by Bendis, Lafuente (Spider-Man), Millar, Pacheco, Miki (Avengers)
I really haven’t followed what’s been going on in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe for quite a while. In fact, aside from the odd Ellis written thing, the last time I visited the Ultimate Universe was Ultimates Volume 3 #1, the abysmal comic by Loeb and Madureira. And my parting shot on that one was this: “Ultimates Volume 3. Let’s all pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe we can wish it out of existence.”
Well, essentially, that’s what seems to have happened here. Because it seems that Ultimates Volume 3 and the subsequent Ultimatum series can be quickly and simply referred to as the huge event that wiped out most of Manhattan and a goodly number of superheroes along the way after Magneto got pissed about his children being killed. And if that sounds callous try reading the summary of Ultimatum on Wikipedia like I just did, seems Jeff Loeb’s got more than enough callous and gratuitousness for all of us. (And I know just looking it up on Wikipedia is hardly good research but you really couldn’t afford what I’d charge to actually read Ultimatum.)
So Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man just pick up where they left off, 3 weeks and six months later respectively. There’s a few less heroes and New York looks a bit different, but that’s about it. Thank God. Because when the Ultimate Universe idea first started I really enjoyed these modern, accessible tales of Marvels icons. Worked a treat at getting new readers on board as well as I recall. Ultimate Spider-Man catered for a younger audience unwilling to trawl through decades of stories and who wanted just those key elements of Peter Parker that they’d discovered through the films. And Ultimates was essentially Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch doing the big widescreen cinematic style comic where the heroes got to be a little more edgy and nasty than usual. Both worked, at least at first. Ultimate Spider-Man I gave up on after the first few volumes, as it became more and more confusing and apathy on my part set in. Ultimates I enjoyed right through Millar’s first two volumes.
(The new Ultimate Spider-Man – same as the old Ultimate Spider-Man really. From Ultimate Spider-Man #1, art by David Lafuente)
Which means in Ultimate Spider-Man we’re back to Peter Parker, the 16 year old kid, Aunt May, Gwen Stacey, MJ and the rest, all picking themselves up after the devastation that’s mentioned a few times and then exists as merely the new status quo, with Spidey a genuine hero of the city following his rescue efforts.
And in Ultimate Avengers it’s like Millar never went away. Straight away we’re back to the basics of what made The Ultimates great: Nick Fury (no longer SHIELD boss, but still with a role to play), being recruited by Hawkeye into a black ops team to stop a rogue Captain America. Cue flashback to last mission where Hawkeye and Captain America are taking down some AIM goons. Iron Man was meant to be there, but depression and alcohol got in the way.
(The new Ultimates. Pretty much the same as the old Ultimates. Except this time they’re called Ultimate Avengers. And the art isn’t as good as Bryan Hitch’s. From Ultimate Avengers # 1, art by Carlos Pacheco.)
Both issues set up the storylines nicely, both introduce the big bad guy at the end, both reintroduce us to the cast of characters from before. And both are incredibly quick reads. Okay, perhaps that’s what I should have expected, but these comics are $4 / £3 each. And that works out to about £1 a minute or £60 an hour. When the comics are costing about the same as my plumber there’s something horribly wrong.
But despite the expense and lack of value, the actual comics themselves are pretty good returns to form. Both writers are just doing what they always did, although I couldn’t help thinking that Millar’s voice on Ultimate Avengers seemed just a little tired and old now. (Maybe widescreen superhero action is so last year?) As for the artists, they all hold up well. Lafuente’s Spider-Man pages are nice but nothing too dazzling and Pacheco was never going to outdo Bryan Hitch, but what is on show does actually look quite pretty.
They’re both certainly good enough that I can see myself paying enough attention to both to pick up the first collections in a few months time. Next up in the new Ultimate Universe is Warren Ellis’ 4 issue series Ultimate Armor Wars. Ellis writing a drunk, obnoxious Iron Man. Seems perfect.
Marvel Comics Ultimate Universe. Kind of nice to have it back.