So some time ago, I heard vague news/rumors that the Ultimate Universe comics were going to be cancelled, and would be going out with a storyline called Ultimatum. After a bit of sadness (because Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man has consistently been one of the best comic books out there, and the other Ultimate books have been pretty decent as well), I decided this was great news.
Mainstream superhero comic books do a lot of things well, but the one thing they’ve never managed to pull off is endings. So now here’s a chance for Bendis to wrap up an entire universe in a big event that can actually change things in big, permanent ways. Sweet! Plus, throughout the Ultimate comics (particularly in Bendis’ somewhat retconny Ultimate Origins) there’s been a lot of hinting about the nature and sudden origin of all these superheroes, and it’d make perfect sense for the big finale to tie that all up and provide a thematic unity to the whole run of the comics, tracing superheroes from their sudden rise to their equally sudden end.
Man, that’d be fucking great. Of course, it’s not what we got.
What we got in Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum (and a bunch of related books that I’m not going into individually here) is: A tidal wave.
Seriously. A tidal wave. It engulfed New York and “destroyed” it, and the heroes had to respond. And I mean, look, I get the combination 9/11 and Katrina motif they’re going for and all, but fundamentally, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t wrap anything up thematically, it’s just a random event.
Which is just as well, because it also turns out not to be an ending. Because, okay, Marvel canceled the Ultimate line... only to introduce the Ultimate Comics line. And this actually less significant than it sounds. Brian Bendis’ Ultimate Comics Spider-Man picks up exactly where his Ultimate Spider-Man left off. It says issue #1, but it’s loaded with the previous 100+ issues of continuity, including the Ultimatum stuff.
So my verdict on the Ultimatum event is: Meh. It’s just another big crossover event, but a lame one like House of M, not a cool one like Civil War. And everyone quickly stops talking about it and goes back to status quo, which is weird when New York is allegedly destroyed.
But on the other hand, Bendis’ Spider-Man work, whatever the title, remains very good; and Warren Ellis’ Ultimate Comics Iron Man is one of the best takes on Iron Man I’ve read, even if it seems to violate the continuity of both the inconsistent Card Ultimate Iron Man and the version that originally appeared in The Ultimates. So basically, keep reading everything the Ultimate (Comics) Universe, but don’t expect much from the big event.