Tag Archives: Ultimate Series

Ultimate End

510TQ731k4LWell, I am straight up disappointed by the ultimate final novel in Marvel’s Ultimate continuity. See, the other times there have been big crossover events, I’ve read all of the affiliated books (in publication order, natch) because they were crossed over in, y’know, the same publication line. Whereas Secret Wars is a crossover among multiple Marvel continuities, none of which I am current on other than this one.

Which means that I was reading a sideline on the main story, without any context for what was supposed to be going on. I’m not saying there wasn’t any emotional impact; Bendis knows his job. But when I don’t know why things are happening[1], it’s hard to get involved enough to really get it. So, that was lame.

Bright side: I’m only 37 years behind on catching up with the other continuities so I can reread this with the proper context! So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

[1] Example: An army of Thors flying around enforcing God’s will. Um… what? Why? Who? So, yep. Also, the entire final issue was predicated on something a character learned in a different book. Sigh.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revelations

41464JNINZLRevelations is an excellent Ultimate Spider-Man book that fulfills the promise of its title by answering every meaningful question raised in the previous book and then some. It answers both the questions I had already asked and the ones I didn’t think to, and it answers them in satisfactory ways. Just as I would always expect Bendis to provide, crisis of faith aside.

And then, just when it is setting up a whole series of new questions, Marvel as a whole took a sharp turn to the left and is collapsing their multiverse in upon itself, with the plan being basically only one Ultimate book left after this one? At least, I think so. It’s going to be hard to know what to purchase to wrap things up, for certain. So, the flaw of this book is that it ended in a deus ex rushica instead of setting up the latest big deal in the Ultimate universe. This is not the book’s fault, but it sure is jarring.

So, um… I guess the majority of my comics reading will be happening issue by issue in the late 1970s now? Sorry about that.

All-New Ultimates: No Gods, No Masters

51MeEMpGe1LBack when I ordered this book, and every time between then and when it arrived and I started reading it earlier this week, I thought the title was a reference to one of the first Ultimates books, Gods and Monsters, from nearly ten years ago now. But as of cracking the cover open, I have realized that the title of the book is actually No Gods, No Masters, which is a completely different title. Apparently it’s a reference to a political book about anarchism? I don’t see a particular parallel here, but maybe I would if I’d read the other book.

So, you know the street level gang war the teenaged Ultimates were fighting / trying to clean up last time? This is the conclusion to that storyline. Which means, yes more irrelevant third-or-lower tier “super” villains, yes more Roxxon intrigue. Also, some of the art was all scribbly and lame, but only some of it. Still, though, the character evolutions among some of our heroes has made the pair of books retroactively worth the price of admission after all.

Well, actually, that may not be true. Spoiler alert based on news reporting of happenings at Marvel. But, the thing is, most of these characters and in fact the Ultimate universe in general may be coming to an end when it collides somehow or other with the regular continuity. Can’t blame the current authors who have been pushing things forward that everything since Galactus has been basically a meaningless placeholder. But it’s damn disappointing nonetheless.

Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man – Revival

51sHdZFm72LAs of Revival, I’m current on the Ultimate universe again, at least as it is released in collected formats rather than monthly. I hate to go all mysterious, but I also hate spoilers, so my review will consist of a short, open letter to Ralph Macchio or Stan Lee or whoever is in charge these days, and if you choose to read very much between the lines at all, you’ll be able to tell what I’m talking about and have your review, and if not, you’ll avoid your spoilers. In any case, I hasten to assure you that Bendis is still writing this series, and he’s still doing a great job, and I’m still eager to know what happens next. (Seriously, seriously eager.)

Dear Stan Lee or Ralph Macchio or whoever is in charge of Marvel story development these days,

You guys. Seriously. I cannot really take this anymore. I was unhappy when I learned the news in the first place, skeptical for a good long time thereafter, and only fairly recently have I come to terms with what you did. It was a big, bold, ballsy move, and it has paid off in more ways than I would have guessed back when I first knew it was coming.

I can imagine myself coming to terms with this too, not least because it gives me back what I want. But it’s not fair to the new guy that has been developing so nicely, and it’s also maybe not fair to the creation you’ve all been developing for the past 15 years now. I’m just saying, be careful.

No, that’s not true. That’s the least part of what I’m saying. What I’m really saying is this: pick a side. Stop fucking with me. I want clear answers, and I want to feel reassured that they’re really the real answers, and I know goddamn well that’s a ridiculous thing to expect from the comics industry, particularly around this kind of story development. Nevertheless, I can’t really take it anymore, and there we are.

You should know, though, that (like I told my so-called audience a few paragraphs up before the letter started) I did like the book, and I do desperately want to know how things turn out. Just because I’m roller-coastered out doesn’t mean I don’t want more. Also, holy shit with how cool J. Jonah Jameson was. It’s been a while since my jaw dropped reading one of your books. (And almost always because of Bendis. Hold onto that kid, okay?)

Sincerely,
The guy that runs this blog

All-New Ultimates: Power for Power

51Cmme49xoLI have mixed emotions about the All-New Ultimates. For one thing, well, there just aren’t a ton of familiar characters left alive in the Ultimate universe, and most of the ones that are left moved on to the Future Foundation. It’s not that I don’t want to see Spidey and his Amazing Friends battle street crime, it’s that it seems silly to shoehorn them into the Ultimates, just so that team is still “alive”. Same plot, different title? I’d… well, I’d still have some complaints.

Because, all of that said: I’m not sure I saw the point of Spidey and his Amazing Friends the Ultimates taking on street level crime in the first place. I mean, okay, the gangs seem to have powers, at least a little? And there are leftover renegade scientists from the Oscorp and Roxxon days finding new ways to screw people up. So on paper (heh), it’s a reasonable conflict. But: the Serpent Squad? Really? Which is me complaining about how the villain side of the equation is just as depleted as the hero side. That’s a structural complaint, but I also have a related plot complaint, which is that it seems like I should have heard of any of these gangs before, if they’re supposed to be a big deal now.

But then, all of that is balanced by the team’s make-up. Spider Woman, newly christened as Black Widow, is the leader. Then there’s Spider-Man, Bombshell, Kitty Pryde, and Cloak and Dagger. You’ve heard of maybe half of those, which is why my point is not coming across, which is that the Ultimates is comprised of four ladies and two dudes, neither of whom are white. Get these people some actual villains and storylines, and I could find myself very excited by what Marvel is doing right now.

Also, just give Jessica Drew (that is, new Black Widow) her own title, already.

Ultimate FF: Strangest Ever

81hWGc63i3LThe newest wave of Ultimate books is finally here! Which is to say, they dropped within a week or so of the site coming back up, and despite there being three of them already, that’s just a timing issue and I’m not nearly as far behind as it sounds. Unlike if you were to be talking about Brust or Rothfuss or King or Butcher, to name a few twitches I’ve had lately.

Strangest Ever is certainly a book that lives up to its title. It’s not the Fantastic Four like you’d think (unless you’ve been following these plotlines, in which case you’d think that’s entirely ridiculous). Instead, it’s the Future Foundation, which is basically Tony Stark’s and Sue Storm’s brainchild to defend the planet against extra-dimensional incursions of the type that came so close to wiping out all life, a book or so ago. And that’s a good idea, as far as it goes. It’s just that it seemed to turn into an excuse to trot out every bizarre event that has ever happened in the Marvel multiverse. It turns out I have limits?

But that’s a matter of taste, which I accept. It’s not objective truth, like the fact that nobody wants to see a purple Iron Man. And it’s not something that clearly should be objective truth, like that nobody wants to see dead people come back. The whole Ultimate thing up until now has been so good about that, and okay, they had a really good excuse this time. They earn credit with me for not having used, much less overused, this excuse. But the reason why they have that credit is that they don’t do it. The whole thing makes me skeptical, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, my point is this: I look forward to seeing someone take the reins on the new era soon, and I especially thank my stars that Bendis has stuck around. Someone give him the reins, yo.

Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand

511fl0IJPOLThis is, what, the fifth Ultimate universe crossover event? Well, probably more even than that, but it’s certainly the second really big one, after the Ultimatum, which is cool because now I can start marking time from this instead of that. Based on the cover of this and many past books, I think it’s fair to say that if the Ultimate universe can even survive[1], this is certainly an event which changes everything, an event after which nothing can be the same!

And, okay, it’s a fair statement to make, right? The last time nothing could ever be the same, something like a third of the major and minor heroes died because Magneto flooded Manhattan and froze Europe solid. That’s some pretty hardcore destruction, and it certainly went after the highest density of heroes, with predictable and already-mentioned results.[2] If that sounds hardcore, then you can only agree that a confrontation with the literal purple-hatted Devourer of Worlds would be rather more Cataclysmic, right?

So, yep. Dire odds, check. Requirement for every single superhero to band together against total destruction, check. Desperate gambles, heroic sacrifices, senseless tragedies? Check, check, check. And of course, for anyone who’s been paying attention the last couple of years, we all know there’s only one person who can defeat Galactus, right? That’s some added conflict right there.

Like you’d expect, Bendis’ stories have the biggest emotional punch, but there’s really not a single bad moment anywhere in this event, which is far more than I can say for the muddled, incoherent mess that the Ultimatum storyline became. Let me say it like this: at the end of a story that featured significant amounts of Rick Jones, I do not currently despise Rick Jones. That? Is impressive storytelling.

And, y’know, it was valid claim after all. Nothing will ever be the same.

Probably.

[1] Spoiler alert: probably it can?
[2] Although, who could have predicted that the single largest impactful moment would have been the meeting between Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom in the epilogue? Honestly, it’s still not clear to me whether even the authors are aware of just how instrumental that was to subsequent events.

Ultimate X-Men: World War X

jpegIf the last several volumes of Ultimate X-Men had been bad, that would be one thing. I’ve seen them through bad stretches before, and if I do again, I’ll probably be able to work that out too. It happens. No, what’s so especially frustrating is that both the individual plots and the overarching one, finally brought to its climax in World War X, have been really quite good. Personal stories with high stakes, good interactions with the ongoing stories in the Ultimates, and the central mystery of why someone as powerful as Jean Grey has been so deftly used, or why she let herself be used, or why she’s turned so suddenly power hungry and maybe evil, plus also the mystery of which one of those it even is.

Except, and I say this with no opprobrium for the actual story of the battle between Jean Grey’s Tian and Kitty Pryde’s Utopia for the future (or the soul, if you’re feeling especially poetic) of mutantkind; that story was perfectly dandy and even pretty cool in places. Except: there’s no payoff. Not only do I still have no idea what made our Ms. Phoenix go off the deep end, there is really no hint that it was supposed to be hard to swallow.

Which renders the whole exercise not only frustrating, but at least a little bit retroactively pointless. Ugh. At least with Reed Richards, I know what happened. This is just bad characterization, going back basically all the way to right after the Ultimatum wave. Which means Jean Grey has been a plot-driven puppet for like four years. Ugh.

Which I guess I already said once before in that paragraph. But jeeze. Usually these are perfectly serviceable. Hell, I liked the whole stretch right up until the end, when I found out there wasn’t actually anything there, right? Okay. Done complaining.

Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Man No More

jpegWithout this Cataclysm event coming up, I could see myself being extremely excited about the direction in which Bendis is taking Miles Morales’ story. …okay, that’s not fair. I still am excited about it, I just hate to see it get put on hold for a big giant event that he should by rights be at the fringes of (I mean, unless the earth is destroyed? That would change my opinion drastically and unpredictably), or even worse, get partially canceled / re-written. Perhaps what I am saying is, I wish Bendis was at the helm of the whole universe, so I could trust that this particular aspect won’t get railroaded somewhere dumb.

Anyway.

Stan Lee originally wrote this story (well, title) for issue 50 of Peter Parker’s run, published in 1967. Pete was tired of being Spider-Man because his life was always one terrible event after another, and something something Aunt May’s heart, and long story short, Marvel could not go more than 1/3 of the pages in any given comic without the hero being in costume, so you knew something would change his mind by early in issue 51. (In this case: Kingpin.) Bendis’ take on Spider-Man No More! is interesting to me for quite a few reasons, but chiefly because of the vast gulf of difference between Then and Now.

Miles went through a fairly major life event at the end of the previous book, as a result of which[1] he’s put away the uniform and the web slingers to resume a normal high school life. And then, boom, a year passes. A year! Because Miles, unlike non-Ultimate Peter Parker, knows how to commit to a decision.[2] Of course, it’s still a comic and the past always catches up with you, but unlike Stan Lee (however much I appreciate all that he’s done), this was handled thoughtfully, with false starts and denials before the inevitable outcome, and I do not feel that Miles is on a whiny pogo stick. I definitely think, as I already said back in that top paragraph, that he and Spider-Woman are on an excellent path with a lot of potential, and I hope I get to see how that turns out.

[1] I bet you could see this coming.
[2] Also because really a lot of events have been happening around the rest of the world, between mutant rights and new American civil wars and so on, and it’s nice to see that, if Miles is not going to be involved in those events, the editorial staff came up with a good way to explain why not. Plus, it’s good getting him a little bit older. Also, for those taking notes, this indicates that somewhere in the range of 2.5 to 3 years have passed since all the mutants and superheroes started appearing on the scene back in 2000-2001 when all this Ultimate folderol began. (Contrast: regular Marvel time, as checked against Peter Parker’s schooling process, has spent maybe 6 years of time between 1961 and 1979. So the scales actually match up pretty well!)

Ultimates: Disassembled

jpegI’m very nearly caught up on Ultimate Marvel comics again, after my year-long hiatus to read about a shepherd with a sword. Which is really good timing, because The Ultimates: Disassembled makes a good go at tying up every loose end that has dangled since the Ultimatum[1], not to mention a few from the Gah Lak Tus incursion. Plus, the Fantastic Four are finally reunited?!

Unfortunately, it cleans up those loose ends in such a way that I’m still not sure if what’s been going on with Quicksilver for the past three years or so has all been this, or different authors pulling him in different directions. (See, I was going to say, “If you want to know what’s been up with Quicksilver, here you go!” Only, I’m still not completely positive I do know.) If you want to see another convoluted time travel story involving Kang the Conqueror? Cool, here it is! If you care about the Infinity Gauntlet[2], this is where you’d find the Ultimate version!

What is fortunate is that this felt like a story instead of the series of tickboxes I complained about for the last Ultimates outing. An exciting story, with more than a dollop of consequences, and a big albeit possibly premature glimpse at the upcoming, what are they calling it this time, Cataclysm I think? I’ll definitely take that. But I am kind of sad at implications that my excellent character analysis of Ultimate Reed Richards (available upon request in comments, if I haven’t already told you it in some other written or aural format) may have just been undone. Thanks a lot, Kang.

[1] If there’s one thing that does make me happy about there being a new massive crossover event that will kill off half the populace or more all over again, it’s that I can at least start referring back to a new dividing line between “then” and “now”.
[2] Plausibly, I will someday care about this.