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Nick Spencer’s Run on Ultimate Comics: X-Men (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Strangely enough, it’s the second relaunch of the Ultimate comic book line that feels like it is finally dealing with Ultimatum. Jeph Loeb’s “kill ’em all and let editorial sort ’em out” event had served as the catalyst of a relaunch for the entire line, ending long-running books like Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four and Ultimate X-Men. The line was re-tooled and re-focused and relaunched following that event.

However, that relaunch quickly fizzled out. Mark Millar’s run on Ultimate Comics: Avengers could not quite measure up to the dizzying heights of his original run on The Ultimates. Jeph Loeb’s Ultimate Comics: X shipped sporadically at best and his run on Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates was something of a mess. Meanwhile, Brian Michael Bendis continued his run on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man as if nothing much had changed.

A song of ice and fire...

A song of ice and fire…

Oddly enough, it was the second relaunch that seemed to click. Coming out of The Death of Spider-Man, the slate was cleaned and the various books all got new beginnings. Jonathan Hickman took over Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates, Nick Spencer helmed Ultimate Comics: X-Men, while Brian Michael Bendis launched Miles Morales in a new volume of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. This was a very real shift in the status quo, and one that marked a clear departure from what came before, with bold new vision.

One of the more interesting attributes of the latest relaunch of the Ultimate line was the sense of heightened continuity between the various books. In particular, Jonathan Hickman’s run on The Ultimates overlapped quite heavily with Nick Spencer’s work on X-Men. As a result, the first year of each of the three titles seemed to be building towards Divided We Stand, a massive crossover between the various titles.

Sentinels-of-not-quite Liberty...

Sentinels-of-not-quite Liberty…

Spencer’s X-Men doesn’t work quite as well as Hickman’s Ultimates, suffering from the fact that nothing seems to get resolved. Dealing with a massive cast and an epic scope, Spencer’s Ultimate Comics: X-Men spends its first year establishing where all of its characters are and how their situations reflect on the larger story that is in motion. It’s an ambitious storytelling model, as Spencer crafts one big story from the ground (or the sewers) to the heights of the Oval Office, but it means that everything is barely set up before it is time to knock it down again.

Spencer’s Ultimate Comics: X-Men is a run with no shortage of great ideas and impressive scale, but one that suffers from the fact that the writer never gets to follow through on the world that he has built.

Shocking treatment...

Shocking treatment…

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Ultimate Spider-Man – Vol. 10-11 (Hardcover) (Review)

This represents the final volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, the relaunch of the popular character created by marvel as a way of introducing the iconic webslinger to the those who might be understandably wary of the backstory and continuity tangles the character has found himself in (did you know the character sold his marriage to the devil?). It’s been a landmark run, and a popular one and – by any measure – a successful one. There’s a reason that this ‘reboot’, to borrow a cinematic term, was famous for outselling the mainstream titles. So, as it winds down, what do we think?

What a Shocker…

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Ultimate Spider-Man Collection (Hardcover Volumes #1-3) (Review/Retrospective)

In 2000, Marvel did something genuinely bold with one of its pop culture icons. Of course, the early part of the last decade saw a breath of fresh air at the House of Ideas, with iconic and influential (and occasionally iconoclastic) runs on books like New X-Men, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Statix, Punisher and other titles like Daredevil or Alias. However, the formation of the Ultimate line of comics was perhaps the most significant creative gamble taken at the time. The idea was simple, and the timing perfect. With Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man around the corner, and Bryan Singer’s X-Men proving that superheroes were the stuff of summer blockbusters, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to launch a line of books that would be easily accessible to new readers, free from decades of tangled continuity and plot developments.

And, appropriately enough, the character chosen to spearhead this new line was arguably Marvel’s most iconic character, Spider-Man.

spidey

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