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Robert Kirkman’s Run on Ultimate X-Men – Vol. 7-9 (Hardcover)

Ultimate X-Men is a tough title to get a read on. The fact that the run has been broken down into blocks by all manner of superstar writers means that there’s really no consistent underlying principle feeding through the eight-year life of the title. On the other hand, the fact that none of these big name writers like Mark Millar or Brian Michael Bendis could create a book living up to the series’ potential indicates that maybe there wasn’t a writer who could steward the book through its entire life cycle. Ultimate Spider-Man serves in many ways as a fulfillment of the promise of the Ultimate line, it’s almost a single, decade-long story of growth and development, the very evolution of a world of superheroes. Ultimate X-Men is very much the opposite, the constantly bending backwards over itself, jolting, starting and reversing as it seems unable to decide where exactly it’s going at any given moment. Robert Kirkman’s run is perhaps the best examples of the series’ strengths and ultimately (ha!) its weaknesses.

Somebody's been watching Terminator a bit too often...

Note: Some of Aron Coleitte’s work is covered in the Hardcover Volume 9 (with the rest of his short run spilling over into the Ultimatum Hardcover). If I can bring myself to pick up Ultimatum, I will run a review of his rather short tenure on the title. This review is only concerned with Kirkman’s run – up until the end of the Apocalypse arc.

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Will Warners Reboot Batman?

My spidey-sense is tingling. Word on the rumour mill is that we’ll know next month if Christopher Nolan will be making a Batman trilogy, or simply leaving it at a duology. There’s all manner of discussion about what will happen if he isn’t back – but I think it’s looking increasingly like we may be moving away from the Zack Snyder’s The Dark Knight Returns approach, which means a new Batman movie relatively similar to the last two (because nothing succeeds like success). But part of me is wondering what the plan is beyond that. Are we going to see a direct sequel or a reboot? Would Warner Brothers reboot Batman so quickly?

Not only the director we deserve, but the the director we need right now...

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Ultimate Iron Man

The first member of The Ultimates to get spun-off into his own book, the ultimate version of Iron Man is also the only one to get his own miniseries (and he even supported another miniseries, Ultimate Human, last summer and has a new one, Ultimate Armour Wars, this year). Here we have all the ingredients for a great superhero saga – Andy Kubert as artist on the first six issues and Orson Scott Card as a writer – but it just doesn’t come together quite as well as it should. Though Card posits some interesting theries behind the psychology of Marvel’s current poster-boy, he doesn’t really deliver anything of interest on the story front, and really suffers from attempting to write rebellous teenage characters and somehow feeling required to craft his observations into something resembling a cookie-cutter superhero plot.

ultimateironman

Nice Suit...

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 4-6 (Hardcover)

It’s probably hard writing the same comic with the same artist for the bones of a decade. Setting things up years in advance only to have them pay off down the line, trying to put a new slant on an existing mythology while updating it for a new audience. This middle section of the Bendis/Bagley run on Ultimate Spider-Man isn’t necessarily bad per se, but it lacks the energy and reckless fun which defined the start of the run and the sense of resolution that approached at the end of the run. It just is.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Your spidey-sense should be tingling...

Your spidey-sense should be tingling...

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Mark Millar’s Run on Ultimate X-Men – Vol. 1-3 (Hardcover)

There’s a reason you don’t hear a lot of people talk about this particular addition to Mark Millar’s bibliography. Very simply, it’s not very good. It’s as if Mark Millar has taken the usual explosive energy that underpins his work and turning it up so high that all we can discern is just a screeching noise. It doesn’t help that the book manages to turn just about every strength he demonstrated during The Ultimates into a weakness.

Because it wouldn't be an X-Men book without Wolverine on the cover...

Because it wouldn't be an X-Men book without Wolverine on the cover...

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 7-9 (Hardcover)

Five years in and the Ultimate Universe is starting to look a little cluttered. In fairness, it was a little bit inevitable, with so many classic storylines to play out and so many classic characters to reimagine in a relatively short space of time. Bendis tries to keep the toys from cluttering up the pram through various means, and none of these new characters seem forced (though some do feel gratuitous). I suppose that if the Ultimate line is supposed to offer a mirror to the mainstream history of Marvel, it’s only natural it should become cluttered. Still, like playing with your favourite toys, it’s only natural to make a bit of a mess…

No claws for alarm...

No claws for alarm...

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The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

The Ultimates got me into comics. I’d read a couple beforehand, of course, and picked up a stray issue in the nineties, but it was The Ultimates that convinced me that superhero comic books could be something bold and innovative and clever, rather than generic and plain. Looking back, I think that The Ultimates stands as one of Marvel’s crowning accomplishments of the last decade, with only New X-Men and Daredevil ever really coming close. A lot of people argue that it’s the cynical world view that sets Mark Millar’s origin story apart, and gives it a broad appeal, but I’d disagree.

I think that Millar’s story doesn’t work because it dismantles the conventional superhero narrative through glib nihilism and cool apathy, but rather because it vindicates that ideal by passing it through a crucible. In many ways, The Ultimates is perhaps the most optimistic superhero story I’ve ever read, if only because the idealism is truly earned.

Holding out for some heroes…

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