Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ultimate no more

As the school year starts to get long in the tooth, it doesn't actually "wind down"--it explodes into a wild disarray of chaos, and a million things that all need to be done.  Work continues to be much more busy and stressful than I'd like, and I find that even if I can make time to post DARK•HERITAGE campaign updates--which I usually can't--that I don't have enough mental energy left when I have that time to actually do so.  I'm feeling a bit battered down by too many things all happening at once.  So, in that vein, rather than talk about DARK•HERITAGE again, I'm going to do one more superhero related post.  I doubt I'll do more than this (although I may yet change my mind) before wandering off the topic for several months again.

Twelve or so years ago was when the Ultimate line of comics debuted.  For much of that time, I was a big fan of the Ultimate idea (although I was a little late to the party--I haven't been following it for more than probably about nine years or so.)  Remaking the comics?  Retelling the early stories, but updated and redrawn, and better written, and with new things that the editors and writers wouldn't think outside the box enough to do in the mainline continuity?  Brilliant idea.  And a number of really brilliant storylines and characterizations came out of the endeavor--as well as a number of misses too, of course.  But mostly, I've been very pleased with the Ultimate Universe.

Until it started doing some weird things.  First off, its publication seemed very geared towards the issue of trade paperbacks.  Almost everything ended up morphing into a miniseries that was... not coincidentally... about 5-6 issues long, so it could be bundled up and resold almost immediately after the run of the comics.  In fact, heck--I hardly read any of the Ultimate Universe as comics; it was just too freaking convenient to do it as trade paperbacks instead.  In fact, they became so geared towards this that regular monthly comics started to decline, and a proliferation of "limited series" which were soon published as graphic novels became the normal mode for publishing anything in the Ultimate Marvel line--with the exception of Spiderman; the only relatively unbroken line of comics in the entire Ultimate universe.

Perhaps because of this (or perhaps it's unrelated) the writers of the Ultimate universe started to feel that they could stray ever further from the continuity of the mainstream comic books.  While this was indeed one of the attractions of the notion of the Ultimate Universe--at the same time, it becomes difficult to relate to the books if they change too much.  This was especially problematic during Ultimatum, a major brawl of superhero and villain teams in which a significant number of major, signature even, characters are all killed--Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Angel, Beast, Blob, Emma Frost, Juggernaut, Professor X, Thor, etc.

Granted, a lot of characters die in the mainstream Marvel Universe too--but never so many at one time, making the teams that they belong to completely unrecognizable.

Struggling to figure out what the Ultimates, the X-men, the Fantastic Four, etc. would do in this new superhero Apocalypse, only the Spiderman title seemed to thrive.  So naturally, writer Brian Michael Bendis decided that iconic Spiderman Peter Parker needed to die... so a half-black half-hispanic kid could put on the spidey-jammies and swing around New York.  Despite all kinds of claims that this wasn't just a PC PR stunt, everything about the comments everyone made about it made it sound like exactly that.  My already considerably ebbed interest in the Ultimate Universe, mostly only sustained by the ongoing Spiderman books, completely fell through the floor.  I honestly realy have no interest in seeing what they do now.  The Ultimate experiment, grand though it may have been, is now dead to me. 

Miles Morales--the new Spiderman--might be a great character.  I don't know.  Frankly, I no longer care.  Seeing anyone other than Peter Parker in the role is just weird (Ben Reilly and Miguel O'Hara notwithstanding) and the Ultimate Peter Parker was my favorite comic book character in years.  Without him, this isn't Spiderman--it's something else that vaguely resembles Spiderman.  It's an ersatz Spiderman just like Squadron Supreme is an ersatz Justice League, or Moon Knight is an ersatz Batman.

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