Or – “Wait…  This Is Still Ongoing?  Now, Waitaminnit!”

I very clearly remember the first rumblings of Ultimate X coming in the wake of Ultimatum, back in the fall 0f ’09.  I remember being very upset last summer when I missed the window to review issue #2 (a very likable chunk of comics reading) and was pretty much certain that I’d never get my chance to talk about the book as it slowly fell off my radar, presumably ending.  Imagine my surprise when issue #5 came out this week, roughly a year after my frustrations on issue #2.  Will it be worth the extended wait?

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Arthur Adams
Digital Inker: Aspen MLT’s Mark Roslan
Colorist: Aspen MLT’s Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Albert Deschesne
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on Ultimate X: So, Ultimate Magneto managed to pull off what his regular Marvel counterpart could not, scoring a decisive victory in his war against humanity.  New York was flooded, millions were killed, and the Ultimate Universe was (legitimately) never the same again.  The  X-Men, as well as the majority of the mutants in this world, were murdered, scattered, or otherwise rendered useless by the disaster.  In the wake of it all, Jean Gray (now calling herself Karen Grant and wearing a much more flattering hairstyle) has begun collecting at-risk mutants in a quest to fulfill Professor Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence.  So, what in the world is the HULK doing here?

It’s The Ultimate Universe, One Hulk Per Each Team…

We open with Jimmy (teenage son of Wolverine, apparently) trying to scam beers while hiding out in New Jersey.  I’m immediately struck by how different this character’s personality is from his abrasive, paranoid and unpleasant father (all traits even more noticeable in the late Ultimate Wolverine) when he is suddenly attacked by Sabretooth!  While I had to stifle a sigh as the narrative quoted ‘Pulp Fiction,’ the battle is quick and decisive, and ends seconds before Jimmy would have been gutted and dismembered.  They even correctly identify where Tarentino pulled part of the quote (Hint:  Not the Bible.) and I’m slowly pulled back in.  The super-expressive art of Arthur Adams helps immensely, as Jimmy’s carcass is dragged back to the hotel by Jea–  I mean, Karen.  We get a little bit of her friends (Liz Allen, from Ultimate Spider-Man, as Firestar, and a hawk-like kid called Derek) as they worry about why their friend isn’t healing like normal.  Karen sets out on a recruiting mission, and finds her final soldier at a local soup kitchen:  one Doctor Robert Bruce Banner.

Also A Wolverine.  (It’s Not THAT Different.)

What does she want with the original Hulk?  How about a little cold-blooded revenge?  Karen sics Bruce’s gray alter-ego on the man who roughed up her Wolverine, and this battle goes pretty much the same way that one did, right up to the part where the weird super-speed whooshing keeps it from turning fatal.  Quicksilver makes his presence known, with a mutant war-team of his own, including Ultimate Mystique and Blob, and the two generals take one another’s measure.  I tend to rag on Jeph Loeb for the high melodrama and testosterone content of his stories, but this one works quite well, as Quicksilver takes Karen’s measure, and the progeny of Xavier and Magnus show that each is more (and less) then their ‘fathers’ were before them.  In a lovely meta-moment, the source of the voice-over throughout the issue, examining words made famous by Samuel L. Jackson, is revealed to be…  Nick Fury, as ‘played’ by Samuel L. Jackson.  I admit it, I chuckled.  Turns out this whole plan has been set in motion by the late Wolverine to provide a counterbalance in a world gone mad, to “make up for the past and bring about a brighter future,” to hear Kar-Jean tell it.

The Verdict: Turns Out It’s A Prequel!

It could easily have been a moment that made me angry, as we end with one of those “The Beginning” signs, and the new status quo established.  Quicksilver’s team of mutants (including one member thought dead, but obvious in retrospect) and Karen’s team of mutants are both active in the field, both aware of one another and both set on “fixing” things their own way.  The story touches on the awful shared origin of all the heroes in the Ultimate Marvel U, and makes it almost palatable for me, and the entire book is just flat-out beautiful.  Having not been waiting for this issue (I honestly thought it came out a year ago), I wasn’t bothered by the long delay, and I even found the segueway into what I suspect is a new Ultimate X-Men title to be intriguing (at least partly due to the timing of this issue coinciding with the new Ultimate Spider-Man.)  All in all, it’s a book I didn’t expect to like, and certain didn’t expect to like this much, so kudos to Marvel.  Ultimate Comics: X #5 is somewhat like a fancy gourmet pizza, combining ingredients I might not  normally enjoy (goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, Wolverine) into a palatable whole, earning a very impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Have rumors of the Ultimate Universe’s demise been exaggerated?  Or will indecision be the death of the beast?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Armaan
    July 1, 2011 at 10:58 pm — Reply

    I liked it too. It’s just… should it really have taken this long? Ultimatum happened SO long ago. Ultimate X should be in full swing of their exciting stories by now.

  2. Rome
    July 2, 2011 at 1:54 am — Reply

    Oh no. Its truly breathing its final inhalation. The death rattle of series/universe demise draws near.

    The Ultimate Universe… I knew thee well…

    One good issue cannot bring back this behemoth on the brink of extinction.

    • Armaan
      July 2, 2011 at 9:45 am — Reply

      I thought that’s what The Death Of Spider-Man was for.

  3. Ced
    July 2, 2011 at 8:12 am — Reply

    Wow they are going in a totally new direction with the son of the blob. What a interesting character.

  4. Steve
    July 2, 2011 at 10:04 am — Reply

    I wonder if this was always a mini or they realized Adams and Loeb are Marvel’s version of Lee and Miller and decided to end it and give the characters to a flash in the pan writer who has more speed? I guess it doesn’t matter because I got to read five of the most beautiful issues of any comic I have seen in almost forty years of reading these things. I also got to read a story by the Loeb that earned the reputations as an amazing writer. I used to think people were exaggerating when they said Loeb’s early work was amazing. if it was anything like the characterizations and story Ultimate X had I understand why people still buy Loeb and complain about how he’s not as great as he used to be. Maybe he needs to be kept off of front and center titles from here on in and just give us stories this amazingly good on the periphery from here on out…

  5. Sean Murphy
    July 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm — Reply

    I remember when the series was announced as well and promptly put it on my pull list. It was Art Adams so I knew there would be delays but that they would be worth it. However, I was surprised to see that, rather than an on-going series, it is now being treated as a mini-series. That’s disappointing as it isn’t clear when we will these characters with these creators again. Oh well.

  6. Noobian74
    July 5, 2011 at 3:53 pm — Reply

    If this sounds mean, I apologize, but lately I’ve been treating the Ultimate Universe as what it would look like if the Marvel Universe was done by the same staff that were in charge at Image in the early 90’s.

    • Noobian74
      July 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm — Reply

      Don’t get me wrong, it had some great moments. Ultimate FF was great when it started and Ultimate X-Men had some great storylines. After a while, though, it was like old gum: started losing flavor and became stale.
      One example? Not only was there a Hulk clone (Nerd Hulk? Really?), but he was turned into a vampire. What. The. Deuce?

  7. J. R. Scherer
    July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm — Reply

    Didn’t Ultimate Sabretooth have his head chopped off? And didn’t he wind up with MORE adamantium claws than Wolverine before that? Did the head grow a whole new body? Has this been explained at all? The only Ultimate book I’ve made a point of not missing has been Ult. Spider-Man so I’ve missed a whole bunch of Ultimate X-Men comics before it all ended. Gotta say that I love, love, LOVE Adams’ artwork in this. If it takes several months to get this level of quality then I’m A-Okay with that.

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