BY REQUEST: ALL CAPS

SORRY, EVERYONE. THIS WAS REQUESTED BY BEAT

SINCE POSTING MY MUSINGS ON MARVEL’S ULTIMATE UNIVERSE LAST WEEK, I TOOK EVERYONE’S ADVICE AND CHECKED OUT ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (THE ONE BOOK I’D SKIPPED OVER, SINCE I’VE NEVER BEEN MUCH OF A SPIDER-MAN FAN). AND YOU GUYS WERE TOTALLY RIGHT – IT’S A FANTASTIC COMIC. OR WAS FANTASTIC, I GUESS? I CAN’T REALLY FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO ULTIMATE AFTER ULTIMATUM. NOR DO I CARE TO INVESTIGATE.

I’M ROUGHLY HALFWAY THROUGH THE SERIES NOW, AND IT REALLY FEELS LIKE THE PROPER REALIZATION OF WHAT THE NEW UNIVERSE HAD TRIED TO DO: FOCUS ON A “REALISTIC” CHARACTER TRYING TO DEAL WITH THE FALLOUT OF ACQUIRING SUPERPOWERS WHILE STILL TRYING TO LIVE A NORMAL LIFE. 15-YEAR-OLD PETER PARKER IS A PRETTY DARNED CONVINCING 15-YEAR-OLD MASQUERADING AS A PROFESSIONAL HERO, MAKING A TON OF REALLY DUMB MISTAKES AND OFTEN GETTING WAY OUT OF HIS DEPTH IN THE COURSE OF HIS ADVENTURES. THE OCCASIONAL APPEARANCE OF “REAL” HEROES LIKE THE ULTIMATES AND THE X-MEN CREATES A BRILLIANT CONTRAST TO HIS RELATIVELY SMALL CONCERNS AND GENERAL AWKWARDNESS. GREAT STUFF.

140312-ultimatum

Also awkward: The placement of Kingpin’s head here

HOWEVER, THE MORE I THINK ABOUT THE ULTIMATE UNIVERSE, THE MORE ITS UNCEREMONIOUS DEMISE IN ULTIMATUM REALLY GETS UNDER MY SKIN. THE WHOLE EVENT WAS SO HAPHAZARD, SO UNCARING FOR BOTH READERS AND OTHER CREATORS, THAT FOREKNOWLEDGE OF WHAT’S COMING EVEN SPOILS MY ENJOYMENT OF THE SPIDER-MAN BOOK.

THE IDIOTIC FATE OF THE WASP/JANET PYM PARTICULARLY GRATES ON MY NERVES. HOW DO YOU TAKE A MAJOR CHARACTER FOR THE BOOKS’ SHARED WORLD – A SMART, COMPLEX CHARACTER WHOSE INGENUITY AND WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER EXTREME (AND SOMETIMES EXTREMELY GROSS) MEASURES TO SAVE THE DAY SERVED AS AN ESSENTIAL LINCHPIN OF THE ULTIMATE UNIVERSE – AND KILL HER OFF LIKE THAT? BAD ENOUGH TO MURDER HER OFF-PANEL, BUT TO SHOW HER CORPSE BEING DEVOURED, HER INNARDS SPLASHED ACROSS THE PAGE, BY A MINOR VILLAIN? THAT GOES BEYOND MERE HACK WRITING TO GENUINE SOCIOPATHY.

SURE, IT’S JUST FICTION, AND THE POINT OF ULTIMATE WAS, IN PART, TO PUT ITS PLAYERS IN THE LINE OF IRREVERSIBLE DANGER. BUT WE’RE STILL TALKING ABOUT ESCAPIST LITERATURE HERE; YOU DON’T JUST OFF A BELOVED CHARACTER SO UNCARINGLY AND THEN LASCIVIOUSLY DEFILE HER IF YOU HAVE EVEN A SHRED OF GOOD TASTE. HER FATE SEEMS ESPECIALLY GROSS CONSIDERING HOW BADLY WOMEN ARE TREATED BOTH IN COMICS AND BY THE COMICS INDUSTRY; NO SINGLE OTHER MEANINGLESS DEATH IN ULTIMATUM WAS GIVEN A LOVINGLY HUGE AND DETAILED SPLASH ILLUSTRATION LIKE JANET PYM’S POSTHUMOUS DISEMBOWELMENT WAS.

WHAT WAS THE EXCUSE THERE, ANYWAY? “PEOPLE DIE IN BAD WAYS”? OK, BUT THIS ISN’T EXACTLY DOSTOYEVSKY WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. IT’S A FRIGGIN’ CARTOON PAMPHLET ABOUT PEOPLE WHO WEAR COLORFUL LEATHER AND FIGHT BAD GUYS WITH NAMES LIKE “ULTRON” AND “MAGNETO.”

THE MURDER-BY-NUMBERS APPROACH OF ULTIMATUM IS PROBABLY THE SINGLE BEST EXAMPLE I’VE EVER SEEN OF THE FUNDAMENTAL CREATIVE BANKRUPTCY OF THE COMIC BOOK MEDIUM, THE ASININE WRITING CHOICES MADE BY PETTY MAN-CHILDREN WHO DESPERATELY WANT THEIR CHILDHOOD STORIES TO HAVE LITERARY HEFT AND GRAVITAS. MAN, COMIC BOOKS CAN BE AMAZINGLY LITERARY. WATCHMEN DESERVES ITS ADULATION; SO TOO MAUS, ADOLF, ALL THAT GOOD STUFF. EVEN MAINSTREAM SUPERHEROES CAN HAVE SUBSTANCE – I POINT AGAIN TO THE FRACTION/AJA RUN ON HAWKEYE – BUT FOR EVERY ONE OF THESE SUCCESSES IT SEEMS LIKE WE HAVE TO SUFFER THROUGH A DOZEN HACKJOBS BY PEOPLE WHO THINK CRUEL, SPITEFUL WRITING IS SOMEHOW DEEP WRITING.

I DOUBT ULTIMATUM IS EVEN THE WORST; IT JUST STICKS OUT BECAUSE IT PROBABLY INFLICTED MORE DAMAGE THAN ANY OTHER MISGUIDED CREATIVE SCREWUP IN COMICS. AT LEAST WHEN SOMETHING BONEHEADED HAPPENS IN DC COMIX YOU KNOW THEY’LL REBOOT IT WITH ANOTHER “CRISIS” IN A FEW YEARS. ULTIMATE‘S WHOLE THING WAS “NO TAKEBACKS.” IN A WAY, I ALMOST HAVE TO ADMIRE THE WAY 100 PAGES OF CONTENT COULD SYSTEMATICALLY UNDERMINE AND DISMANTLE THE COLLECTIVE WORK OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE OVER HALF A DECADE. IT REALLY TAKES NERVE TO PULL THAT OFF.

WOW, THESE CAPITAL LETTERS REALLY MAKE IT SOUND LIKE I’M SUPER PISSED ABOUT THIS, HUH?

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