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Do People Still Care About the Ultimate Universe?

by  in Comic News Comment
Do People Still Care About the Ultimate Universe?

The last one I did in this vein got 70 comments. That means people universally liked it, right?

So, last time I questioned the relevancy of the Wildstorm Universe, based on the fact that their latest tonal shift was inspired by the one R.E.M. song all people in America are legally mandated to know even if they can’t possibly sing all the lyrics. No, really, it was a constitutional amendmant and everything. I think Ted Stevens even attached a rider on it for a billion dollar overpass attached to nothing, just for fun.

My point, which one commenter couldn’t find (at least, I stopped reading after Apodaca showed up), is that I seem to remember the Wildstorm Universe being a big deal for a while there. It was where all the cool, smart superbooks were. Other than Authority, they never sold for crap (and in the case of Casey’s WildCats and Automatic Kafka, I think that was the point), but they were generally considered a cut above the stuff DC and Marvel were churning out and people actually cared about them, in spite of the fact that a lot of the characters were really pretty generic and derivative vehicles for Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio splash pages in the early ’90s. Of course, Warren Ellis evened that out by adding a lot of grimmacing science heroes in trenchcoats, so now they have at least two flavors to work from.

It just seems weird to me that Wildstorm can go as far as they did to shake things up and no one seems to particularly care. Of course, I only read 5 1/2 blogs; maybe some fanboy (or Dirk Deppey, who’s a secret fanboy in the same way Obama’s a secret muslim) is really shaken up about this and I missed it reading whatever random panels Chris Sims posted on vacation. Brian Hibbs also reviewed one of their post wordsplodo books, too, and I read him, so I guess that counts! But it was pretty much from his dispassionate retailer position. Which I would hope is not a sexual position, too, but I’d probably be disappointed if I inquired further via google on that.

Oh yeah, I was gonna tie this in to the Ultimate Marvel Universe’s irrelevancy at some point. Better get on that.

Yeah, so, the Ultimate Universe, it’s kinda not all that popular these days like I remember it being in 2003, too. Part of that is the whole “who needs it when you can do Civil War?” thing, I think. Also, as people who were really freaked out by the Ultimate Universe’s existence demanded, Serpentor style, all the creators who were draws on Ultimate books migrated over to the OG Universe Marvel stuff. Which caused more fan feaking out, because hey, it’s one thing if he writes Cap and Iron Man as jerks in the Ultimate Universe, but now he’s messing up the REAL ONES!!@WDKD!!!1111!!! I really don’t understand all the other residents of Nerd Jerusalem sometimes.

Maybe it’s me, but the Ultimate stuff doesn’t seem to be moving the dial much anymore. There’s a lot of reasons I can think of in my half assed way for this beyond the last one I just came up with. There’s the fact that as they’ve added more titles, it’s become just another superhero comics imprint. Back when it started up as just Spider-Man and X-Men, it was cool for suckers like me just straggling back in to comics, because it felt like getting in on the ground floor.

Now, I love ’60s Marvel stuff, but I can never say I was there when it began. I can only appreciate it with the distance of it all happening 30 years before I read it. With the Ultimate stuff, you could at least say “Hey, I’m on the ground floor!” Even if it wasn’t nearly as special or unique or original or good as the original Marvel stuff, it was the beginnings of a new universe. So that was something. At one point, it seemed like the Ultimate stuff might supplant the 616 Marvel continuity. That’s certainly not something I’m expecting any time soon. But when it was smaller, every new comic under the Ultimate banner felt special. Now, it’s just more comics. And it’s not like they publish a ton of Ultimate books, so this argument feels ready for discard.

Maybe it’s the fact that Ultimate comics have outlived their usefulness as entry level comics where the writers can take these icons and different directions that makes them less special. Part of that is that they’ve accumulated years of continuity. Now, not as much as any of the original series they were spawned from, but if you haven’t read Ultimate X-Men in years, you’ll probably be as lost picking up an issue as you would Uncanny, especially since the first couple years of Ultimate X-Men were so attuned to what Mark Millar was doing with it.

Also, just as a passive observer, it seems like they aren’t taking all those bold new chances we were hoping for back in the far flung days of 2001. Robert Kirkman’s run on Ultimate X-Men, in particular, seems to have been about cut and pasting as much of the X-Men’s history in to this new word document of a comic he was writing as he could, considering he was dredging up friggin’ Apocalypse, Onslaught, and the Australian era. Of course, I haven’t read any of his run, so feel free to disregard my opinion there, if you still find me the least bit credible on the subject. Also, maybe Kirkman will call me out via video blog, so there’s that.

To be fair, I think my “jump the shark” moment on this stuff being different was when Bendis killed off Gwen Stacy. Marvel making a tasteless doll of it just compounded my annoyance. Partially because I liked Bendis’s version of her a lot, but also because letting her live would be an interesting way of tweaking the mythos. Of course, once you start throwing around words like mythos, you can see why writers don’t rock the boat so much, even when they’re in an alternate reality.

Also! Maybe these books are too much about the creators. That seems like a straw worth grasping! I mean, in the final analysis, how many were people were buying Ultimates for more Avengers comics, and how many were buying it for Millar and Hitch’s Avengers comic? Bendis is still plugging away at Ultimate Spider-Man over in his own little corner, Mike Carey’s logged some miles on Fantastic Four by now, and Jeph Loeb’s currently doing his Jerry Bruckheimer of comics routine on Ultimates. So, you know what you’re getting on all those, beyond more franchise comics, and react accordingly. Back when Bendis and Millar were new to the mainstream superhero scene, they were really fresh (well, to me). The books felt a little different than other Marvel stuff. Now, all the writers are established names or guys who write for Heroes. By the way, has any comic ever written by a member of the Heroes writing staff been good yet? I say that owning the collection of the web comics they wrote, but still.

Of course, the catalyst for all this bleating on about the financial and critical failings of Marvel Universe 2 is this whole Ultimatum hullaballoo all the books are apparently marching towards (given the great honking banners on the covers). According to wikipedia, second hand so I can actually reasonably believe it, they’re drawing a close to the first chapter of the Ultimate Saga with that thing. Or something equally melodramatic. I guess once Jeph Loeb gets in the driver seat, it’s time to call it a day. Because he is terrible. Yes, that was entirely for T.’s (T’s?) amusement. Never let it be said that I can not pander to our seven regular readers.

So, yeah, those Ultimate comics; what happened there, man? They’re not a huge deal anymore, as far as I can tell, and I think they used to be. I could have saved some bandwith had I just condensed this whole thing to that, but that’s no fun for me. And, as should be very obvious by now, my enjoyment of my work is the only consideration I make for audience at all, beyond blatant cheap shots at popular creators who are the white whales of our long time readers. Otherwise, I couldn’t care less what any of you think. I’m like the Howard Roarke of blogging, except not, because I never even finished that slog of objectivist crap. And, yes, that was just meant to bait Steve Ditko out of a lifetime of being a recluse to post here. I had to at least try, you know?

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