Last week I reviewed the 0.1 issue of Cataclysm that set the stage for what would come in the event series that, supposedly, will herald the end of the Ultimate Universe. This week I took a look at the first issue of the series, based almost entirely off of the fact that Brian Michael Bendis was on scripting duties with Mark Bagley handling the art. These are the guys who defined the Ultimate Universe, for me at least, and seeing them pal back up to possibly bring it to a close put a measure of confidence in the project for me on a personal level. Bendis feels like the person who should be writing this. As much as Millar and Hitch shepherded The Ultimates through two volumes and revolutionized comics in a very substantial way, Bendis sustained Ultimate Spider-Man as the tentpole of the universe and that book is, to many (myself included) the heart and soul of the Ultimate universe.
So how does the book measure up?
Like I admitted last week, I haven’t been knee deep in the Ultimate Universe for a while. I fell of off Ultimate Spider-Man around the third arc of Miles Morales’ time as the ultimate webspinner, and I’m only remotely aware of the goings on in the rest of the line. If we look at the book as a real game changer for the universe, even if it isn’t meant to be the end of the line, it holds up quite well. Compare it to say, Ultimatum, and you notice right away that the character beats of the book hold up much better. The action is a bit understated, considering that it is Galactus essentially destroying New Jersey, but the reaction of Miles Morales to such an overwhelming threat is in line with what you expect a young hero to exude during a crisis.
Bagley’s art is what we have come to expect from him, though it looks more finely finished than when he was working on Ultimate Spider-Man on a monthly basis. There is definition and scale that really works in the book’s favor.
I wasn’t entirely sold on the event based on last week’s debut, but this issue has me intrigued and I truly do want to see where things go. Right now I don’t have the slightest clue. Just a bunch of wild speculations bouncing around in my brain.
I have to admit that I stopped reading the Ultimate line a while ago. After the second arc of Miles Morales’ turn as Spider-Man, I believe. I just lost interest because the line didn’t seem to grab me the way it did when it was first launched. I think it was a steady roll to apathy that began with Ultimatum. I don’t have any investment in the universe as a whole anymore so Cataclysm is an outlier for me. It is something that catches my eye because it is supposedly going to be the end of the Ultimate universe, though that isn’t totally confirmed, and that as a concept seems like something I would be interested in seeing executed well.
The problem then, at least for me, is that there is no attachment to the characters and their universe when I picked up this issue. For current fans of the Ultimate universe, I feel the book might resonate a bit better than it did with me. But the attitude on display here seems self-referential, like Marvel is aware of the fact that the Ultimate Universe expirement has run its course and needs to come to an end. There is a point where the 616 version of Galactus states emphatically that “this universe is broken.” While the Ultimate Vision pleads that it can be saved. I think the crux of the book falls in that simple argument; is the Ultimate Universe worth keeping around?
Aside from Ultimate Spider-Man and perhaps Brian Wood’s Ultimate X-Men, the ultimate titles are mostly stagnant at the store which employs me. Some titles have a core following, but not like they did half a decade ago.
Perhaps it is time to bury this universe. The question is whether or not this event will do it in a manner befitting one of the only alternate universe lines not to immediately tank itself.
I’m not the guy you want to go to for a logical reason not to dislike Joe Quesada. Even outside of my displeasure with certain creative choices he’s made at Marvel, he sometimes comes off as abrasive. Sure he puts on a good show and tries to connect with the fans, but there is most definitely an air of “I’m right about this, you just don’t know it yet” to every public statement the guy makes. I’m sorry but at times he comes across as a social media snake oil salesman who knows that the product he’s hocking is less awe-inspiring than he makes it out to be and while that can be said for just about everybody who attaches their name to a product, with Joe we’re often times forced to deal with him getting overly defensive when anyone questions his sales pitch.
Now he’s been promoted to the Chief Creative Officer position at Marvel, in addition to his duties as the Editor-in-Chief.
Official Press Release
MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT PROMOTES JOE QUESADA TO CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER
New York, NY – June 2, 2010 – Marvel Entertainment, LLC announced today that it has promoted Joe Quesada to Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment. In this new role, Mr. Quesada will work alongside Alan Fine, Executive Vice President, Office of the President and Chairman of Marvel Studios’ Creative Committee, to ensure that all portrayals of Marvel’s characters and storytelling remain true to the essence of Marvel’s rich history. Additionally, Mr. Quesada will provide creative oversight of all areas of Marvel’s business including theatrical, television, publishing, animation and games, while also actively participating in all story and script development for Marvel’s films and animation. Prior to this promotion, Mr. Quesada held the role of Chief Creative Officer & Editor-In-Chief, Marvel Animation & Publishing and oversaw the creative aspects of Marvel Comics and Marvel Animation. The announcement was made today by Mr. Fine, to whom Mr. Quesada will report.
Mr. Fine stated, “I am excited to have Joe join me as Marvel Entertainment enters the next chapter in our history. Joe has already played an instrumental role as Editor-in-Chief in changing the face of the comic book industry with bold new ventures and an unprecedented penetration of the mainstream consciousness. His love and passion for Marvel, along with his experience guiding publishing for the last decade, will be invaluable as we bring our characters to life in new media.”
“I am honored to take this new position at Marvel Entertainment and work with Alan to bring the rich history of Marvel to a brand new audience” said Mr. Quesada. “Together with the incredible talent here at Marvel, in all our divisions, I look forward to making Marvel an even bigger part of the entertainment industry and showing why we’ve been an industry leader for over 70 years.”
Mr. Quesada will also continue to serve as Editor-In-Chief, Marvel Publishing, where over the past decade he has helped usher in bold new imprints such as Marvel Knights, the Ultimate Universe and Marvel MAX. During his tenure, Marvel received acclaim for its Heroes special to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001; the groundbreaking Death of Captain America storyline; and President Obama’s historic team up with Spider-Man. Mr. Quesada is also one of the industry’s most popular artists, providing cover and interior art to blockbusters such as Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man and more.
I give Joe credit for what he’s done at Marvel. He’s given it an identity in ways that it was sorely lacking before his arrival in the big chair. I’ve been 80% pleased with Marvel’s output since he took over. I’m just not sure what giving him more power over the direction of the entire company will lead to. With great power comes…well, we’ll have to see.