I don’t know who the target audience for “Ultimate Origins” is, but I’ve read almost every Ultimate universe comic ever printed (except for that aberration known as “Ultimate Adventures” and the second Elektra miniseries which just somehow passed me by), and as a regular reader of everything Ultimate I’m completely disengaged by this comic. Perhaps its intended for the nascent Ultimate universe reader — a gateway into this parallel Marvel dimension — but even for that kind of reader I don’t see how this comic has much appeal. It looks nice, sure — and I’ll get to Butch Guice’s beefy linework in a minute — but it’s an exercise in connect-the-dots more than anything else.
It’s the “Star Wars” prequels for the Ultimate universe, and who wants to read that?
I do want to commend the work of Butch Guice before I descend any farther into the bowels of negativity, though. Guice has always been one of the more interesting mainstream artists, but the gangly and disproportionate anatomy often overpowered his strong storytelling sense. His post-CrossGen work has been far superior to anything he produced in his earlier years, however, and I think “Ultimate Origins” showcases his best work yet. He’s a great example of a comic book veteran who’s constantly improving his craft, and I certainly can’t knock this issue on the artistic side. Even his inking, which shows a much stronger Joe Kubert influence than his previous work, helps make this comic look great.
And it’s not Bendis’ dialogue that’s a problem. He establishes a nice syntactical rhythm, as he’s known to do, and the issue moves swiftly enough without feeling utterly decompressed. “Ultimate Origins” #4 isn’t an issue overflowing with ideas, but it contains enough bits and pieces to provide a relatively full read. The problem is that the ideas and plot points are so ridiculously contrived, in the worst possible sense of the word.
I suppose this hitherto-secret origin of the Ultimate universe might have been planned all along. Maybe everything Bendis did in “Ultimate Marvel Team-Up” and elsewhere was based on a grand unified theory of the Ultimate universe as presented here. But none of that matters when the story we get in this series is nothing but a survey of the connective tissue holding the universe together.
My allusion to the “Star Wars” prequels wasn’t hyperbole. Bendis employs the same technique George Lucas became so fond of a decade ago. He creates a story that’s sole purpose is to explain how everything in the Ultimate universe connects. Instead of ‘lil Darth Vader building C3P0 we get the feisty bandana-clad young Hank Pym playing around with Hulk-ified genetics. Instead of young Obi Wan failing to teach his pupil the methods of self-control we get Peter Parker’s dad working for Nick Fury. I won’t spoil some of the more blatant connections between the Ultimate universe of the present and what we find out in “Ultimate Origins,” but I will say that instead of telling a thrilling story about a secret past, each page of this series saps the Ultimate universe of a bit of its mystery, and why would anyone want to see that?
If you’re looking for something staid and lifeless, “Ultimate Origins” #4 has everything you need. And it sure looks nice.