether Clark Kent misses a deadline at the Daily Planet. If Tony Stark lost millions in the stock market, big deal. Supermodel leaves Bruce Wayne? He was faking it anyway sweetheart, trust me.

Yet with this version of Peter Parker, he was the star of this book. So much so that he didn’t even put on his Spidey suit for the first time until issue No.-3. How often does that happen? Readers connected quickly, whether he was running on rooftops or stuck in science class.

This was a likable kid. That’s right. Kid. This wasn’t some 20-something looking for his next freelance photo buck to buy flowers for Mary Jane and help Aunt May with the rent. This was a high school student dealing with all the craziness that comes with being a teenager in the 21st century who had to try to be a hero on top of all that. And somehow, he did it admirably well.

We’re all supposed to take the Ultimate Marvel universe for what it is: An alternate universe that gives Marvel a chance to roll the dice and take chances and try things that characters might not do in their “real” world. However you want to perceive Ultimate Spider-Man, there’s no denying he’s the top dog in the Ultimate universe and maybe in Marvel’s main universe as well. I can’t be the only person that — when the news was announced about Spider-Man’s death — said: “I hope it’s the Amazing one and not the Ultimate kid.”

But this appears to be the end, and if it is, head to your comic book store, pick up as many volumes of Ultimate Spider-Man as you can. Soak in the greatness that was this era.

The beat goes on however, and apparently there will be a new Ultimate Spider-Man very soon. One with a ridiculously cool new costume. But with great power and an awesome costume come the responsibility of knowing one thing:

Legends are not easily replaced.