After years of phenomenal stories, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe was starting to flounder. The line had become stagnant, with the publisher hitting the reset button, cancelling many books and launching others. With more hits than misses at this point, many were confident the quality would improve. Sadly, it was only exacerbated, with seemingly every title failing to capture any of the previous magic, despite the return of the original creators.
Ultimatum reset the board in many ways for the Ultimate U. While it certainly had problems with execution, it did rectify a major problem for the line. Ultimate U. was becoming too similar to the main line, with nearly every popular character present. Now, with the many characters dead and the original Ultimate books, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men gone, new titles took their place. Every book now bared the moniker Ultimate Comics: Title (I’m making note of it here because I shan’t be typing it again).
Avengers and Spider-Man were the first books. Avengers saw the return of Mark Millar to the title, though most of the magic was lost. After the first 6 issue series, Millar continued with Avengers 2, 3, and finally, Avengers vs New Ultimates. All had sub-par quality. Spider-Man was just as good as ever with Brian Michael Bendis at the helm. Initially, they teased Spider-Man’s death in Ultimatum, though that didn’t turn out to be the case. Bendis has said he will continue writing the book until it’s pried from his dead hands. Thankfully, that’s proven to be the case, as the quality of the book hasn’t diminished.
Several other mini-series dotted the landscape, highlighting different members of the Ultimates. Cap, Thor, and Hawkeye all received four issue mini-series that didn’t amount to much, though mildly entertaining. These were written by upcoming creators such as Jason Aaron, Cullen Bunn, and Jonathan Hickman, all prominent Marvel writers today.
The X-Men were a mess. Jeph Loeb continued his destruction of the Ultimate U. with a new title, X. X featured Wolverine’s son, Jimmy Hudson. The book was originally slated as bimonthly, but suffered from horrendous delays, taking 18 months to publish 5 issues. Thankfully, the book was put out of its misery, replaced by X-Men. The book, first by Nick Spencer, then Brian Wood, centered on the mutant struggle as they were hunted, placed in interment camps after the knowledge of their man made creation became public. Kitty Pryde became the defacto leader with an eventually mutant cure produced. Overall, it wasn’t too shabby.
While the line was pretty ho-hum, there was still a few flairs of brilliance. Doomsday series saw Reed Richards become a villain. This, writen by Ultimate Godfather Bendis (heh), was a stroke of brilliance.
Spider-Man reverted to its original numbering in time for issue #150, where they began to promote the “Death of Spider-Man.” This wasn’t metaphorical, Peter Parker died fighting the Green Goblin. Ultimate Fallout followed, dealing with Peter’s death. It quickly went off the rails after the first issue, shoehorning springboards for other series. While the bulk was nonsense, this was memorable for two reasons. First, it officially debuted the new Spider-Man, original creation Miles Morales, a black-hispanic teenager. The second is the sequence below. I still get choked up reading it.
Following Fallout, Ultimates (now The Ultimates), X-Men (mentioned above) and Spider-Man, now featuring Miles, relaunched, again. The former were decent while Spider-Man was far and away the best title. Though the books had been the best they’ve been since Ultimatum, the line wasn’t doing well, sales-wise. Marvel once again hit the reset button. After some time traveling goofiness in the main books, Galactus, the real Galactus, found himself in the Ultimate U. This kicked off Hunger, followed by Cataclysm.
For the third time, Marvel’s wiped the slate, relaunching their books. I’ll let you guess which one is worth reading. What happens next? That’s a story for another time.
Did you cry when Peter died (don’t lie)? What Ultimate books made you jump ship? Comment below!
Roller coaster of quality.