Thursday, August 04, 2011

Marvel Comics Presents ... Glenn Beck's Ultimate Nightmare!

I hope you like the witty title. I know. It's horribly clever. So, right then. Ultimate Fallout #4. It’s been getting a bit of media attention, hasn’t it?

I figure since I’ve got the Wednesday night slot, I’ll get my two thoughts in before someone on here says something stupid. Like that’s it underwhelming. Or how Flashpoint is a better comic. Both of those things would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

Simply put, Ultimate Fallout #4 is an extremely good comic, but not for the reasons you may think.

The Ultimate Fallout series is about the Ultimate Universe in the wake of the Death of Spider-Man and setting up the new Ultimates, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Ultimate X-Men relaunches. “But wait!” you say, smugly. “I can see this being important in the Spider-Man book, but what do the Ultimates or the X-Men have to do with this character’s death? Surely this is a cheap ploy designed to lift the whole line.” To which I would reply, “You haven’t read a Marvel book since Secret Wars II, Lee. Shut up.”

Basically, yes, this series is using the momentum of Ultimate Spider-Man to give some spark to the rest of the line. But that doesn’t really matter, because they’ve done it really well. Outside of the Spider-Man cast, the death isn’t being treated so much as a deeply personal tragedy, but as a national (or at least New York tragedy). It is trying to evoke (and quite effectively in my opinion) the mood that pervaded the country after incidents like the Gabby Giffords assassination attempt. So the Death of Peter Parker either serves as a jumping off point for the characters touched by it or a backdrop for other stories, depending on which is appropriate.

The issue is split into 3 segments, each written by the writers of the upcoming Ultimate relaunch, each setting up storylines in their new books. The one that has made this book a media sensation is the Spider-Man one, which introduces *gasp* a black Spider-Man. I’ll stop for a minute and give Glenn Beck a minute to change his diapers.

Hope that wasn’t too messy. Anyway, technically the new Spider-Man (as seen in USA Today) is the half Hispanic, half Black Miles Morales and he’s under the orders of Michelle Obama to indoctrinate the children of America in socialist theology. The point is, he’s not Peter Parker and he’s not white. What we actually see in the course of the issue isn’t much. In fact, my comic store owner called it a huge non event. There’s something to this. What we get are a few pages of an inexperienced new Spider-Man with what seem to be spider powers and a shoddy costume trying very hard to be Spider-Man. He then pulls his mask off to show us his face. Not a huge event, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.

First, this is a really good introduction to the character, particularly as Sara Pichelli is a fantastic artist who does a great job with both the fluidity of the fight and the characters’ facial expressions. Second, if you’re going to kill Spider-Man (and this is the ultimate universe, so it could theoretically stick) giving us a character this different is a great idea. Miles is coming at us from a completely different perspective from the Spider-Man we’re used to. If you’re going to replace Peter Parker, shouldn’t you give us something that we’re not used to? And I’ll also say this: I think it’s good that Marvel is throwing some diversity into their universe in such a high profile way. Most of today’s comic characters are products of the 60’s, which means they are largely white. It’s nice that Marvel’s Ultimate Universe at least is starting to look a little bit more like the real world. And hell, Miles is going to be written by the guy who’s had the best run on Spider-Man ever. I’m excited for that. And even with all of that, a kid from New York City who makes fun of criminals is Spider-Man. Things aren’t THAT different.

Now, as exciting as it was to be introduced to Miles, he’s not the reason this issue is so good. That anticipation of what’s next is and every segment of the book gave me that feeling.

For his Ultimates (presumably at least) Hickman picks up on one of the more interesting developments in the Ultimate Universe, and reintroduces us to Reed Richards: Super villain. Reed escapes from the pocket universe he was trapped in and we’re treated to a much darker take on something Hickman played with when he was writing the mainstream Reed, namely his desire to solve everything. Back in the world, Reed has established some crazy tomorrow Dome where a bunch of kids in crazy jumpsuits have to evolve or die to further his education. Its crazy and its nuts and I don’t fully understand it yet, but I want to and that is EXACTLY what I want out of a Jonathan Hickman comic.

Finally, we get the X-Men section, where a reporter and Valerie Cooper, the President’s Advisor on Metahuman and Mutant Affairs, have lunch. Over the course of a well written and tense conversation, Valerie figures out the reporter has unearthed the government’s dirty little secret: the US created mutants in a lab. In the course of this sequence, writer Nick Spencer achieves something remarkable, well two remarkable things if you count wringing a coherent comic out of Clayton Crain. Anyway, for the first time in the history of the Ultimate Universe, Spencer has managed to make the Ultimate X-Men an interesting and exciting concept. Taking the idea of man creating mutants from Bendis’ Ultimate Origins mini and running with it to its natural conclusion seems like a fascinating story and, once again, I can’t wait to read it.

DC’s big reboot is getting a lot of attention, and that makes sense. It is going to have a huge impact on the market. But Marvel’s Ultimate reboot looks fantastic and this miniseries, and this issue in particular, makes me think that this is where the action is going to be this fall.

10 years ago, Marvel’s Ultimate line was the home of the most cutting edge superhero comics on the market. If this miniseries is any indication, I think the Ultimate line is about to reclaim that title in the not too distant future.


  1. It sounds like the new Ultimates line just might live up to the hype. But so much still depends on execution.

    The bad Reed sounds good but it depends on Hickman’s ability to tell a story.

    The X-men made in test tubes is interesting as background info, but what's the story. Are they really going to be hunted? Are they living in the streets, or have the X school been set up. Is this closer to Runaway’s than the established heroes concept in the current X books?

    As for a new spider-man, making him black, or hispanic, or mixed, isn't a hook. It's a fact and I'm worried that we are going to see the exact same stories (learning to use powers, etc etc) that we saw with PP.

    This doesn't mean the stories won't be good because Bendis did a great job with it originally. Yes, I read the entire USM run. But, the success of the new USM is going to depend more on the supporting cast and new villains to succeed, otherwise it's the same story I read 10 yrs ago when Bendis started.

    There’s good reason to be excited about this relaunch, and I am cautiously optimistic. I loved the original Ultimates line and I am hoping this is a return to form for it.

  2. The New Spider-Man is fine. The whole point of what DC is doing is that they realize the characters have become stale and infallible. The problem was they didn't go far enough. Ollie will still be Green Arrow, Connor was way more interesting then Ollie. This method allows the original story to stand as part of history and gives us the same character that we have to learn again. So when he faces the Green Goblin it is as a rookie, because that story is more compelling. As long as the character is different from Peter Parker it should work. The half black / half Hispanic thing comes off a little too much like trying to please too many groups, but it is an element of the character that makes him different and makes me want to read about it now. Ultimate Spider-Man was a rehash of the original MU in many ways this has a chance to take the character of Spider-Man to different places.

  3. I disagree with Jim about "trying to hard" with the new character. I think in a place like NYC, a kid with that kind of background is extremely common. And again, its a background with a unique perspective that makes him different than Peter. Like I said, what I think will make Miles work in a way that some other new characters don't is that while he brings a different perspective to the character, he doesn't fundamentally change who Spider-Man is. Which is a kid from New York City fighting crime after a life changing experience (that last bit I am surmising from interviews we've seen with Bendis).

    Anyway, as to the X-Men story, the set up here is as much as everyone hates mutants now(which in the Ultimate Universe is alot), people are about to find out they aren't the next step in human evolution, but an experiment gone wrong, by the US government no less. Meaning that everyone, mutants included, is about to be 100% more pissed off about mutants than they were before. I think not only is that an interesting backdrop for new stories, but that's a different dynamic for mutant stories than we've seen in the mainstream MU.

  4. And also, in regards to Lee's comments, I think something that'll make Miles a different kinda Spider-Man is that while we're inevitably going to get some of the same stuff we've seen (learning to use powers, first fight with super villains, an origin, etc.) its being done by a guy who's already done it before, so I'm doubtful he'll just regurgitate that stuff. But also, this is a Spider-Man who is picking up another guy's legacy, which is something we haven't seen before. Ok, there was the Clone Saga, so its something we haven't seen DONE WELL before.

  5. I said it comes off like trying too hard - I actually agree with you that it is not an unusual background given where the story takes place. My only hope is that Bendis allows this character a little more growth in age as I felt Peter Parker being 15/16 for ten plus years was way too long, let him age a little bit more. I think the Ultimate MU is actually doing a nice job of moving further away from the regular MU as before it felt like the versions ran together a little too much - now there are some hard line differences that give us a cleaner slate.

  6. I wonder if Bendis is going to mimic some of the McDuffie's Milestone universe stuff with the new Spidey.

    In Milestone, there was an Iron man clone (Hardware), Superman (Icon), and young hero (Static). Those books were all very good and managed to feel quite different.

    But, if anyone can do different, it's Bendis.