The Ultimates

…anyone reading this one? I’m really enjoying it, even though I never really liked the Avengers. I like it better than Millar’s take on the X-men.

Until the most recent issue, I was really enjoying this series. My only gripe until now had been how he changed Bruce Banner/Hulk from a man/beast driven by the loneliness of his childhood based upon how his father treated his mother and him to a man who’s lonely cause his libido isn’t satiated; the original Hulk just wants to be left alone, this ultimate Hulk can’t get enough. He’s gone from mentally/emotionally underdeveloped to psychotic. I certainly did not enjoy the respresentation of the Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (is that still her name since she’s Asian now?). But, I’ll hold my breath until the next issue. Though I did think (wish) that this kind of dysfunctional storytelling had gone the way of the 1990’s. Crap… Now I’m dissecting a comic book…

I’m really starting to hate it. After the great start, Millar seems unsure where he’s going with the entire concept. For starters, I don’t know why every character in the Ultimate universe has to be so flawed. Going for added realism doesn’t necessarily mean adding negative personality traits. In some ways, these “new” characters are as unrealistic as the old ones. It’s also a little hard to buy that any of these self-absorbed losers would decide to fight crime anyways.

There are a lot of little things that bother me, too. For instance, what the hell was Millar thinking when he patterned so many of the characters after Hollywood stars? Nick Fury now looks exactly like Samuel L. Jackson? And what’s with all the name-dropping crap? Having Betty on a date with Freddie Prinz Jr. in #5 was ludicrous and distracting–especially the section where the Hulk refers to the guy by name during a murderous rampage. Oh, and I could really have done without the Me-So-Horny Hulk, along with the Wasp pulling her top up to distract him. Sheesh. And people think that Kevin Smith is obsessed with juvenile T&A? Though I did like the pathetic ending with Desperate-You’re-All-I’ve-Got-Betty Hulk.

I could really have done without the Me-So-Horny Hulk

That’s really funny.

Well, it’s the best selling comic these days, so I guess I’m not alone in liking it (although obviously popularity doesn’t necessarily (or even often) mean quality.

>I’m really starting to hate it. After the great start, Millar seems unsure where he’s going with the entire concept.

I think it’s the only superhero comic, of any of the ‘reboots’ (Heroes Reborn, any of the other Ultimates, etc) that is actually effective at creating a world that seems to “realistically” respond to the appearance of beings with amazing powers. I don’t find the characters unrealistically flawed - I find them realistically flawed (unlike the Stan Lee school of Achilles Heel superheroes, or anything ever done by DC/Mark Waid/etc.)

I’m also surprised at how different Millar is willing to make the characters from their counterparts in the traditional Marvel universe. The premise of the “Ultimate” books was apparently to distill the core characters down to their essence while stripping away continuity and additional fantastical elements (aliens, gods, time travel, alternate universes, etc.) – but the characters in the Ultimates only superficially, if that, resemble their Marvel universe counterparts. Heh, I can understand people not liking such a radical change for the Hulk (although wait until they see Ang Lee’s movie version), but all of the characters are pretty radically different. It’s refreshing, and it doesn’t feel like the remake that it is.

Y’know, I agree with all of that. And as much as I love to bitch about the Ultimate Marvel Universe, I won’t be cancelling any of the titles any time soon (well, I may change my mind if Bendis makes Spider-Man cry again). But it’s almost like I’m rubbernecking. I’m not so sure that these are realistic characters as much as they are caricatures with one big flaw apiece.

And I’m not so sure what the point of that brawl between Hank and Janet in issue #6 was, unless it was to make readers feel sort of sleazy. Hank was sadistic by the end, and Janet was nasty and pathetic. The biggest thing that gets me about the whole Ultimates concept is that it’s hard to believe that such people would risk their lives for strangers. Hank summons ants to eat his wife. Captain America kicks a helpless man in the face out of sheer rage and spite. Thor is willing to let thousands of innocents die because of politics.

Also, this is Hollywood-style realism. I’ll accept that all the media presence would surround superheroes today, as opposed to when these characters were first introduced in the 1960s. But why do so many characters have to look like actors and actresses? And why do there have to be so many pop culture references? I can accept some, but not one every couple of pages. Freddie Prinze Jr. showed up again in #6, as does Procter and Gamble, Oprah, Howard Stern, Regis, FHM, Barbie, Playstation2–all in 22 pages!

Over all, I am beyond thrill with The Ultimates. By far the best book Marvel is putting out.

I wrote this on aint-it-cool news talk back, figure I would repost it here
The Ultimates is the best book Marvel is putting out at the moment. I think the venom being spewed towards it is mostly by some long time fans of certain characters in the book. I’m willing to bet that in the Charlton characters were left as they were in the Watchmen, fans would have called it "a shallow piece of juvenility masquerading as an adult story.” Yes, I am comparing The Ultimates to the Watchmen. While I don’t think in the long term Ultimates will live up to the power of the Watchmen story, it rivals in the quality of the characterization. At least in the way its making the heroes realistic. Honestly until issue 6 I was undecided about the Ultimates. I thought it was an enjoyable read but I wasn’t sure about its quality. With issue 6, I re-read the entire series and have decided that yes, the Ultimates is not only good but significant. 10 years from now, this book will be pointed to as the origin of the modern view of these characters.

“Well, it’s the best selling comic these days, so I guess I’m not alone in liking it”

It’s actually not the best selling comic. It’s the best selling comic that’s not an adaptation of 80s cartoon crap. The two top-selling comics this month were TRANSFORMERS adaptations, followed by a G-FORCE (BATTLE OF THE PLANETS) adaptation. Yikes.

However to be fair, those two are actually good books. Written well with attractive art.

I’ve never been a fan of any of the characters, yet I still find The Ultimates somewhat distasteful. That last issue was pretty horrific. Why does realism have to equal dark? Was it really necessary to make Giant Man a bipolar (get it? he gets big, he gets small, he gets happy, he gets depressed–sheesh) wifebeater to update him? Was it really necessary to make Thor a nutcase who realized his divine nature after a nervous breakdown? This stuff seems simplistic. We’ve got the old characters seen from a shrink’s couch, with a single massive personality flaw apiece and faux edgy stuff like Nick Fury being black, the Wasp being Asian, and Tony Stark possibly being gay. Characterization could have been done by a focus group with assistance from some rights watchdog for the mentally disabled.

I wholehearted agree with you Brett.

“Was it really necessary to make Giant Man a bipolar (get it? he gets big, he gets small, he gets happy, he gets depressed–sheesh) wifebeater to update him?”

I hope you’re not forgetting that Hank Pym has been characterized as mentally disturbed for a lonnngg time. Remember when he became Yellowjacket and tried to kill his wife back in the Jim Shooter era? This isn’t that much of a stretch…

However, maybe I agree with you about the upcoming storyline in which Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are incestuous lovers. No kiddin’.

Well, that Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch stuff is already implied in his Ultimate X-Men run. Anyhow, Millar tends to be hyperbolic; he’s said “terrible terrible things happen to poor Iceman” in reference to an Ultimate X-Men issue, and all that really happened was a simulation of Iceman got stabbed in the face during Wolverine’s test run of the Danger Room. I wouldn’t be surprised if this incest thing turns out to be more like a double-entendre than full out necking with each other.

Then again, he might make them KNOW EACH OTHER.

Though, the focus of the next storyline is supposedly an all-out Skrull invasion.

Maybe “Skrull” is quicksilver’s pet name for his…

Well, you get the general idea. If Scarlet Witch named her thang “Kree,” then we might have an all out Kree-Skrull war goin’ on down thar!

>We’ve got the old characters seen from a shrink’s couch, with a single massive personality flaw apiece and faux edgy stuff like Nick Fury being black, the Wasp being Asian, and Tony Stark possibly being gay. Characterization could have been done by a focus group with assistance from some rights watchdog for the mentally disabled

Heh, I will admit, the jury’s still out on where Millar is going with some stuff. You make some good points about it being Hollywood-style realism. Still, perhaps sadly, that is an improvement in realism over conventional superhero books.

On the personality flaws - I haven’t really noticed anything different than the traditional books other than Banner’s a mess. Pym was mucked up, Stark was kinda creepy and an alcoholic. I don’t mind that he’s decided to make a few characters non-white. There really were almost zippo in the original Marvel universe. One of my better friends, who is black, said recently that he always loved comics but felt like he was forced to identify for losers like Power Man and the Falcon, heh.

In any event, it is way more interesting than Heroes Reborn was (which basically had the same mandate) – considering I’d never read anything that Millar had done before (Authority, etc.), I’ve found his takes on the X-men and Avengers to be refreshing. I hope the Ultimates doesn’t turn into a “greatest hits” of the old series, like his X-men has become (and Heroes Reborn was). But it doesn’t sound like that’s what he wants to do.

I never understood black people’s complaints over not having characters to identify with just because they aren’t the same color as them. Or that the characters that do exist are somehow lacking. I’m Chinese myself and who in the Marvel Universe do I have to identify with? Shang Chi? He’s the ultimate Chinese cliche. I find being able to identify with Banner’s loneliness, Pym’s feelings of inadequecy or Steve Roger’s ideas of always doing the right thing, Tony Stark turning his adversity into a triumph, a source for good (in the original Universe) to be far more important than what color they are.

I’m still waiting for Angel to appear in Ultimate X-Men. I’m glad that he has such a prominent role in Uncanny X-Men because he’s obviously being ignored in Ultimate X-Men.

I agree with the color thing, and never really see it myself. Though I do understand what Stefan’s black friend feels, because Marvel’s practically gone out of its way to insult black readers with so many ridiculous characters over the years. That Luke Cage MAX series would’ve been the last straw for me. You guys check out an issue or two? I just glanced through the first couple in the store and saw nothing but really bad blaxploitation garbage. So many gold chains and muthfuckas that the comic could have been written by the Aryan Youth.

But changing characters’ color in The Ultimates seems more like tokenism than anything else to me. And a way for the comic to represent Hollywood stars like Samuel L. Jackson. I’d rather they stuck with the core group as it was, and perhaps introduced new characters as the series went on to better reflect ethnic diversity. But maybe Marvel should just stay away from non-white characters altogether, considering that Grant Morrison is soon adding an Arab woman to the X-Men who has the power to explode herself. Allahu Akbar!

As an aside, I love Millar’s Ultimate X-Men. Only X-book worth picking up these days. Morrison’s been very disappointing on New the past few months, and Kordey’s art goes from freakishly interesting to just plain bad from panel to panel. When he can meet deadlines at all, that is. Uncanny’s been unreadable for a year under Casey, though that might change with the new team. And Xtreme seems to be centered around wild coincidences and overwritten dialogue. Man, Claremont’s fallen a long way. His take on the FF a few years back was equally stupid.

Should it really be so hard for Marvel to get its act together on the X-titles? Why the hell can’t they get back to basics, or at least pattern things on what Claremont did in the early 80s, with the team/family atmosphere. Man, those were great comics. Marvel today just doesn’t have that family atmosphere in its books anymore. No sense of real people or soap opera continuity–just isolated adventures that seem to get more boring every month. In that regard, The Ultimates looks pretty good.

That’s a popular misquote, as Morrison said that Dust is not a human bomb, she resembles an old DC character called The Human Bomb (from the Freedom Fighters/All-Star Squadron) in appearance. If you look at a picture of him (like at, you’ll see that he wears a hazmat suit that shows only his eyes. Morrison and the two artists drawing her (Van Sciver and Quitely) have confirmed that in being a strict Afghani/Muslim, she wears a burqa that only shows her eyes, all the time. And that her powers do not involving blowing herself up.