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Ultimate Everything

October 17, 2005

I’ve had the chance now to read three of Marvel’s Ultimate series books. Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, and The Ultimates all fulfill a different niche within the lifespan of a comics reader.

I’ve already spoken on Spidey, and after reading all three books I’ve decided I’m glad webhead was the one I decided to stick with. In the lifespan of the comics reader, Spider-Man is the starter book in the Ultimate series. It’s about teenagers, and is appropriate for readers that age. What’s more, it’s excellent.

Ultimate X-Men, while about characters generally the same age as Spidey, is aimed at an older (college age) audience. The stories have bigger scope and the social interactions are much more adult. Sleeping around and catty behavior are the order of the day. As someone who’s read the X-Men books from way back, it’s interesting to see the new take on the characters. I especially enjoyed Hank McCoy (as I always do). They captured the combination of brilliance and humor that made The Beast my favorite of the original X-Folk. The Hardcover collections have an appeal, but it’s not a book I think I’ll want to follow closely.

The Ultimates, finally, is a book about adults for adults. Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, and the Pyms come together as a force of supers fighting for the American flag. Despite my frustrations with some of the political aspects of the books (Bush is the president in Marvel’s Ultimate world, too), The Ultimates is a singularly amazing book. There haven’t been that many issues of the series, and those that were are grouped into specific stories. I had the chance to read the first story, broken into two trade paperbacks. The assembly of the team is the primary tale, with the repulsion of an alien invasion the secondary tale told. Despite the aliens, something not touched on very often in Marvel books, the Ultimates is a singularly adult series. Love, money, loyalty, and married life are just some of the topics touched on in the book. Domestic violence even rears its head in the relationship between Giant Man and The Wasp, in an incredibly distrubing sequence. I was thrilled by the response to the violence by the other characters, a reaction that allows The Ultimates to be a gritty series … but not a soulless one. Indeed, despite the violence and grim reality there is a humour that puts on display the love for the characters the authors and artists have. These characters and the people behind them have experienced the good and the bad that life can offer up, and their stories bear the weight of their years in a manner that ensures their status as venerable, rather than just old.

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