I love the Ultimate Marvel line of comics, I love love love it. Sure it’s had some terrible story arcs and events but who hasn’t! Recently it’s been a lot easier to love Ultimate comics, I mean you had Bendis on Spiderman, Hickman on Ultimates and Spencer on X-Men. You’d be a fool not to love it with a team like that. But the imprint has had a bit of a turbulent past, but regardless of the creative team there are some intrinsic qualities that make me love the line. Boy that’s a lot of loves in one paragraph.
When it first launched, Ultimate comics promised to do three things for the publisher, first it retold classic stories in a modern setting, second it allowed new readers to start in a continuity free world and third it was supposed to be their ‘realistic world’ so to speak, where if someone died they’re dead. Marvel did a surprisingly good job with the Ultimate line. It was a huge success, people loved it for a while and there were even rumours of Marvel making the ultimate universe their main place for telling stories. Then Ultimatum happened…
And Ultimate Marvel suffered dramatically because of it (although I don’t really have that many problems with it). Then things got pretty bad for ultimate Marvel, there was issues with renumbering and rebranding, messy continuity. Marvel changed the ultimate universe to a place where they told original stories with different versions of their well known characters. It had it’s ups and downs, but for the most part it I didn’t love it, but I kept reading it if only because Marvel were trying something new and I wanted to see where that led. I see the Ultimate universe as having 3 ages, pre-Ultimatum, post-Ultimatmum and post post Ultimatum, and man… post post Ultimatum is freaking great, but that’s because of the great talent writing each book. But regardless of the creators writing in each Ultimate age, there are certain things about the Ultimate comics universe that make me intrinsically love it. Here we go.
I never cared for Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat. She just seemed to be very vanilla to me. Granted I haven’t read a whole bunch of X-Men titles before a few years ago, but in everything I have read she was just boring. To be perfectly honest I never even cared for Ultimate Kitty Pryde either, at least back when she first showed up in Ultimate X-Men. Now she is (almost) the sole reason I read Ultimate Comics X-Men. Don’t get me wrong there are lots of great things about the book, but man is Kitty Pryde captivating to read. She’s fearless, confident and clever, and she sits in this nice middle point between Prof. X and Magneto’s philosophies regarding mutant kinds place in the world. Following the events of Ultimatum (which I’ll talk about more in a while) things hit an all time low for the mutant race and teenager Kitty Pryde became the de-facto leader of the X-Men. I mean I love Cyclops in 616 at the moment. He makes for a brilliant read each and every time. But Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine and Magneto have been the big fish of the mutant world for so long, and it’s so refreshing to have someone else (who doesn’t have the power level of Prof. X or Magneto) take the reins. Youjust couldn’t do that in Marvel’s regular line of comics.
The Giants and the War Machines
This is a small thing I know, none of them are even big characters (Pun intended). But Henry Pym’s and Tony Stark’s powers are exactly the type of thing that the military, SHIELD or a nefarious organisation like Hydra would capitalize on. It makes no sense that the 616 SHIELD doesn’t have a team of giant people. It’s small touch I know, but it add’s hugely to the overall realistic feel of the universe in my opinion. Same goes for the fleets of Iron Man suits which have been showing up lately.
Okay let me explain myself before you grab the pitchforks. Ultimatum was at it’s very best mediocre. I think we can all agree on that at least. But still, you gotta love that in the Ultimate Marvel universe, the bad guys win sometimes. For example Ultimatum, Magneto won, kinda.. I mean he killed Prof. X, Wolverine, Cyclops, in fact almost all of the X-Men, some of the Ultimates (their version of the Avengers), Dr. Doom is killed, it leads to the Fantastic Four splitting up and Read Richards becoming a villain, New York is pretty much destroyed, a lot of Europe is wrecked, hundreds of millions are dead. Say what you want about the actual writing, but I love that something like Ultimatum was allowed to happen. It’s legitimately incredible for a company like Marvel to have done this.
I know I know… I bring up Miles Morales and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man at every opportunity, but this is slightly different. The book is incredible well written, you all must know by now, I’ve been beating you over the head with that piece of knowledge for months now. But aside from that, it’s amazing that Miles is even allowed to exist. I mean he replaced Peter Parker, he’s freakin Spider-Man! And people aren’t freaking out about it! In fact they love it. That is absolutely insane. I just love that this type of thing can happen in the Ultimate universe, like this isn’t a short term thing. I mean bar a small few exceptions pretty every much every person that has died in the Ultimate universe has stayed dead. Think about that for a second, Peter Parker, one of the most bankable characters in the industry was allowed to be permanently (probably anyway) killed off.
If why I love Ultimate Marvel could be summed up in 1 word it would be freedom, if I had 2 words, it would be creative freedom, which is pretty much what I’ve been getting at this whole time. It is shocking the things that writers of the Ultimate universe have been able to get away with, everything from cannibalism to switching up sexual orientations for major characters to some pretty graphic deaths for even more major characters (Seriously… whats up with all this cannibalism!?). Things that simply wouldn’t be allowed to happen in 616 books. But aside from the all the graphic stuff, the creative freedom of writers to do what they want without having to worry about keeping continuity across 50 other ongoing series has really let Ultimate Marvel shine. I mean in Ultimate Marvel when a major hero ends up in a life or death situation, he/she might actually die, or that city could be destroyed, or that villain might win. Thats just fantastic.
So there you ago. Agree? Disagree? Let me know below.