Ever since the shocking events of “Ultimatum,” fans of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe have been wondering what fate awaits the reimagined heroes and villains that helped turn the company inside out over a decade ago. And while the rechristened Ultimate Comics line’s two flagship series – Brian Bendis and David Lafuente’s teen take on Spider-Man and Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco’s hard-hitting “Ultimate Avengers” -Â have already helped put the universe back on the sales map, the franchise gained a bit more star power at this week’s Diamond Retailer Summit in Baltimore where the final two Ultimate Comics titles were finally confirmed.
First up came the final details on the already announced “New Ultimates” written by Jeph Loeb with art by Frank Cho. Already expected by fans since the first word of the line relaunch, Loeb told CBR how this February-debuting series won’t just be another superhero team book…it’ll be the only one. “New Ultimates are now the ONLY superhero team left in the Ultimate Universe. There are no X-Men. The Fantastic Four have disbanded. Even Mark’s Ultimate Avengers aren’t really a group per se as much as a team that’s been assembled for a top secret covert ops mission.
“This is bigger ‘save the world’ stuff than what Mark is doing. Like, all of Asgard coming down on top of them (a bit of which was touched in the end of ‘Ultimates 2’). We wanted a team that can handle situations like this, but at the same time is grounded in the UU. With the death of the Wasp, I wanted to include a strong female presence in the group as well.”
Aside from an expanded role for the ladies of the Ultimate line, Loeb explained that the New Ultimates team begins with Tony “Iron Man” Stark. Although, this time around the playboy inventor may be indulging a bit less in his martini-swilling lothario ways as he did in previous stories, like Loeb’s own “Ultimates 3.” “Tony’s had a tough time of it. He was directly or indirectly involved with Wolverine’s murder. A huge portion of his personal income has been wiped out. His home and all those possessions are gone. Bringing the New Ultimates together is as much out of need as anything. But in order to do that, he’ll have to compromise his own integrity. It won’t be fun for him – but hopefully it will [be] for us.”
But beyond those brief hints, the writer declined to offer up a full lineup of players for the reinvigorated Ultimates. “I can tell you that S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Triskelion are front and center back in the lives of the Ultimates, and not everyone is thrilled about that,” he said. “Nick Fury, on the other hand, is nowhere to be seen, since he drives Millar’s Ultimate Avengers as a covert ops organization. Col. Carol Danvers is responsible for S.H.I.E.L.D. And she and Tony (and Hawkeye for that matter) don’t see eye to eye…on anything.”
And one hero who may not yet be out of the picture in the series opening arc is the Ultimate U’s reigning thunder god Thor. Or at least the bearded hero’s hammering presence will be felt in the series from beyond Valhalla. Loeb teased, “With Thor out of the picture, the door has been opened for Loki’s revenge. It’s a big huge mindblowing -Â thanks to Frank Cho -Â adventure that takes place in a New York City that is just recovering.” The writer added of Cho’s contributions to the series. “It’s bigger. That’s what I can promise. Every time Frank turns in a page, all of Marvel starts talking. Every panel looks like a poster. Its simply stunning stuff.”
One revelation that Loeb wouldn’t reveal anything about was the fallout of the relationship between doomed lovers Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. While both Yellowjacket and the Wasp died in “Ultimatum,” fans were left to wonder whether a cryptic reference to “the Jocasta project” would play out as it had in the regular Marvel U, with an android version of Jan appearing in the future. However, when CBR asked Loeb about this possibility, the writer only replied, “Look, it’s Joe Quesada over there waving! Hi Joe!”
In any event, in Loeb’s estimation, fans can expect mostly the unexpected in the Ultimate Comics line, and in “New Ultimates” specifically, those twists will be hitting the personal side of the heroes’ lives. “The challenge of the Ultimate U is to always push the envelope,” he explained. “While Mark tends to reach in the more political agenda – which I love, and he’s much better at it than I am – I like seeing what these characters will do emotionally, and creating surprising twists on their personal lives we haven’t seen.”
Broken or no, the Ultimates will have a lot on their hands when they finally reassemble four months from now, from Loki’s impending assault to the shattered world left in the wake of Magneto’s “Ultimatum” attack. “It isn’t so much a new landscape as much as the aftermath landscape,” Loeb concluded. “When we first discussed ‘Ultimatum’ with Bendis and Millar, one of the things they impressed upon me is that the Ultimate Universe doesn’t have a reboot button. When Magneto blew up the Brooklyn Bridge during ‘Ultimate War,’ it stayed blown. When the Hulk tore down city blocks and killed 800 people, New York had to recover from that. Now, Latveria is gone; the Savage Land is gone; Wakanda is gone; New York is rebuilding, London is in disarray. These are just backgrounds for our heroes (and villains) to work from.”