Friday, August 14, 2009

The Future of the Ultimate Universe

The Ultimate Universe, there was a time that it was the biggest thing Marvel was publishing and it was a constant source for new interesting and cool stories that couldn’t be seen anywhere else. Sadly as time went on, like all good things, the creative stew began to get cold.

Right now I’m going to look at the past, present and future of the Ultimate Universe and throw in my 2 cents once again on the 2 Ultimate Comics we got on Wednesday.

Ultimate Past

Ultimate Spider-man kicked off the Ultimate universe and it was a bold move by Marvel. I myself was never a regular reader, I would read from time to time but I never really stuck to the series like most people have. One story arc I did read all the way through was the Clone Saga, one of the best stories I’ve ever read in comic book history.

I also read Ultimate Fantastic Four when Mark Millar was onboard and I loved it. Especially the zombie arc that lead to Marvel Zombies. I feel that was the most creative of all the Ultimate comics because with the Fantastic Four we got to get really crazy. Sadly when Millar left the series started losing it’s energy.

Ultimate X-men was never a series I really could get in to compared to the main X-men series in the 616 universe. While I liked some characters here and there the series was never consistently good like Ultimate Spider-man was.

Though as I said as time went on the brilliant ideas thrown around stopped coming out so often. Sure we’d get a cool character reinvention here, a nice storyline there but what was once a consistently unique and interesting experience was losing it’s charm.

Ultimate Fantastic Four had completely lost me and while I tried to read again and again it just wasn’t the exciting and interesting story it once was. I never really liked Ultimates, and the less said about Robert Kirkman on Ultimate X-men the better. Ultimate Spider-man was the only reliable comic out and even that series was far from perfect.

Another major issue the Ultimate Universe was suffering from was losing it’s new reader friendly attitude that it once held. Once a universe that anyone could get in to easily and not have to worry about began to suffer from the same problems that the original 616 universe it was trying to set itself apart from.

So Marvel brought on Jeph Loeb, along with Joe Mad he wrote Ultimates 3. I’m going to be perfectly honest and say that for it’s amazing art and fun action I liked Ultimates 3. It was never a masterpiece but I enjoyed it. Ultimates 3 along with several other books lead in to the event that I’m sure everyone wants to bury by now, Ultimatum.

Ultimatum took Magneto who “lost” his 2 children and basically had him mess up the world. He caused floods, had suicide bombings going on, it was crazy. While it had a strong debut chapter things devolved into mindless killing and by the end of it Loeb had taken a once strong universe and literally dumped it in the garbage.

Things couldn’t be looking worse of the Ultimate Universe at this point. Mindless killing, pathetic twists that could be seen miles away and once great characters ruined all by one man’s writing. Still there was hope.

Ultimate Comics born better

Enter Ultimate Comics, the reboot that is supposed to save the Ultimate series from falling into obscurity. Given a new design, new creative teams and (unfortunately) a new price. Marvel has a lot riding on the Ultimate Reboot and while I’ve already reviewed these 2 first issue comics I’m going to take another look at them.

Ultimate Comics Spider-man sadly gave more answers than questions but at the same time I can’t help but like it for it’s incredible artwork and good character work. But at 3.99 for the price of admission this is an unfair buy. Still it does scratch that itch for Ultimate Spider-man and I’m finally going to be reading the series on a regular basis. No more random on and off reading.

Ultimate Comics Avengers was again too short and not worth 3.99 but I still liked it for great character work, some good but short action and overall for a debut issue it wasn’t bad. I also loved Pacheco’s art but sadly he didn’t really get a chance to shine like I’m sure he will next time. While I said I was considering dropping this series if issue #2 doesn’t impress I think I’ll stick with it at lest through the first story arc. If by then I’m not impressed I may drop it.

I really wanted to love these 2 comics as I wanted to finally be able to find 2 comics that I could for sure be dependable on like I always could with Ultimate Spider-man and, at a time, Ultimate Fantastic Four. Still for both their problems if the price for admission was taken down a dollar I wouldn’t have as big a problem as they are both good reads that are just unfairly priced.

Now for the art, I already mentioned Lafuente but I think it needs repeating that he is the best artist since Mark Bagley’s legendary run on Ultimate Spider-man. Bagley had over 100 issues of Ultimate Spider-man, hopefully Lafuente will have over 200 issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-man.

Pacheco is an all star artist who’s style I absolutely love. Sure it’s not the most unique style like Lafuente’s but he’s got a clean beautiful style that puts most other artists to shame. Even with his problems I think he’s one of the best artists in the industry and hopefully Millar will take full use of his capabilities during Ultimate Avengers like he’s been able to do with Steve McNiven in the past.

One thing to mention of Pacheco’s art is the Ultimate Red Skull. I wasn’t sure if I liked the basic design at first but what really got me was the detail in Red Skull’s face. I’m not sure if most people noticed this but his face had a very dry aged look to it, you could tell this guy was real old but that didn’t matter to him as a fighter as he could still kick ass. The detail there alone just blew me away.

Then there’s the villains. Ultimate Mysterio and Ultimate Red Skull. In the main 616 continuity there couldn’t be a bigger class difference. Mysterio wouldn’t even be near Red Skull’s level of evil. Here though Bendis is building up his version as a real criminal, not some parlor trick baddy looking to make a cheap dollar. I am so happy and I also really like that design. That mystic fog faced design that makes him look otherworldly.

Ultimate Red Skull however is, of all things, the son of Captain America! You can’t get much more of a personal villain then that. I can’t wait to find out more about him as for now all we know is that he’s an ancient badass who is probably 70 years old or maybe even older and yet he could still kick Cap’s ass with ease. Hopefully Millar will do a good job of distinguishing this version from the 616 version as that’s what Ultimate Comics are all about, shaking things up.

So while the first issues failed to really hook me, I remain excited for the future of the Ultimate Comics. I remain hopeful that Bendis, Millar, Ellis and any other writers (NOT LOEB) that come to the Ultimate Universe can make me a true believer again. So with that said, keep your eyes on the Ultimate Universe folks, things are looking to get wild real soon.


Marc said...

No matter how good the rebooted Ultimate Comics line turns out to be, I wonder whether it will ever be able to really escape from the shadow of Ultimatum. If you look at reactions to Amazing Spider-Man, it's apparent that fans don't move on very quickly, with the specter of One More Day still looming over the title more than two years later. It's almost like bad stories have their own gravitational pull that keeps the new kinds of stories they've facilitated from ever reaching their full potential.

Andrenn said...

@Marc: You make a great point, though hopefully unlike BND which just flopped most the time Ultimate Comics soar.

ChrisP_comicnerd said...

I agree with Marc. It is really going to be hard for Marvel to keep their rep up on the new ultimate comics, though they are good, and enjoyable, they will still be just shadows of the great originals.

Also, about the fans of Spider-Man, he is write, it takes a bit for hard-core fan boys of Spider-Man to move on to newer stories. If that makes any sense at all. LOL.