Fans of Marvel’s Ultimate line will in no way be surprised to hear that once again, a new creative team will be taking the reins of the line and completely changing the status quo. It happened before when Jeph Loeb took over and brought about the insane Ultimatum series, which had wide sweeping effects across the whole universe. Basically, every character you really liked ended up dying horribly tragic deaths.
So we were then given Ultimate Comics, a fresh take on what was left of the Ultimates Universe, but it was bogged down with poor shipping schedules and unconnected storylines. So now it has been announced that the new creators Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer are coming in to turn the Ultimate U. into a more cohesive involved universe, promising at least monthly shipping and another batch of wide sweeping chances to kick off after the “Death of Spider-Man” storyline currently running in Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man.
Over the last week they have revealed 4 books that will be released under the new Ultimate Comics Reborn initiative, so keep reading to see if your favorites make the cut.
First we take a look at the flagship title in the Ultimate Universe, Ultimate Spider-Man. Obviously some huge changes in store, such as a new #1, a new costume, and a character other than Peter Parker rocking the webs. MTV Geek reports:
The series relaunch will see Spider-Man with new powers and abilities while still retaining the mission of the original character, spinning out of the 6-issue Ultimate Fallout miniseries. The upcoming changes to the character might prove controversial to fans of the book according to Bendis who says that they’ve even been a source of discussion around the dinner table at home.
- For Bendis, this new initiative is “one of the most nerve wracking” for him, given the challenge of revamping his Ultimate Spider-Man title and the rest of the Ultimate Universe.
- Bendis thanked fans for the success of Ultimate Spider-Man #160, which was one of the best selling books of the year.
- Bendis calls [Sara] Pichelli “the find of the century;” this is the artist’s second stab at the character since a brief run before Mark Bagley came back to the series some time ago. He notes that she has a great eye for not only world design but fashion design.
- In bringing Hickman onto Ultimate Comics: Ultimates and Nick Spencer onto Ultimate X-Men, Bendis says the Ultimate line is hewing to its original mandate to bring in creators with unique voices and distinct spins on the characters.
- Keeping the line tight and restricted to only a couple of creators allows them to make the universe more cohesive. This is in part a response to the erratic shipping schedules of previous runs which required guess work and isolated stories based in order to avoid contradicting or spoiling other books.
- For editor Mark Paniccia, it’s an opportunity to take more chances with the characters and titles.
- Bendis says some of the Ultimate Fantastic Four characters–who were impacted greatly by Ultimate Enemy–will be making their way into these books.
- Bendis saw that some fans were worried that he’d be departing the book as part of the Reborn initiative and assures them that editorial would have to pry the book from his cold, dead hands.
- The Ultimate Fallout storyline in the aftermath of the “Death of Spider-Man” will come right on the heels of the “Death” storyline and contain many Easter Eggs for the upcoming “Reborn” initiative. Bendis says that the writing of Fallout was an emotional experience for him and might be cathartic for readers as well.
- “It’s a new number one by any definition of the term,” explains Bendis when we asked about the reason for another #1 so close to the most recent renumbering of the book.
- Bendis attributes his, Hickman, and Spencer’s rise up through indie comics as part of why the trio has such simpatico in the writing of the Ultimate universe.
- Ultimate Comics Spider-Man regular Gwen Stacy has a big year in store for her. Some readers may remember that she’s been ingested by the venom symbiote, returned to live with powers, and recently given the all-clear as being super power free by SHIELD.
- The book will be shipping more than 12 times a year.
You can check out a little more on the same info over at CBR.
The next title we will talk about is Ultimate Comics: Ultimates which spins out of the “Death of Spider-Man” storyline, as well as the events of Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates. CBR reports:
Hickman began by saying that the Ultimates reflects the fact that the American military is stretched thin. The team will feature Nick Fury, Thor, Spider-Woman, Hulk and “other heroes” to be named, but no Captain America. The first arc is titled “The Republic is Burning.”
“We’re building a cohesive universe in that all the Ultimate books will be tied in pretty tightly, and we’ll be playing off each other,” Hickman said, noting that he and the other creators — who will be revealed throughout this week — look forward to working together.
“I’ve been a part of the Ultimate universe,” Ribic said, though his experience of seven years ago “doesn’t really count” as far as what’s happening now. “These books need to have really big scale, like big budget Hollywood extravaganza,” he said.
Hickman said he’s always wanted to work in the Ultimate universe, and that his work on “Ultimate Thor” was an enticement to work on the full Ultimates team. “I think the ‘Ultimates’ should be one of the better and bigger books in the Marvel universe,” he said, citing the example of predecessors Mark Millar and Jeph Loeb.
“What’s different this time around is we’ve got a really tight, cohesive universe,” Paniccia said. He said that Millar and Loeb put together massive stories, but schedules did not permit for a unified field. “Here you get a monthly book, or more.”
Asked how the new “Ultimates” series follows on from “Fallout,” Hickman explained that “Fallout” serves as a “bridge” to the books that will be announced this week. “We’re all writing it together, I’ve read a bunch of the scripts. and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done on that series.”
“This is the characters reacting to the death of Spider-Man, there’s a lot of introspection but there’s also a lot of set-ups,” Paniccia said. “This is a miniseries you’re not going to want to miss.”
Hickman said part of the appeal of the Ultimate universe was that he’ll only be working with a few other creators, and that he can “build stories with hydrogen” because they’re not weighed down by excessive continuity. In this way, he said, it’s similar to what he’s done on “S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Hickman continued, saying that the Ultimate universe has shifted away from being “a low-entry barrier” for Marvel comics, but “we’re trying to get back to that here.” Hickman added that Ultimates “should not be a direct reflection of the Marvel Universe.” “With that understanding, we’re going to go forward pretty aggressively.”
Amanat said the other books will be influenced by Hickman’s title, but “if somebody just wants to read the ‘Ultimates,’ they don’t have to read the other books.” She added, however, “I think the experience will be a lot more fun” if readers can see the connectivity between the series.
Hickman was asked whether he had a “master plan” for the ongoing, and said he did not have an end point in the way that he did for “Fantastic Four” and “Secret Warriors.” “I know where I’m going to be for the next year, certainly,” he said, adding that the first year would likely feature more than 12 issues. “I can tell you what the first five arcs are, beat for beat.”
Ribic said that he did not want to change the costumes much. “I think design-wise most of the stuff works,” he said, adding he would adapt it to his style and make the technology a bit more futuristic. The challenge, he repeated, “is to bring enough scale to it.”
Asked if the series would be political, Hickman said “Ultimates” is “a super hero book,” but noted its initial acclaim was based on its being a reflection of the real world. He said “The Republic is Burning” is about “the decline and fall of the United States of America,” which he added “should not be taken to mean I feel one way or the other about it.” “God knows, situations like that demand heroes,” Hickman said.
Hickman said there will be Ultimate-version debuts, as well as “Ultimate universe-only characters.” “We’re changing the world; it’s going to be a really interesting book.”
Asked which Hulk (or which version of Ultimate Hulk) would appear, Hickman said, “Bruce Banner, man, Bruce Banner.”
Ultimates 1 & 2 were easily some of the best reads of the Ultimate line, loved by fans for it’s gritty realism and take on the current societal pressures the US of A face. So there are some pretty big shoes to fill. Obviously I’m talking about Mark Millar, as I wasn’t a huge fan of Loeb’s run.
Hickman called the book a companion piece to the Ultimate U relaunch fitting in to “Ultimate Comics: Ultimates” #1 through 4. “This is clearly Hawkeye centric. He’s in the middle of a mission while Thor and Iron Man are off on another mission, and it basically all culminates in what will be the future of the Ultimate Universe.” The writer explained that the books don’t have to be read together.
“If you give any character a chance at the spotlight and write them well, they all have a chance to be a hit,” the writer said of the character’s early breakout status under the pen of Mark Millar and then Jeph Loeb. He explained that his core interest in this version of Clint Barton is his heavy military background.
“We’ll cover all of that – how he got recruited and why he’s so tight with Nick Fury,” Hickman said. “As we’re using the story to move the narrative forward, we’ll bring in some other characters to cement how important he’s supposed to be moving forward.
Series artist Rafa Sandoval is “Really amazing. He really gets the character.” The writer added that the story starts in South America at an Ultimates base where something goes wrong. “It’s really pretty stunning. I’ve kept up with his art, but not as much as I should have…I’d be shocked if he’s turned in work that’s stronger than this. It’s really fantastic.”
As for the influence of the incoming movie Hawkeye on this character, Hickman joked “It was me who stole Sam Jackson’s script!” He then explained that he didn’t feel that the movie would have too much impact on his work, but like Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance changed the writing of Iron Man for comic writers forever, if Jeremy Renner nails Hawkeye on film, it may impact the future of the character on the page.
To Marvel’s new refrain that the Ultimate U is a place where things happen that could never happen in the regular “616” Marvel Universe of books, Hickman said, “Everything I’m doing in ‘The Ultimate’ and this mini series, I wouldn’t be able to do in the regular Marvel Universe – from the inciting incident through the conclusion of the book,” he said. “I’m writing plenty of Marvel Universe stuff, and these aren’t things you’d be able to do because you’d have to cancel whole franchises [as a result.]” The writer noted that the book will also have connections to Spencers “Ultimate Comics: X-Men.”
Asked how the SHIELD organization he’s writing here compares to the one he deals with in “SHIELD” and “Secret Warriors” in the main Marvel U, the writer said “Ultimate SHIELD is more proactive.” While in the 616 Universe, the organization would show up as set dressing or a deus ex machina, the entire Ultimate Universe revolves around SHIELD. “It keeps going until it fails, which is the direction we’ve been teasing… SHIELD is so important and so overextended that something’s got to give.”
And while the character of Clint Barton will continue to be embroiled in the spy organization’s intrigue as he fights his way through the solo series, the death of Hawkeye’s family which informed so much of his past appearances “probably won’t be as prevalent” in this book as Hawkeye becomes more of a new version of himself through the course of the action.
Guest starring in the series will be a load of new Ultimate characters but also Bruce Banner as the Hulk, Jean Grey and Karen Grant.
In the end, while all of this plays into a bigger picture “It’s all about the arc of the main character…that’s a completely confined story,” said Hickman as to whether his well-known master plotting would play heavily in the book. “I think sometimes people forget that I’ve done more mini series than I’ve done long format series. This will have a very satisfying conclusion, but as with all the things we’re doing in the Ultimate Universe now: these things aren’t happening in isolation, and things resonate.”
Finally, the writer revealed a bit about the new costume for the hero, saying “He gets into costume at the end of the first issue, and it’s none of the ones you’ve seen so far. It’s probably more like the Hitch one than the other incarnations.”
And rounding off the announcement is the return of the Ultimate X-Men, a team that probably suffered the most during Ultimatum, with pretty much the entire roster dying. MTV Geek reports:
This September, writer Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Secret Avengers) will be joined by artist Paco Medina (X-Men, Deadpool) as the mutants of the Ultimate Universe get a new #1 with Ultimate X-Men. From today’s call we’ve learned that Marvel’s plan is to relaunch the Ultimate Universe with a greater level of cohesiveness and consistency that may have been lacking in the past.
While we’ve detailed the big bullet points below, the most significant elements of Spencer and Medina’s run are the altered landscape for mutantkind in the Ultimate U, with many of the regular cast from the last Ultimate X-Men series dying in the course of Ultimatum, leading the survivors to survive in a world with a new Mutant Registration Act. Lacking the guidance of either Professor X or Magneto, the team will have to find their own way and simply try to stay alive.
- According to Spencer, “The number of mutants that we’d recognize have dwindled as a result of Ultimatum.” Much of the upcoming stories will be a reaction to this.
- As a result of the Magneto-led attack in Ultimatum, mutants must register or be shot on site as part of the Mutant Registration Act in a direct reference to the iconic “Days of Future Past.”
- Spins out of Loeb’s Ultimate X which featured Jean Grey, Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler.
- The cast is: Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake, Johnny Storm, Karen Grant (Jean Grey), and Rogue. For Spencer, however, the book belongs to Kitty and Rogue.
- Playing off of Ultimate Origins and the canonical idea of mutants being created in a lab as well as some of the world building being done by Jonathan Hickman in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates; these story will be the launching point for Ultimate X-Men.
- The revelation that they were experiments in a lab gone wrong will have emotional ramifications for mutants; it’s already led to Magneto killing himself.
- Medina is a good fit because of the “energy and dynamic” he brings to the table. Spencer imagined the kind of Wolverine Jr. the artist would create.
- The goal is to have one universe, three great writers, and monthly or more publication with a bit of crossover between titles.
- Spencer says it’s really a book about characters not just trying to save the world, but trying to save each other.
- You will see some characters try to fill that leadership/mentorship vacuum left in the wake of Professor X and Magneto’s deaths.
- In terms of threats to the cast, they’re under attack by increasingly advanced mutant-hunting technology as well as people looking to fill the void left by Magneto who see the X-Men as an obstacle. Additionally, there’s another enemy popping up across the globe repudiating the idea that mutants are simply a mistake in the lab.
Ultimate X-Men will be on shelves this September.
It really says a lot about a character that his ‘death’ has huge ramifications spanning across an entire universe of characters. You my boy, Spidey. I’m not too sure who would be taking over as Spidey, but I don’t think it’s the female clone (Jessica Drew) as they did say it’s a character with different powers, but we’ll see.
So there it is. Your preview of the upcoming changes set to rock the Ultimate universe. I haven’t really been following closely since the events of Ultimatum, but hearing how they are planning the future renews my interest enough that I might just have to get caught up.
What are your thoughts on the latest change-up? Are you still intrigued by the Ultimate Universe or ready to give it up?
Sound off in the comments section below!