Last summer Marvel announced that it would launch a huge event that would alter the Ultimate Universe permanently. This was good news, both Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four had been plagued by hack writers and bad artists, which lead to horrible stories and atrocious sales. It also seemed like a good way to give the consistently good Ultimate Spider-Man a much needed kick in the ass to propel the story and it’s characters a little further.
The concept was nothing short of bad ass either; Magneto’s children are murdered, pushing him over the edge and setting a doomsday plan into motion, killing millions of people, heroes and villains alike. Well, it turns out that it’s all part of Dr. Doom’s plan to get the master of magnetism to effectively destroy the populous as to pick up the pieces and rule what’s left of the world. Of course, the heroes team up and fight back. Sounds good right?
Sadly, the project was given to Jeph Loeb to pen and it’s not that he doesn’t know how to write comics; he just doesn’t know how to write comics in the Ultimate Universe. The miniseries doesn’t even start out strong; it’s spread far too thin for something cramming lots of story in what’s supposed to be a 5 issue miniseries. Readers don’t have time to blink; tons of shit goes down in 32 pages with virtually no exposition each issue. It’s like each page is devoted to what should be 10 pages of plot and action. And it seemed to be the running theme by the second issue to replace any bit of story with either action, brutal violence and/or gore.
Key characters are picked off by Loeb without the slightest regard, and you care, but not because you’re drawn in, but because it’s done in the most ambivalent way. Loeb lacks the abilities in storytelling Brian Michael Bendis has honed in crafting drama and relationships amongst the characters or the finesse for action and adventure Mark Millar has atoned with other Ultimate titles, leaving Ultimatum a messy clusterfuck of a story. At least it ends on a good note, Spider-Man lives (sorry, but did you really think Bendis would let Marvel kill his pride and joy?).
The book isn’t a total loss however, David Finch and Danny Miki’s wonderful attention to detail makes it at least fun to look at, even when Blob is munching on Janet Pym’s guts or when Cyclops and Iron Man obliterate Wolverine into adamantium and sinew. If there is one thing Finch can draw well, it’s intensity and chaos. The imagery doesn’t falter, it’s intricate without being too gaudy or overwhelming the reader.
In the long run, Marvel should have entrusted title to Ultimate Marvel godfathers Brian Bendis or Mark Millar. It’s also frustrating that not only did they give Jeph Loeb rein to change Earth 1610 but mutilate it beyond recognition. It seems unnecessary to kill off that many characters when the whole point of the Ultimate Universe was to put a modern day spin on it. There were plenty of concepts left to retool; 70 years of Marvel Comics material to draw from in point of fact. I’d say no use crying over spilt milk, but us comic book nerds do have trouble letting things go.