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Ultimate Comics: Divided We Fall, United We Stand – X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

I actually like the scope of Divided We Fall. It’s a big universe-altering event spanning Marvel’s three Ultimate Universe titles, but it isn’t so granular or so tightly-wound that the three books are tripping over one another. Each of the three books involved tell their own side of the story. Each can be read independently, with no real dependence on the other two. There’s a sense that the creators involved are being allowed a reasonable degree of creative freedom, and that Brian Wood is crafting his own X-Men epic that doesn’t exist simply to tie into the headline-making decision to bump Captain America up to superhero-in-chief over in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates.

In a weird way, for a book in the middle of a gigantic crossover, Wood’s Ultimate Comics: X-Men feels like it’s seeking a fresh start, like it’s kicking off a new chapter, and relishing the status quo shattering crossover as an excuse to just get on with it.

Mutant Pryde...

Mutant Pryde…

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Ultimate Comics: Divided We Fall, United We Stand – Spider-Man (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

I have to admit, I am very surprised that Marvel have yet to start issuing oversized hardcovers of writer Brian Michael Bendis’ latest Ultimate Spider-Man run. The author has been writing the writing the series since the first issue appeared on stands in October 2000. The series has been re-launched twice, for three volumes as part of the same story. The first two runs are collected in their entirety, but only bits and pieces of the third run have been collected so far. The prelude Fallout was collected with Bendis’ The Death of Spider-Man omnibus, and the crossover with the main universe has been collected in Spider-Men, and then there’s these issues here, collected as part of Divided We Fall.

However, despite the high profile decision to create a new Spider-Man, generating considerable press coverage, Marvel has yet to begin collecting nice oversized hardcovers of Bendis’ latest run. As a result, the issues collected here give a rather scattershot coverage of Bendis’ run on the iconic web-crawler, which is a bit of a shame. As with the Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men comics tying into this big event, context is a vital part of this gigantic crossover, with Bendis’ story only really resonating as part of an on-going story featuring the development of a new version of Spider-Man, Bendis’ own creation.

Who says there's no such thing as bad publicity?

Who says there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

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Ultimate Comics: Divided We Fall, United We Stand – Ultimates (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

There was a time when Marvel’s Ultimate Universe was the place to be. Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates were among the best-reviewed and best-selling books published at Marvel in the early part of the last decade, offering a fresh new take on classic comic book characters, and offering readers an opportunity to engage with a continuity-free world just as the super-hero movie craze took off. I’ll always be fond of the Ultimate Universe, because without The Ultimates and Ultimate Spider-Man, I simply wouldn’t be a comic book fan today.

However, in the last number of years, for any number of reasons, the line has wavered a little bit. Despite attracting Mark Millar back to write Ultimate Comics: Avengers, and Brian Michael Bendis generating massive headlines by writing The Death of Spider-Man, it seemed like the publishing brand was fading a bit. There have been several attempts to re-energise the line. Divided We Fall is just the most recent one, a crossover between the three books currently making up the Ultimate imprint.

The story of America falling apart, told from three different perspectives, it’s certainly timely. And, as crossovers go, shrewdly constructed. While Divided We Fall suffers a bit from the fact that Marvel is no longer consistently collecting the books leading into it, it is still an interesting comic book story, and one that takes advantage of the Ultimate Universe setting to tell a story that would be impossible in the mainstream Marvel brand.

President Cap...

President Cap…

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 12 (Hardcover) (Review)

You know, Jeph Loeb actually managed to make quite the impression on Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics. While his Ultimatum was intended to serve as a “shot in the arm” to a comic book line with waning sales and interest, it’s telling that Marvel organised another event almost directly afterwards, with The Death of Spider-Man serving to reorganise that fictional universe once again. This collection, the twelfth in the Ultimate Spider-Man line, sees author Brian Michael Bendis guiding the book between Ultimatum and The Death of Spider-Man. (Indeed, the next book in the set is the Death of Spider-Man omnibus collection.)

As such, it’s not too surprising that these fourteen issues feel a bit disjointed and uneven, as Bendis deals with the aftermath of one radical status quo change while gearing up for another. That said, I still think that Ultimate Spider-Man represents the single most consistent run on the title, and Bendis still manages to keep things interesting, even if this collection doesn’t quite compile the author’s strongest run of issues.

Spider-Men…

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Ultimate Marvel Team-Up (Review/Retrospective)

Ultimate Marvel Team-Up occupies a strange place in Marvel canon. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by a rake of top-tier talent, it was essentially a series designed to showcase these impressive artists while adding a bit of depth and breadth to the then-fledgeling Ultimate Marvel Universe. Essentially a continuity that had been launched from scratch, with the goal of attracting new fans put off by decades of back story in the regular shared universe, Brian Michael Bendis had pioneered the line with his superb Ultimate Spider-Man, a book that he is still writing today (albeit in a slightly different form). Due to its nature, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up is a somewhat disjointed effort, where quality varies almost from issue-to-issue, but it’s still worth a look for anybody with any interest in Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man work.

Who says there aren’t crocodiles in the sewer?

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Ultimate Comics: Doomsday (Hardcover) (Review)

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, I’m taking a look at some of the stories featuring the characters over the past half-century.

Ultimate Comics: Doomsday is a bit of a weird beast. After the events of Ultimatum, Mark Millar’s Ultimates was relaunched both as Ultimate Comics: Avengers and the clunkily-titled (and written) Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates, while Ultimate Spider-Man became Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men spun off into Ultimate Comics: X. That meant that the only on-going series that hadn’t fed into a relaunched series was Ultimate Fantastic Four. Perhaps it’s understandable, since the series was arguably the weakest of Marvel’s Ultimate reimaginings of popular heroes, suffering from adapting Marvel’s most innocent scientific heroes in a grim and hyper-modern context. Ultimate Comics: Doomsday collects three miniseries (Ultimate Comics: Enemy, Ultimate Comics: Mystery and Ultimate Comics: Doom), which tell a gigantic crossover crisis set in the shared universe that the “ultimate” characters inhabit, but it’s really just a vehicle to allow Brian Michael Bendis to play with the left-over bits and pieces from Ultimate Fantastic Four.

This little Spider...

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Mike Carey’s Run on Ultimate Fantastic Four – Vol. 4-6 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, I’m taking a look at some of the stories featuring the characters over the past half-century.

Ultimate Fantastic Four was never really the crown jewel of the Ultimate line. It wasn’t ever as consistent as Brian Michael Bendis’ 100+ issues on Ultimate Spider-Man, nor as zeitgeist-y as Ultimate X-Men (which had the success of the X-Men trilogy to back it up at least). Instead, like Fox’s Fantastic Four movies, Ultimate Fantastic Four was just… well, just kinda there, really. To be fair, I dug Mark Millar’s twelve-issue run on the title. Hell, I even enjoyed elements of the opening arc by Millar and Bendis, and the year-long run by Warren Ellis that followed. However, Mike Carey’s run is somewhat disappointing. This was the run which essentially saw the series through to the big Ultimatum event, and perhaps it justified the decision to clean the slate when it came to Marvel’s Ultimate line. Because, whatever Carey’s run was, it certainly wasn’t consistently fantastic.

That surfer dude looks spaced...

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