So I have a confession to make. I quite enjoyed Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, at least most of the stuff before Ultimatium. There I said it. It’s out and in the open and I am not ashamed by it. For those who don’t know it, the Ultimate Universe was the attempt to restart the Marvel universe, creating a jumping on point for new readers telling stories with classic Marvel characters, such as Spider-Man, Iron etc but with a twist. Spider-Man was now a teenager, Captain America was more militaristic by nature, Hawkeye kills people, the Fantastic Four were teenagers etc. For the most part these changes were interesting, and it created an environment for fresh story telling due the blank canvas a fresh universe brings.
Brian Michael Bendis’s work on Ultimate Spider-Man was fantastic, as was the first two volumes of the Ultimates, despite Mark Miller using similar story beats throughout both volumes. The best work, and the stuff you should get if you’re so well inclined is the Brian K. Vaughn Ultimate X-men arcs and the Warren Ellis/ Mike Carey Ultimate Fantastic Four work. Apart from the books I already mentioned that is.
But after a while, the universe had its own messy continuity and it was in dire need of a shake up. Thus the Ultimatum Wave happened and unleashed one of the single biggest missteps of the entire comic industry. This event was an excuse to kill off the majority of the characters in utterly gruesome ways, and the overall story doesn’t make much sense either. Plot points get brought up with no pay off. It’s a nasty story that didn’t need to exist, mostly because It doesn’t add any thing interesting to the universe. To its credit though, if a character died in the Ultimate Universe, they mostly stayed dead.
There were attempts to rebuild the Universe after the wave, with only Spider-Man retaining any sense of credibility. In fact if it wasn’t for Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man then the entire universe would’ve been a wash, which is a shame because the universe started off so strong, and the books themselves, apart from Spider-Man just got in my opinion worse and worse to the point where they were almost a chore to get through.
But none of that matters because with the publishing of the “Ultimate End” tie in to Secret Wars, we wave good bye to a Universe that had over stayed its welcome. It is for the best though, because there is only so many restarts a universe can sustain before it just becomes a shadow of itself. What was once a brave and exciting Universe ended up being written into a very large corner, despite the creators best efforts. For every brilliant idea such as Arcade being a ruthless killer using gadgets in a game where he hunts for mutants set up by Mojo now an albino character, Rhino being a guy in an armoured Suit rather then just super strong and kick arse redesign of Thor there were some terrible ideas. Petrio and Wanda being lovers as well as twins, a Tony Stark/ Black Widow sex tape and the uncomfortable Hank Pym domestic assault arc perhaps it’s for the best the universe has ended.
The only disappointing aspect was how it went out, not with a bang but with a dull whimper. But then again, it does seem fitting that what started off as a hot property with so much potential ended up dying off in an event that had so much potential and then just finished half halfheartedly.