Friday, August 1, 2014
Home  >  Features  >  The Ultimate Universe Must Die - A MightyVille Editorial


 

BJ Morgan's back at MightyVille, letting Marvel's head honchos know, "This is the time for the Ultimate World to end; and with a BANG!, not a whimper." But why would he say such a thing?? Read on to find out!

 

The Ultimate Universe appears to be going away. I don't hear many fans sobbing about this turn of events. If solicitations are to be believed (which is usually a fool's gambit to play), Galactus is setting his ever-hungry eye on the once popular, but now stagnating universe.

There has been enough dodging and winking of eyes from the creators and editors behind the line to introduce considerable doubt to these rumors of the end. As a fan from the very first issue, I have to say that it's time to put Ultimate Ol' Yeller out of his misery.

That's right.

If the rumors aren't true, they should be. The Ultimate Universe deserves a mercy killing.

What once was fresh and new has become stale and commonplace. The dominance of this small imprint was mighty indeed in its heyday. The core titles of the imprint held a singular vision that brought a modern sensibility to the origins of our favorite Marvel heroes.

Remember those ugly rumors of the Ultimate Universe replacing the regular Marvel Universe from a few years ago? Good times. I’m sure there are more than a couple of individuals reading that whose blood pressure shot up just fondly remembering that rumor.

So what happened?

 

 

Creative Diffusion

 

The Ultimate Universe began with a unified vision that came from a relatively small group of creators. Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Joe Quesada, and Bill Jemas (remember hating on him??) all laid the groundwork for the exercise in rebuilding the Marvel Universe from the ground up in 2000. The purpose was to rewrite the origin of the Marvel Universe in an updated fashion and to limit the weight of continuity. To do this, the line required only a few cooks in the kitchen. The line would later include Robert Kirkman, Warren Ellis, Brian K. Vaughan, and Jeph Loeb on the writing end of things, but it was largely the playground of just a few creators with a few rare exceptions (Honorable mention shout-out to Ron Zimmerman ... word up bro!). 

Then Ultimatum happened and the creative lid blew off of the place. While I’ll extol the non-virtues of Ultimatum more later on, there have been several creators who have flown into Ultimate airspace once the Ultimate line morphed into Ultimate Comics. Not that these creators don’t have their merits, but most haven’t been exactly moniker go-getters. Jonathan Hickman made a splash early on with his Ultimates, but he left the book too soon and everything kind of went to hell thereafter.

Though several creators would start working their way into the line, Brian Michael Bendis has been the stable exception. His Ultimate Spider-Man has always bounced between entertaining and great reading. Marvel should also be commended for keeping the relative list of ongoings down to around three or four titles. There never was an oversaturation period, which is a strength for this line and major reason why it has lived as long as it has. That’s not a bad track record. However, the train did come off the tracks once too many creators started to show up. The once unified vision of the line was blurred and never really recovered after Ultimatum.  

 

 

 

The Stench of Ultimatum Lingers

 

Ah, Ultimatum ... Hello darkness, my old friend.

Any fan of the Ultimate Universe has a healthy disdain for this story. It radically shifted the Ultimate Universe. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing (though I do think the differences got to be too great: read on). Change isn’t bad. What was bad was the way this earth-shattering event was executed.

I don’t like to slag off on creators too much, but this was a stinker. Jeph Loeb has the distinction of being the Ultimate creator who came in and essentially ruined it for everyone. This miniseries has the dubious distinction of being even worse than Ron Zimmerman’s Ultimate Adventures. The miniseries sold fairly well, but it is universally derided by fans. I honestly haven’t ever talked with a fan who said, “You know, Ultimatum is misjudged.” You can find people defending Quasar on the internet. QUASAR! But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone talking up Ultimatum

The whole affair seemed like an exercise in trying to shock the reader. It worked, but not in the way I think Marvel had in mind. There was cannibalism, gruesome superhero deaths, and of course, drowning. Lots and lots of drowning. Since Ultimatum, Marvel has been in a creative corner with the Ultimate Universe. They can’t quite pull the trigger on something so large again (at least, not until Galactus gets the midnight munchies), but no one really wants another Ultimatum either. If Galactus truly is coming for the end of the Ultimate Universe, let’s hope it ushers in a more dignified death than Ultimatum brought to many of our favorite Ultimate heroes.

 

 

A Place to Tell Different Stories Ruins Different Stories

 

The Ultimate line likes to bill itself now as the place where creators can tell different kinds of stories using familiar characters readers know. Gotcha! You don’t know squat. How's that? Because it’s different. Don’t you feel like an idiot now!

Truth be told, it wasn’t always like that. The Ultimate line started off as being a place to tell stories that were very, very similar to what had already been told previously. There was a tweak here and there, an updated setting, and of course a minor detail would be changed to protect the integrity of the line, but overall it wasn’t strikingly different until, you guessed it, Ultimatum.

Ultimatum began an “all bets are off” period where everything really did go. Spoilers for a nearly four or five year old story, but Magneto flipped his shit and destroyed New York. Along with the destruction of the superhero capital came the deaths of many key characters and significant changes to others. Prof. Xavier, Cyclops, and Wolverine were all snuffed out. Take that, Avengers vs. X-Men!

It was at this point that the Ultimate Universe became a decidedly more dangerous and different place. Creators started taking more chances and wide left turns from what was happening in the main Marvel Universe. This mentality is to be applauded on some level, but after a while it just became ridiculous. Captain America is president? The X-Men are chilling in the desert on a reservation? Reed Richards is a villain? I suppose it’s not that ridiculous when you think about what's happening over in Superior Spider-Man, but things got a little too different in the Ultimate Universe. There just doesn’t seem to be a balance between interestingly different and ridiculously different.

 

 

Give Us A Real Superior Spider-Man

 

The one change that has been awesome in the Ultimate Universe has been the introduction Miles Morales. His introduction has put a spin on the Spider-Man mythos that truly could not be done in the Marvel Universe. That is if Peter Parker weren’t already dead in the Marvel Universe, where dead means dead (wink, wink).

The Ultimate Comics Spider-Man title with Miles Morales has been consistently one of the best titles on the stands since its inception. In many ways, he’s become my Spider-Man. He’s young, optimistic, easily distracted, and new to all of this. Most of all, his title is fun. While I advocate for the Ultimate Universe dying a peaceful death during the night, Mile Morales is the one character that I have pangs of sadness for being in this universe. That’s why I hope Marvel has a plan for Miles.  

It does kind of suck that there isn’t a Peter Parker anywhere for a fan to enjoy currently. This of course assumes that everyone believes Marvel’s line that Spider-Ock is the legit deal now (wink, wink). Spider-Ock has been fun to read, but it is kind of dragging now. Let’s face it, there’s only so much fans can stomach Spider-Man being the world’s biggest dick before fans start carrying pitchforks and torches towards the Marvel offices. 

However, I would be okay if Miles shifted over to the regular Marvel Universe. You can see where this is going. Fan fiction time! That’s right, I would have Miles take on the mantle of Spider-Man for a while and eventually out Dr. Octopus, becoming the hero of the day. If the Ultimate Universe has to die, Miles should be spared just so we can all see this kind of story come to life. However, I can think of no sadder fate for Miles than to be tucked away into some teen team title. Miles has carried his own book now for two years. He deserves longer even if the Ultimate Universe doesn’t.

 

 

Goodbyes

 

Ultimate Spider-Man was the first comic I purchased in five years back in 2000. I can place the blame for returning to the hobby squarely on the Ultimate Universe’s shoulders. That’s why it pains me so to champion its ending. Marvel may be jerking us around with all this Hunger/Cataclysm business they are currently soliciting, but I hope not. It has been a noble and successful experiment, but it’s time to end it all. One last hurrah is all I ask for.

I hope it’s a doozy.

 

What was your favorite chapter or saga from Marvel's Ultimate line? Do you agree with BJ's point? Let us know! 

 

More from BJ on MightyVille:

STAR WARS Double-Shot Advance Review

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #19: A MightyVille Advance Review

WOLVERWEEK: I F*&%ing Hate Wolverine - A MightyVille Editorial

 

Comments (3)
  • TheRedEyedJedi  - kill it with fire!
    I agree it needs to die, and that Ultimatum was the first blow. Different versions of Marvel characters and stories were really fun to read in the beginning but then the ultimate universe became a series of situations meant to shock the reader. When reading DC or Marvel main stream comics you always know that no matter what, for the most part, things will remain the same. Yes, Doc Ock is Spiderman right now but we all know that sooner or later Peter Parker will get his body back somehow.

    With Ultimatum this notion was thrown out the windows. Major characters are DEAD dead, new york sunk, spiderman is replaced, reed richards becomes a super villain, the US breaks up, Cap is president, and now a mutant civil war....this constant state of one story out-shocking the next is not sustainable. let it die....

    side note; the Hickman arc of Ultimates was REALLY cool and I would have liked to seen where that had gone had he remained on the book. Anyone know the back story to why he left mid-arc???
  • Joe_Kach  - Kinda miss it...
    You know, I dropped off of the Ultimate Universe right before Ultimatum, & not intentionally. Just kept thinking I would come back to it & never did. I think Ultimate Vol. 3 soured the taste, gorgeous art aside.

    I'll admit, ironically, this article makes me miss it a bit. Like BJ, the Ultimate line (along with Marvel Knights & Top Cow's Rising Stars) brought me back to comics, so I have a soft spot in my heart & I kinda wanna get back to reading those titles soon. I have heard good things about the Ultimate Captain America & Thor minis, along with Hickman; & Humphries runs on the Ultimates.

    @TheRedEyedJedi: I heard Hickman left mainly because he wanted to focus more on the actual Avengers books (movie money?) & his own creator-owned properties.

    And, while I am not keen on the whole Miles Morales concept, I have heard it was handled very well & that Spider-Men is a bit of a gem.

    Looking forward t jumping back in the Ultimate pool soon.

    --J.
  • el123chico  - I agree in principle but...
    I kept waiting for the right time to drop Ultimates. It was the only book of the line that I read from the beginning. I wanted to rid myself of it and can't. It's still really good. Hickman's run ended too early and Humphries suffered in comparison, but Fialkov has been killing it. I just love what they have the freedom to do with the characters. Bad Reed Richards is the best thing to happen to comics. And you know what? It's all due to Ultimatum. I understand the complaints - it was too fast paced and it seemed like Loeb was throwing everything at the wall and thinking it stuck (instead of stunk), which was exactly what he did with Ultimates 3. But that's what this universe was for.
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