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
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
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; notably, the connections to the Weapon X project from Ultimate X-Men
and the history of the Super-Soldier Serum
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 killing X-Men's sacred cows or replacing Peter Parker as Spider-Man.
No relation to the Ultimate Spider-Man
cartoon show, though like every other Marvel adaptation it incorporates a few Ultimate comics elements.
Major series in the Ultimate Marvel Universe are:
- Vol. 1:
- Vol. 2:
- Ultimate Spider-Man
- Ultimate X: With key players dead and mutancy made illegal after Ultimatum, mutants are scattered, leaderless, and trying to survive. Amounted to one miniseries thanks to Schedule Slip.
- New Ultimates (One miniseries)
- Ultimate Avengers: Spinoff of The Ultimates featuring a black-ops team.
- Near the end, the latter two merged into Avengers vs. New Ultimates, as the two teams were manipulated into fighting each other.
- Vol. 3:
- The Ultimates
- Ultimate X-Men: Mutants are regrouping, but the secrets of the mutant gene's origin have gotten out and are going to cause problems.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: With Peter Parker dead, a new character has taken up the mantle.
- Vol. 4:
- Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man
- All-New Ultimates: No relation to the previous SHIELD-sponsored team; this is a group of the Ultimate U's teen heroes; Miles Morales' Spider-Man, Spider-Woman (now going by Black Widow), Bombshell, Kitty Pryde, Cloak, and Dagger.
- Ultimate FF: As in "Future Foundation", not "Fantastic Four"; a team of Science Heroes including Sue Storm, Iron Man, the Falcon, and Machine Man. Plus Doctor Doom.
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
- 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.
- 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...
- 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. The second half of the story is covered in United We Stand, where 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
(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.
- Adaptation Personality Change: Outside of Spider-Man, 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.
- Longshot, Forge, and Multiple Man are willing members of the Brotherhood.
- Jean DeWolff (spelt Jeanne DeWolfe) and Iron Fist work for the Kingpin.
- More like Adaptational Jerkass, but as noted above, basically every "hero" outside of Peter Parker are either either jackasses, psychotic, or both.
- 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 Ultimatum and Death of Spider-Man.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (one could argue that she was never killed just predisposed), 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).
- 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.
- 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: You could argue this is a deconstruction of the regular Marvel Universe. Many storylines use this as a basis.
- Fantastic Racism: Mankind still hates Mutants, with Ultimate X-Men beginning with Sentinels killing dozens of Mutants.
- 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.
- 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 superhuman arms race and all the numerous attempts to recreate the Super Soldier Serum.
- 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 most recent 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 are 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.
- Ultimate Universe: Trope Namer and one of the better-known examples.
- Unscrupulous Hero: The heroes of Ultimate Marvel are all smug, pissed-off, and dangerous assholes. And Spider-Man.