Monday, February 8, 2010

Rayboy's Review: Ultimate X #1

Talk about shellacking a turd, Marvel Comics began allowing select creators free rein to modernize or re-imagine their long-running franchise books as part of their Ultimate Marvel imprint back in 2000 with the introduction of Ultimate Spider-Man #1, by artist Mark Bagley and writer Brian Michael Bendis. The "ultimate" line was first pitched as an effort to break away from established continuity, but the entirety of the various series quickly degenerated into a huckster's-style, director's-cut spin on the original Marvel Universe, with each succeeding creator involved opting to simply craft newer versions of established heroes and villains. None of the creative teams in any of the titles really created anything new within the ultimate universe framework that had been established for that very purpose.

The books sold like hotcakes anyway. (Yay, bravo, vunderbar!)

Just so you'll know, I can count the issues of the entire Ultimate line that I purchased on the fingers of a single hand, that's missing all of the fingers. That's right - zero.

I was not interested, but only because I had actually enjoyed the "real" ultimate universe when guys like Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Thomas, Heck, Kane, Romita, Buscema (x2) and decades of other fine folks created it. If the intent here was to break away from the good older stuff, then they really didn't give us anything for our investment, but don't try and figure out the mindsets of Marvel Zombies. It's all gone to rot these days. So they changed a few costumes, and monkeyed around with specifics in a few origins. Who cares?

Now comes Ultimate X #1 by Jeph Loeb and Arthur Adams, following up on the Ultimatum event, which apparently killed off the lion's share of these ersatz character posers or scattered the remainder across the planet. In a world where mutants are outlawed (Where did the get that idea?) and where the Fantastic Four have split up (Ditto?), young James Hudson is about to have a rude awakening. After surviving a hot-rodding car accident, Jimmy miraculously heals from his horrific wounds and with a little help from someone quite familiar to X-Men fans, discovers that he is the son of perhaps the most notorious mutant of all.

This issue basically serves as set-up for whatever is about to unfold, but it benefits from the strong artwork of Art Adams, even the backgrounds are worth looking at. It's nice to see an artist take just as much time and put just as much effort on his establishing shots and quieter character moments, as he does with the action sequences. Too damn many of the folks who drew the earlier "ultimate" fare could benefit from looking at this issue. As preamble, Ultimate X #1 entices me enough to give this book a shot, but I hope that there is more in the offing than further ridiculous king-of-the-hill attempts to "improve" on the classic Marvel Universe. It can't be done and it was foolish to try that in the first place.

If anything supposedly goes here, Joey Q and company, then have at it. For the moment, I'm at least paying attention.

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