Well. . . that was all a bit of a damp squib, wasn’t it? While the opening four issues included a number of revelations about the secret history of the Ultimate Universe, “Ultimate Origins” turns out to be nothing more than an extended trailer for “Ultimatum”. Call me old fashioned, but when I buy a miniseries, I expect an ongoing story of some kind to feature (and be resolved) within the pages. Instead, “Ultimate Origins” was a series of five barely-related flashbacks, which then culminated in a nod in the direction of the next big thing.
The solicitation for #5 (always a good reference point) practically screams “rewrite” when it mentions Bruce Banner and suggests a big revelation about his “destiny” despite the fact that the issue as released features neither hide nor hair of Banner or the Hulk — except on the cover. It seems likely that the series conclusion was reworked to provide a clearer lead-in to “Ultimatum.” In the end, the only piece of information that felt like it had any resonance was the probable Ultimatum-flashpoint which explained how in the Ultimate Universe, mutants are a human-created phenomenon. Besides that, the series utterly failed to connect the dots as advertised.
Perhaps the biggest apparent slip-up involved the retelling of Richard Parker’s past, which created a discrepancy in the allegedly tight Ultimate continuity. I’m generally quite forgiving of story elements that appear to be errors until the whole story is told, but with the series now over, it seems almost certain that this is a genuine oversight. It’s disappointing, especially when the whole point of this series was to lay out the “planned” history of the Ultimate Universe, and instead it’s proven that the history was anything but planned.
It’s frustrating that a series that started with a large amount of promise should stumble so badly at the end. It’s a wellspring of missed opportunities, and represents Bendis’ most genuinely lackluster effort in some time. It feels more like it was compiled from his story notes than a comic he wrote. Worryingly, when even Bendis struggles to make the Ultimate Universe interesting, it doesn’t bode well for the immediate future. Let’s hope Ultimatum justifies the impact it’s already had on this series.