Comic Book / Ultimate Marvel
Part re-imagining, part Adaptation Distillation, the Ultimate line was originally an attempt by Marvel Comics to tempt readers into comics without being scared off by the decades of Back Story and Retcons in the official universe. The line was launched in November 2000 with the release of the first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. This had already been attempted by various other experiments - the Marvel Comics 2 line, The New Universe, Heroes Reborn, etc., but none of those met with the success the Ultimate Marvel line did, except for Spider-Girl (the original MC2 title, and via multiple relaunches the only survivor of the line), which became the longest running Spider-Man spin-off ever.

As basically an experiment which does not affect the main universe, changes and revelations are more permanent, and the universe as a whole has plot lines and continuity more neatly intertwined (unless they weren't planned by one writer); notably, the connections to the Weapon X project from Ultimate X-Men and the history of the Super-Soldier Serum/Captain America from The Ultimates. As the line has grown and accumulated its own continuity, its focus has shifted from distilling old stories to making all kinds of sweeping changes, like wiping out X-Men's sacred cows, having Reed Richards undergo a Face–Heel Turn, or killing Peter Parker and setting up a newcomer as the new Spider-Man.

Eventually, the Ultimate Marvel continuity was retired after 15 years in the Secret Wars (2015) Crisis Crossover, with the line's survivors incorporated into the main continuity afterward in the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch. These survivors include Miles Morales (the second Ultimate Spider-Man) and most of his supporting cast, the Maker (the evil Reed Richards), and Ultimate Thor's hammer. All-New, All-Different also debuted a team called the Ultimates, but it has no relation to the Ultimate Marvel version beyond the name. Another Ultimate survivor resurfaced over a year later: Jimmy Hudson, the son of Ultimate Wolverine, showed up in the X-Men's ResurreXion relaunch.

No relation to the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon show, though like every other Marvel adaptation it incorporates a few Ultimate comics elements. Both Ultimate Spider-Men would meet each other and join forces as part of the Spider-Verse event (in both comic and animated versions), however.

Major series in the Ultimate Marvel Universe are:

Note that technically, the titles of vol. 2 and 3 have been renamed from "Ultimate _____" to "Ultimate Comics: _____"; we're just sticking with the original format here for convenience (face it, titles like "Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates" are redundant and kind of a mouthful).

    Miniseries and Events 
Vol. 1:
  • Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, a series where Spider-Man teamed up with various Ultimate heroes; it was more episodic and light than the main Ultimate Spider-Man series. At least partly Canon Discontinuity, some elements are referenced by later series but other elements are contradicted.
  • Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra and Ultimate Elektra: Devil's Due.
  • Ultimate Adventures, an odd book about a Batman parody that lost a competition to get upgraded to an ongoing. Not officially Canon Discontinuity, but don't expect anyone to mention it outside of Official Handbooks to Ultimate Marvel. It was part of the infamous "U-Decide" event which also involved Peter David's Captain Marvel and Bill Jemas' Marville.
  • Ultimate War, an X-Men/Ultimates crossover. Magneto shows up after being thought dead, thanks to the fact that Xavier mindwiped him instead of killing him. The government ain't happy, and they send out the Ultimates.
  • Ultimate Six, a Spider-Man/Ultimates crossover. Spidey's Rogues Gallery escapes imprisonment (forming an Ultimate take on the Sinister Six) and they go after him with the Ultimates in pursuit.
  • The Ultimate Galactus trilogy, consisting of Ultimate Nightmare, Ultimate Secret, and Ultimate Extinction. As you might guess from its name, the Eater of Worlds is headed towards Earth and the Ultimates, X-Men and Fantastic Four have to band together to drive it off.
    • Ultimate Vision, a miniseries spun off from Ultimate Galactus.
  • Ultimate X4, an X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover. Someone steals Cerebro from the X-Men and frames the Four for it.
  • Ultimate Iron Man, two miniseries detailing the character's origin. Canon Discontinuity thanks to Mark Millar, who later established that this was a fictional in-universe TV show so that he could go in other directions with Tony's past.
  • Ultimate Power, a crossover between Ultimate Marvel and Supreme Power.
  • Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, Nick Fury sends Wolverine to kill the Hulk. Hijinks ensue.
  • Ultimate Human, billed as Iron Man versus the Hulk, and derailed somewhat by the appearance of the Ultimate Leader.
  • Ultimate Origins, which expands on the Meta Origin and the connections between various forces and mysteries in Ultimate Marvel.
  • Ultimatum, which was supposed to be a Wham Episode for every series, after which they were all canceled (Though Spider-Man immediately got relaunched, and Ultimates and X-Men soon got Sequel Series). To start with, millions of people and several known superhumans are dead.
    • Ultimatum: Requiem specials (Spider-Man: Requiem, Fantastic Four: Requiem, and X-Men: Requiem), ending their respective series before the Ultimate Comics reboot.
Vol. 2:
  • Ultimate Armor Wars, an adaptation of the classic Iron Man story, it features Tony Stark trying to recover an item and discovers that someone's stolen his Iron Man tech and sold it to various criminals that now employ it.
  • The Ultimate Doomsday trilogy, a Spider-Man/Fantastic Four crossover consisting of Ultimate Enemy, Ultimate Mystery, and Ultimate Doom. Superhumans and scientific installations have been targeted by a new mystery Big Bad.
  • Ultimate Thor, the origin story of the god of Thunder.
  • Ultimate Captain America: The Captain America of World War II vs. the Captain America of The Vietnam War. FIGHT!
  • The Death of Spider-Man, technically a Spider-Man/Avengers Vs. New Ultimates crossover but the non-Spider-Man characters are only involved in a single fight scene. Like in Ultimate Six, Spidey's enemies got out and targeted him. Unlike in Six, Spidey had been injured taking a bullet for Captain America in the Avengers/Ultimates fight. He was able to fight his enemies off and protect Aunt May, but at the cost of his life.
    • Ultimate Fallout: Spider-Man No More: As the world mourns Peter Parker, the superhero community starts considering and planning for the future...
Vol. 3:
  • Ultimate Hawkeye: Tying in to The Ultimates; Nick Fury sends Hawkeye, the Hulk, Karen Grant, Firestar and Guardian to investigate and retrieve a super-powering 'Serum' developed by the S.E.A.R. (South-East Asian Republic) military.
  • Spider-Men: New Spider-Man Miles Morales comes face to face with the Spider-Man of another universe -- one where it's still Peter Parker doing the webslinging.
  • Ultimate Iron Man
  • Divided We Fall and United We Stand: A crossover affecting all the Ultimate Comics titles, the story involves a divided United States after Washington D.C. is annihilated and Sentinels begin to run rampant in the southwestern states. As a result, the entire nation is divided into smaller divisions as America is on the brink of collapsing. Eventually, Captain America returns from self-imposed exile and is subsequently voted in as the President of the United States.
  • Ultimate Wolverine
  • Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand: the second crossover with the Marvel Universe. In the aftermath of Age of Ultron, Galactus has made his way to the Ultimate Universe. What can the heroes of the Ultimate Earth do to stop this force of nature?
    • Hunger: A prologue miniseries, setting up Galactus' arrival on Earth.
    • A set of Cataclysm: [X] tie-in miniseries, one for each of the three ongoings at the time.
    • Survive: An epilogue one-shot, picking up the pieces and setting up the next volume of Ultimate books.
  • Secret Wars (2015): The Ultimate and mainstream Marvel Universes are thrown together with other alternate Marvels, with the end result being parts of the Ultimate world merged into the main one.
    • Ultimate End: A "Battleworld" tie-in to Secret Wars, serving as the setting's Grand Finale.

The Ultimate Marvel universe is part of Marvel's multiverse, specifically Earth-1610, while the main Marvel Earth is Earth-616 (though former EIC Joe Quesada despises the designation). Marvel originally insisted doing a crossover between the two would be a lame and tired idea, though they eventually started making some, years after that statement once the Ultimate status quo shifted dramatically:

The Ultimate Marvel titles provide examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Loki, usually portrayed as a wrinkled old man at the time, is here portrayed as looking like a handsome twenty-something.
    • Inverted with the Kree, who look considerably more alien in this universe.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Outside of the Spider-Men, most of the "heroes" are either jackasses, psychotic, or both.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Black Widow; in the comic, she starts out as a villain, but ends up having a Heel–Face Turn; in Ultimate, as a reversal, she starts as a heroine and turns out to be a spy for Russia, and the Liberators.
    • Reed Richards, who turns out to be the Ultimate Enemy in the trilogy of the same name. After "Cataclysm", he is making an attempt at reforming. Then New Avengers reveals he was faking it all along, and if anything only got worse.
    • Magneto is outright genocidal, as opposed to the occasionally-noble Magneto of Earth-616.
    • John Wraith is the head of the Weapon X project, instead of one of its victims, and enjoys regularly abusing anyone he can find, teens included.
    • Longshot, Forge, and Multiple Man are willing members of the Brotherhood. In the classic universe, the three of them were allies or members of the X-Men.
    • Galactus may eat planets, but he's not exactly happy about it. It's just what he has to do (either because it's literally what he was born for, or to keep worse things at bay). Gah Lak Tus on the other hand is not serving some cosmic purpose. It's just killing out of spite.
    • The Punisher goes from sympathetic Anti-hero, if not a bit of a Knight Templar, to a Jerkass lunatic who has no problem killing The Vice President of the United States, an obvious Joe Biden expy.
    • Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were willing members of the Brotherhood and still believe in it even after leaving, instead of being pressganged into it and getting out the first chance they got. They're also lovers—despite still being siblings.
    • Jean DeWolff (spelt Jeanne DeWolfe) and Iron Fist work for the Kingpin. Though the latter is being blackmailed into doing it.
    • Abraham Erskine, normally a genial and grandfatherly scientist, is a cold and remorseless man willing to experiment on unwilling African-American volunteers.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: The reason Marh-Vell defected to Earth. He liked our stuff.
  • Anyone Can Die: Unlike the mainstream universe, it's permanent. Notable examples include (Major Spoilers): Captain America, Magneto, Cyclops, Daredevil, Wolverine, Bishop, Juggernaut, Doctor Strange, Loki, The Punisher, most of Europe and all of Asgard.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Infinity Gems eventually appeared in the lead-in to Cataclysm, though in the Ultimate Universe they're supposed to be a universal defence mechanism.
  • Big Bad: Before "Ultimatum", Magneto was the closest contender for this title, being a threat to both the X-Men and the Ultimates, and one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s highest priority target.
    • After "Ultimate Enemy", the Maker (Reed Richards) takes on this role.
  • Big Good: There isn't one. No-one's noble enough, or sane enough. Not even Captain America. The closest they have are Thor or Iron Man, and even they have their nasty sides.
    • It's suggested that Spider-Man was shaping up to be one, before his final encounter with the Sinister Six.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: Happened to the X-Men and Fantastic Four in Ultimatum due to the losses each suffered in that event. The remaining X-Men eventually regrouped, especially after Spider-Man died, but the Four were cemented as broken up forever when Reed turned evil as a Knight Templar.
  • Cape Punk: One of the original goals of the Ultimate universe was to revitalize comic book continuity by updating it to the modern era. Much attention was given to the legal status, politics, popularity, and power limitations of superheroes. Furthermore, death was largely permanent as well as changes made to the status quo.
  • Clueless Mystery: The Ultimate Enemy trilogy. Spider-Man, the Baxter Building, Nick Fury, and a few others are attacked by aliens or strange tentacle monsters. No clues or hints are given, and there's no foreshadowing of any kind as to who might be behind this, until the end of the second half of the story, where it's revealed to be Reed Richards.
  • Comic Book Death: Averted; when you die in this universe, you die (with very few exceptions)
    • The exceptions are Norman Osborn (it is hinted that this may actually be his super power), Peter Parker (same as Norman, but the full extent is unknown), Gwen Stacey, Psylocke (as a telepath, she can transport her consciousness into multiple hosts), and Tony Stark (same deal as Psylocke, but could implant his consciousness into advanced technology. He then used the Infinity Gems to revive his body and implant his consciousness back in it).
  • Comic-Book Time: In sharp contrast to 616 continuity in its early years, the Ultimate comics adopted comic book time from the beginning. To give an example all 200 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man pass without the character graduating from high school, which means that the entire Ultimate comics run including the appearance of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the entire history of the Ultimates along with many crisis crossovers happen in a span of around 3 years or more.
  • Continuity Snarl: There are at least three different versions of Bolivar Trask, none of whom have anything in common with one another. One of them is a government funded scientist, and the creator of the Sentinels. Another is a corporate big-shot, with almost no actual operational knowledge of science, who is partially responsible for the origin of Venom, and the third is a scientist hired by the Fenris Twins to build Sentinels, before dying in an explosion.
    • The Silver Surfer. Swarms of them appear in Ultimate Extinction, serving Gah-lak-tus, attempting to soften Earth for its arrival. Then another appears in Ultimate Fantastic Four working for the Psycho Man, and another appears working as a herald and spokesman for the Watchers.
      • Richards handwaves it in-universe with a theory that the Gah-lak-tus swarm has encountered the other Silver Surfer and modeled its antibody drones after him.
  • Crapsack World: Amazingly, the Ultimate Marvel Universe is even more of one than the mainstream universe; as noted above, it has a Darker and Edgier approach, and, unlike the mainstream, you can't rely on cosmic schemes to come back to life after suffering a horrible death. With the exceptions of Thor and Spider-Man...
    • It's so bad that Galactus himself declares this universe is broken.
  • Darker and Edgier: A lot of elements are this compared to the mainstream version of Marvel; most notable example include Hulk and Blob having cannibalistic tendencies, Ant-Man being a total jerk, Magneto being pure evil rather than a Well Intentioned Anti-Villain, several key characters dying (and unlike the mainstream, they are rarely, if ever, Back from the Dead)...
  • Deconstruction: This is a deconstruction of the regular Marvel Universe. Many storylines use this as a basis.
  • Downer Ending: Secret Wars begins with what little is left of SHIELD and the Ultimates at that point (Iron Man and Hawkeye) trying to deal with an Incursion with Earth-616. Since they're vastly outnumbered and out-gunned, they loose badly. And then the Maker blows up both realities anyway. And that's the story of Ultimate Marvel.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mankind still hates Mutants, with Ultimate X-Men beginning with Sentinels killing dozens of Mutants. The discrimination is arguably far worse than the prejudice shown in the mainstream universe, as mutants have been discriminated to the point they can be murdered without legal reprisal and their legal status has been rendered nonexistent unless they follow inhumanly strict rules in a society that wants them dead or blames them for the events of "Ultimatum".
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Stated as such by Nick Fury at the end of Ultimate Six. Outside of the Asgardians, just about every existing superhuman can be traced back to military experiments in some way. Yes, including the mutants.
  • Humans Are Special: Nick Fury phrases it differently, but the point is the same. Humans can kick the crap out of anything.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Nearly every series follows the title format of "Ultimate _____" (or, for a stretch, "Ultimate Comics: _____"), with a few variations like "Ultimatum" or "The Ultimates".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Cannibalism is a surprisingly constant motif. Hulk is a cannibal and eats the Chitauri leader, Magneto makes offhand references to having once eaten humans and plans to keep humans as livestock in a Homo Superior World, and of course in Ultimatum, Blob eats the Wasp and in revenge, Giant Man bites off the Blob's head.
  • Irony: For all of the hatred and Fantastic Racism for mutants (though Magneto does his level best to justify that fear), it's absolutely ironic because Homo Superior is exactly what it was created to be... homegrown super soldiers. Almost every Ultimate Marvel book has its roots in the American Government trying to (re)discover the secrets of the Super Soldier serum used to create Captain America... yet a single rogue lab was able to leap ahead of OsCorp, Roxxon, and The Baxter Building by creating Homo Superior... the mutant race. True mutants did exist (like Wolverine or Apocalypse), but were exactly that - random genetic offshoots of humanity. When Wolverine was captured, his genetic code was promptly mapped and manipulated by Doctor Cornelius and used to create the X-Gene. When Nick Fury discovers the horrific laboratory, he orders all the scientists killed and their work erased so the word that Man created Mutant wouldn't spread. He was too late as Cornelius had already disseminated the X-Gene all over the world, creating the first mutant baby boom.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Nick Fury.
    The Thing: So when you were running the whole world you just stole things off of anyone’s computer.
    The Thing: You make me sick.
    Fury: And I was right.
  • Kill 'em All: Very few heroes tend to stay alive.
  • Meta Origin: The Ultimate line simplifies many random elements by having many of the world's superheroes connected to Captain America's Super Serum in some form or another. The Hulk was accidentally created while Dr. Banner was trying to recreate the serum, Norman Osborn accidentally created Spider-Man while attempting the same thing, Weapon X and the entire mutant race were created as the Canadian response to the Serum, and so on.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • New York is flooded at the beginning of "Ultimatum".
    • The X-Mansion is destroyed by Iceman after "Ulimatum".
    • The Baxter Building is utterly totalled at the beginning of Ultimate Enemy.
  • Myth Arc: The numerous attempts at recreating the Super Soldier Serum and how it relates to almost all the characters.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: SHIELD. SHIELD, SHIELD. Near every problem, disaster, or menace can be traced right back to their doorstep.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The line's mission statement since Ultimatum, as opposed to mainstream Marvel's Status Quo Is God.
  • Planet Killer: Gah-Lak-Tus, which goes around killing planets filled with organic lifeforms out of Fantastic Racism.
  • Race Lift: Samuel L. Jackson allowed the artists to use his likeness for the formerly white Nick Fury in exchange for getting to play Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • There are a lot of other examples. The Wasp was Asian-American, Ben Reilly and the Vision are black (though the former is not a clone of Spider-Man in this continuity), Hurricane was North Korean, Crimson Dynamo and the Abomination were Chinese, Abigail Brand is Ambiguously Brown.
  • Revisiting the Roots: From time to time, an element that was changed for the adaption, suddenly tilts back to the way it was (or is) in the regular Marvel Universe. For example, the Avengers began as a group of super-powered agents of SHIELD, and stayed that way for the first two arcs... and at the end of the second, they are a group of super heroes working on their own, financed by the wealth of Tony Stark (precisely their usual status in the Marvel Universe, at least before the contemporary Civil War). The Scarlet Witch donned her classic suit, Thor is shown to actually be a god from Asgard and not just a lunatic, and some topics that were initially avoided for being too fantastic (such as aliens and time-travel) finally got their space.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Several characters, most notably the Ultimates (this universe's version of the Avengers), Wolverine, and most notably Ant-Man, are much more cynical and anti-heroic than their mainstream counterpart.
    • Spider-Man is one of the few characters to avert this trope, in both of his incarnations.
  • Ultimate Universe: Trope Namer and one of the better-known examples.
  • Undefeatable Little Village: Seeking the supersoldier Frank Simpson, Captain America seeks the hidden village of Saloth, in Vietnam. He finds it, but there are no adult men: just children, women and elders. One of those elders told cap that he's not the first big and strong guy who shows up giving orders, but that they defeated all the previous ones and used them to feed the pigs. Cap ignored him as a senile folk... and then discovers the secret: the children, women and elders are all super soldiers.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: The heroes of Ultimate Marvel are all smug, pissed-off, and dangerous assholes. And Spider-Man.