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?

22 comments on: BY REQUEST: ALL CAPS

  1. Daniel Feit

    Perhaps periodic HULK PARISH posts would feel cathartic? They look that way.

  2. LBD "Nytetrayn"

    Not by Parish, though; it’s by BEAT.

    And I pretty much agree with the whole lot of this.

    • J. Parish

      I wrote this, dingus. BEAT requested the all-caps mode.

  3. Psyael

    Well, the comic eventually became a new Spider-Man, and retitled “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man”. Apparently it will now be titled “Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man” to try and keep the lineage without confusing people, but that just seems to be making it worse.

    There was an initial brouhaha (particularly with conservative commentators on TV who confused this with mainstream Marvel) over picking a 12 year old black kid to be Spider-Man, but I prefer the new character. The whole thing of repackaging the quintessential youth of Peter Parker (which has been missing for decades) for new people was kind of a failure, but the book was on such an epic run of the same team for such a long time that it wasn’t something to mess with.

    The only problem is that the Ultimate Comics line in general doesn’t sell enough books or draw enough interest to get by without big universal crossover events that disrupt everyone’s regular monthly books, since it doesn’t make sense for Miles to be worried about his Dad while ignoring the global threat going on in the crossover book. Pretty much the same deal as Ultimatum. So recently, Miles had a year skip and a personal quest for answers to whether he wanted to continue being Spider-Man or not, and about when it’s time for a resolution to appear he’s off to join the rest of the universe against a Very Special Threat.

    The present threat is one obviously intended to reel in mainline readers: The O.G. Galactus crossed over into the Ultimate universe and is doing what he does best, as well as pacifying the machine hivemind army that originally fulfilled the role of “Ultimate Galactus” to do his bidding.

    Once this nonsense is done, presumably the book will go back to normal again.

  4. touchofkiel

    Can’t agree more about Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum. Truly awful stuff – Loeb writes purely out of sensationalism now, even more so than Millar or Frank Miller.

    USM also marks the only time I’ve really enjoyed Mark Bagley’s art (though I can always admire his dedication and efficiency; this won’t matter reading it now, but that book shipped always on time, every 3 weeks, no fill-ins. Very impressive and unheard of in today’s comics).

    If you liked it, I would suggest Bendis’ run on Daredevil, and his indie series Powers. His other stuff is mostly fluff, but those two are quality reads.

  5. Sam

    The whole ‘no takebacks’ thing for Ultimate Marvel was the breaking point for me. I know it’s a bit pedantic, but Ultimate X-men was a favorite read for quite a while for me and when they killed off the Beast and then resurrected him (in a very ham-handed way) not much later, I knew it was time to call it quits. Sorry to hear that the rest of the line seems to have gone the same way.

    It’s sad to see a line of what was once well written and interconnected comics turn into the exact same thing they were originally created to get away from. After multiple crossovers from the main Marvel universe and mega crisis after mega crisis, there existed no reason to read them over anything else Marvel was putting out at the time.

    The saddest thing for me is that the big finale was probably editorially mandated and all the deaths of the once-loved characters were probably only thrown in for shock value. Slash and burn writing at its finest.

  6. Googleshng

    “NO SINGLE OTHER MEANINGLESS DEATH IN ULTIMATUM WAS GIVEN A LOVINGLY HUGE AND DETAILED SPLASH ILLUSTRATION LIKE JANET PYM’S POSTHUMOUS DISEMBOWELMENT WAS.”

    Just hearing about this sort of thing puts me off honestly not just that line of comics, but also that publisher, and really the whole superhero genre altogether.

    Which is kinda funny, because the closest thing I DO read is surreal horror manga where seeing something like that here and there is downright expected, but there the whole point is that it’s disturbing and makes it horrible to contemplate living in that universe. Handled more respectfully too, I’d imagine.

  7. ReyVGM

    I’M DISAPPOINTED THAT ALL REPLIES ARE NOT IN CAPS. SMH GAMESPITE, SMH.

  8. karobit

    The funny thing about all-caps for an entry about the Ultimate universe is that Ultimate Spider-Man was, if I recall correctly, the first Marvel title to use inter-capped lettering (and received quite a bit of flak for it at the time).

    Also, I just want to restate touchofkiel’s kudos to both Bagley’s prolificity and professionalism — I started reading Amazing Spider-Man during his run, post-MacFarlane & Larsen, and his comparatively non-flashy style imprinted on me as Spider-Man’s “norm”. Even though I love his successor on USM, Stuart Immonen, I can’t imagine Ultimate Peter Parker looking any other way.

    (I also want to throw my support behind Bendis’ Daredevil stint, which put Matt Murdock through the wringer like every writer seems to but never made it seem hopeless or ridiculous. On the flip side, Mark Waid’s current Daredevil run is almost the polar opposite in style and is right up there with Fraction’s Hawkeye in my eyes.)

  9. Steven

    Ultimate Peter Parker’s story actually continues for about 30 issues after Ultimatum, if I remember correctly, before Miles Morales shows up. They renumbered it, calling it Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, I think, for fifteen issues or so, and then switched the numbering back. Wikipedia says it ended with issue 160, but I actually like Miles just as much, and he interacts with a bunch of the characters from Ultimate Spider-Man in a really satisfying way a couple times.

  10. Nightwish

    “YOU DON’T JUST OFF A BELOVED CHARACTER SO UNCARINGLY AND THEN LASCIVIOUSLY DEFILE HER IF YOU HAVE EVEN A SHRED OF GOOD TASTE.”

    I don’t do comics, but this reminds me of what happens in/after the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords. It can be well done.

    • J. Parish

      I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, but I know the Red Wedding wasn’t done like this.

  11. Thad

    I could never get past the giant eyes on the costume.

    I like Bagley (Thunderbolts was a favorite in the 1990′s) but I always hated the McFarlane-style giant eyes, and USM took them to an extreme.

    (The first book I bought that had Ultimate Spidey in it was an Ultimate Marvel Team-Up drawn by Mike Allred, who gave him the classic, reasonably-sized eyes. I think it was also the first appearance of Ultimate Iron Man and also Ultimate Nick Fury, who was African-American but did not yet look like Samuel L Jackson.

    Speaking of that, Bryan Hitch is still on the make-characters-look-like-people kick. The last comic of his I bought had David Tennant fighting Sarah Palin. It was kinda weird.)

  12. IWuvKemonomimis

    You have summarized (in a lovely cap-filled ANGRY fashion) what I find wrong with most modern day superhero comic books. I read the first ten or so volumes of Ultimate Spider Man among many other superhero comicbooks when I worked at a libary during highschool eons ago and one thing I learned then is that I tend to prefer limited series to monthly issues. Despite this, I still want to read as many monthly mainstream superhero comics books as I can so I can absorb all the lore. I am going to start by buying the Marvel Essental black and white reprints of Golden Age comics (and I think Silver and even Brone age era depending on the series). I read the first Marvel Essental volumes of Iron Man and Spiderman and I enjoyed them for what they were even though they were quite silly and repetitive.

  13. Filgate

    So Ultimate Spider-Man actually survived Ultimatum quite well.

    Definitely take the time to read 001-133 including the Annuals and Ultimate Six. Especially Annual 01. I’m not sure how you’re reading these, but they are in the collections.

    Then skip Ultimatum (just sigh loudly), and read Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem 1-2.

    Then jump forward into Ultimate Comics Ultimate Spider-Man (really) and read 1-15 and then 150-160.

    Then skim through Ultimate Fallout (the Spider-Man stuff is great while much of the rest is iffy).

    Then, if you want, continue on to Ultimate Comics Ultimate Spider-Man (2nd series I guess) for Miles Morales (which is worth reading as well).

    Beyond Ultimate Spider-Man, the first two Ultimates volumes are solid, as are the first five Ultimate X-Men trades (both by Mark Millar). Serving as much of the templates for the Marvel movies, they are somewhat more mean-spirited than Ultimate Spider-Man, but very enjoyable.

  14. jpading

    I’m also not a fan of Loeb’s work on Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum… so I was pretty shocked to like Loeb’s Ultimate X quite a bit. That Art Adams’ art is unbelievably good doesn’t hurt, I guess.

  15. LBD "Nytetrayn"

    Oh, I thought these were guest articles people requested to post on the site. My bad.

  16. Dynastic Bird

    Ultimate Spider-Man was the only Ultimate series I read, and it was consistently great right up to the Ultimatum crap. While Spider-Man’s group survived mostly unscathed, the issues just felt…off. The post-Ultimatum stuff had promise, but Spidey ultimately didn’t get enough room to breathe with what happened to his world afterwards; it felt like they had to speed him back and forth due to editorial decisions…until, well, the Death of Spider Man happened. Morales is still good, but, well, virtually every other character I was interested was dead by that point, so why continue? I still look at the Super Hero stuff every now and then, but only specific runs; I can’t see myself doing pulls, even of other mainstream stuff like Chew (which is three and half years old or so now and still going strong) and Saga.

    LET’S JUST SAY I AGREE WITH THE ALL CAPS POST IN ITS ENTIRETY.

    I never gave the Ultimate FF a chance (no judgement, I just have other things to deal with), but I know the Ultimates ended up being very graphic from the start, from Hulk the Humanitarian to all the lovely ways Black Widow and co. tried to screw everyone. Did you still end up liking the Ultimates, or did you just focus on the Xmen and the FF?

    • J. Parish

      Ultimates Vol. 1 and 2 had a lot of flaws didn’t always stay on the right side of the line between mature and trashy, but in the end they were worth it thanks to some strong plotting and characterization (Millar has a lot of bad habits, but he also has talent).

  17. BEAT

    VERY FEW OF THESE RESPONSES ARE IN THE PROPER CAPSLOCK AND THAT FILLS ME WITH THE SADS

  18. BEAT

    ALSO THANK YOU PARISH IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY I AM GLAD I WAS ABLE TO SUPPORT YOUR WEBSITE IN THIS DELIGHTFULLY AGONIZING WAY.

  19. discord_inc

    I never read Ultimatum, and these past few columns have really reminded me why. I wasn’t completely up to date with the series when that happened, but I had enough sense to realize what they were doing is crash and terrible. Ultimatum sounds like it could be one of the few comics worse than DC’s Identity Crisis, and that book largely ruined DC comics on a whole.

    Thankfully, Marvel is pulling away from crap like that for the most part. Plus, the rise of indies and alternative publishers means the comic market is a lot more varied and healthy than it’s been in years. It not perfect, but it’s becoming a better space for diversity than a lot of other mediums.