Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Volume 1

I may have mentioned at one point my sudden realization that a lot of things I have read during my what, year-long now Ultimate Marvel kick, had backward-looking references to some books that came out right at the beginning and I had initially failed to be aware of. But I’ve found these, and they are now in the rotation. Which brings us inexorably to Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, in which various characters from the Ultimate universe, you know, team up with each other.

Or, to be more accurate, Spider-Man meets other characters in an explicit crossover format that comes from the late ’60s or early ’70s or somewhen, because Brian Michael Bendis mostly likes Spider-Man and wanted to revive that format for the new generation. The only problem is, brief historical curiosity aside, the stories weren’t that interesting. The strength of Marvel, past as well as present, has always been its ongoing storylines with long-term consequences. Yes, there’s a lot of soap-operaish returns to life and failed relationships, but they are at least consequential from moment to moment, instead of seen once and irrelevant ever after. Necessarily, one-shot stories are going to come off pretty cold in a world where everything else matters, quite a bit.

All that said, the stories themselves were about a conflict between Peter and the first appearance of the Hulk in this timeline, during which stuff got trashed, Spider-Man proved his own relative strength and durability to the audience, and any kind of climax was left completely by the wayside; about a meeting between the also-inaugural appearance of Iron Man (complete with origin story) and our good Mr. Parker, who actually do team up to stop some… high-tech Communists, I guess? And, best of all, a meeting between Peter and Wolverine in which they try to fight off Sabretooth (he’s an evil mutant who is basically the same as Logan, only, y’know, eviller) before lots of civilians get hurt. Unsurprisingly to me, that last story was the most compelling. I assume it has something to do with what mutually-sympathetic, outsider characters Wolverine and Spider-Man are within their respective worlds. So, yay inevitable chemistry.

The art, which I only tend to notice when it is particularly egregious or unusual, or when the story is boring me, was in this instance equally boring. I wonder if I just think most of the art is fantastic and forget to say so, or if I’m really picky about handing out praise, or if I think most of the art is workmanlike and that only bothers me because I’ve focused on it in search of something to hold my attention when the story is so-so. Probably it’s the first one, but the correlation in my (possibly faulty?) memory between iffy art and iffy plot has been high over time.

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