Monday, June 23, 2014

Marvel Ultimate Universe on Life Support?

The Marvel Ultimate Universe looks like it's on a downward spiral and most people say its long past due. What happened to this imprint and why couldn't Marvel get it together?

With the recent reduction to only 3 books, and now the cancellation of Ultimate FF, the Marvel Ultimate Universe is in dire straights. While this alternate universe imprint was originally meant to breath a new energy into the existing Marvel characters, for some reason, they just can't get it right anymore.

I've read again and again over the years how Spider-man is the only real reason to keep the Marvel Ultimate Universe alive. Nowadays, frankly, I have to agree. With Ultimate FF gone after only 6 issues and the All-New Ultimates sucking more and more each issue, Miles Morales is really the only book worth looking forward to each week from the Ultimate line-up. Not only does the Marvel Ultimate Universe only have one good character to depend on these days, there are constant rumors that Miles Morales will find his way into the 616 universe. And that would be putting the final nail in the Ultimate U coffin.

I think many readers have had little faith in the Marvel Ultimate Universe for a while now. Yet it should be at least somewhat important to current day comic book fans because the Ultimate U has had a surprisingly strong influence on the pop culture translations of our favorite comic books. Look to the most recent Amazing Spider-man reboot. This representation of Spider-man and the villains are much more similar to the Ultimate U than the 616 universe. And it looks like we may be seeing that same trend in the latest Fantastic Four reboot as well. Not to mention Nick Fury in the MCU.

The Marvel Ultimate Universe is often compared to DC's New 52 as a forerunner of this now commonplace rebooting of characters. I think it's fun to see characters get a new life, but what's the point if the publisher can't get great talent to continue the work? I personally enjoy the work that Bendis does and has done, but many people don't. On top of that, the books not under Bendis are getting terrible reviews both critically and from the fans. See All-New Ultimate #2 review at This book has never broken a 7 out of 10 on IGN. Also, here's a short but dismal review of issue #3 from Inside Pulse. Personally, I was very excited to see this young team get its own on-going book. Also, there was much excitement for Michael Fiffe to make his Marvel writing debut. But ever since it started, I have been very disappointed. The greatest offense in this on-going is the change of Jessica Jones from Spider-woman to Black Widow. Needlessly confusing and pointless in the narrative, this change is nothing but frustrating. On top of that, they took the sleek and sexy Spider-woman costume and replaced it with a grunge-inspired garbage excuse for a superhero costume.

Marvel Ultimate Universe's Jessica Jones... :/

While Ultimate FF had a great concept (IMHO) it lacked in execution BIGTIME. More than that, no one cared about this line-up. How do you get FF fans on board with a team that has only one member of the Fantastic Four. Yes, I know FF is not strictly meant to be the Fantastic Four. But, come on, Falcon and Machine Man? These are not heavy hitters. If we're talking about a one in three chance of hitting a home run for the Marvel Ultimate Universe, I don't think I would have picked this line-up. I thought the concept of a special, Stark-funded team meant to track down and eliminate reality-destroying anomalies was actually a concept with some legs. Maybe it was, or maybe I was totally wrong. But either way, this creative team and this superhero line-up choked at the plate. The rest is history...

Finally, we are left with the most recent rendition of Ultimate Spider-man, aptly titled Miles Morales: the Ultimate Spider-man. I'm not sure how many more variations on that title they can come up with for new volumes of Ultimate Spider-man. This current title is quite a mouthful, but at least it is slightly more distinctive than previous volumes that were very easy to mix up. Trust me. When I first went back to catch up on all the Miles Morales story lines, it was difficult to keep them separate from the Peter Parker stories. (Side note: I have a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, which I highly recommend for these binge catch-up sessions.) Miles Morales is still going strong because it's still in the hand of Bendis and Marquez. This was the creative team who wrapped up the last volume of Ultimate Spidey and really laid the ground work for the All-New, young Ultimates. As I read the final issues of those books, I was enthralled and truly drawn to this young team. The build up to them becoming a team wasn't exactly subtle, but it worked. And while Cataclysm, and then Survive, really failed to capitalize on this build up, I still had high hopes. My hopes for the young Ultimates have been dashed and the recent developments for Miles Morales have me on pins and needles as well. See the image below:

The All-New X-men make a visit to the Marvel Ultimate Universe this September

At first, many people thought this might be a joke, but recent September solicitations from Marvel have confirmed it's real. What does this mean, you ask? At first, I thought it was a solid indication that Miles was moving over to 616. But with the recent confirmation of this crossover, it was also revealed that, in fact, the All-New X-men were actually the ones doing the universe hopping. At this point, I have no idea what in the heck this development means for the Marvel Ultimate Universe, but I'm hopeful, and here's why:

The All-New X-men is another brainchild of Bendis and honestly, they need a new home. Time displaced from the past and unable to return, the All-New X-men are beginning to flounder. With a quick visit to 1610, the team may get the boost they need to stay relevant. On top of that, we're seeing the infusion of some excellent talent with more stories from Bendis coming into the Ultimate Universe fray and Stuart Immonen on pencils with his always crisp and graphic renderings in the mix.

Hopefully, the development within the Marvel Ultimate Universe over the second half of 2014 can help to revitalize this imprint. Otherwise, I hope they stop kicking this dead horse. We've seen the Ultimate imprint die and be revive numerous times, but it hasn't had the same "umph" that it had in the beginning for a long time. Miles Morales is the pillar that carries the entire weight of the 1610 universe, and it's about time he got some back-up.

What are your thoughts on the Marvel Ultimate Universe? Please share in the comments!