Saying Goodbye to the Ultimate Universe
Thirteen years ago, when Marvel first started publishing books under the Ultimate imprint, it was the breath of fresh air the company needed. The end of the 1990’s were a disasterous time for Marvel Comics, filled with pointless, seemingly endless crossovers and gimmicks that eventually led them on the path to bankruptcy. The many decades of continuity left the 616 universe nearly impenetrable to new readers, and sales were declining at a rapid rate. This new Ultimate universe was a way to start fresh without discarding Marvel’s incredible history. Then-unknown writers such as Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar were brought in as the architects of the universe, bringing fresh voices to the newly developing line of comics.
Needless to say, it worked out fairly well. Bendis and Millar are now titans of the comic industry, the Ultimate Universe laid the groundwork for Marvel’s hugely successful cinematic escapades, and for the better part of the decade, the Ultimate books were the de facto jumping on point for new readers. However, all good things eventually must end. In 2011, the Ultimate line was relaunched again as Ultimate Comics, and was eventually scaled down to just 3 titles: Ultimate Comics X-Men, Ultimate Comics Ultimates, and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. However, at this point, the Ultimate line suffered many of the same problems that plagued the 616 universe in the late 90’s. Critically reviled events such as Ultimatum and Ultimates 3 had left a bad taste in long time reader’s mouths. Thirteen years of continuity to contend with scared off potential new readers, especially with the reader-friendly launch of “Marvel Now!” serving as an easy access point.
All of this brings us to November 2013, when the last of the remaining Ultimate titles are finally cancelled and replaced by a short string of mini-series: Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand, Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man, and Cataclysm: Ultimate X-Men. Age of Ultron and Hunger have shown us a hole ripped in the very fabric of the Ultimate Universe, leading to the arrival of a very hungry Galactus. Cataclysm will deal with the Ultimate heroes battle with the World Destroyer, but what does this mean for the Ultimate Universe as a whole? Who will survive and who will be brought over to the main Marvel titles? What will become of Miles Morales, the young Black-Latino character who has taken over the mantle of Spider-Man in the Ultimate Earth? Early solicitations for The Mighty Avengers reveal a “Spider Hero” (which is only marginally better and less offensive than Black Spider-Man or Spider-boy) joining the team during their title’s launch in this year’s Infinity event. Miles Morales was an incredibly special character to a lot of people, and to see him relegated to a third string Avengers team may not bode well for many fans.
Whether the Ultimate Universe and its characters are gone for good is merely speculation at this point, but the Cataclysm event does appear to be a real game changer for the line of comics that at one time revived and invigorated Marvel as a whole. Join us at Soundwave Comics in November to find out what’s truly so cataclysmic about Cataclysm!