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Ultimate Origins #1
From: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Butch Guice
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Lettering: Chris Eliopoulos
Serving as both the lead-in to Ultimatum and a cluster of revelations on its own, Ultimate Origins manages to overcome a bit of “first-issue-syndrome” by conveying information in an action-oriented, suspenseful way. The story seeds exploited in this issue have been planted essentially since the Ultimate Universe began. Now, Bendis and company pick up those threads and bring them into much sharper focus.
That said, there is a bit of disconnect with the proceedings right at the outset. A caption reveals that the initial meeting between the Hulk and Spider-Man took place “Six Months Ago”. The problem inherent in that is that the ongoing repairs to the destruction caused by this Hulk rampage was glimpsed briefly at the beginning of the first Ultimates series. We know that there was a year between Ultimates and Ultimates 2. Does that mean that the “present” action of this series takes place prior to Ultimates 2? It’s possible, considering that the only “present day” scene we see is of Spidey and the Hulk. Then again, it kind of makes you wonder if the story is that important if we’re seeing revelations that were already, well, revealed many months ago in the Ultimate timeline. Frankly, I regard these points of criticism as extremely valid in terms of the creative and editorial processes. If a company goes through the trouble of wanting you to buy into continuity and a shared universe, then I believe that those things should appropriately synch up. The irony is that the Ultimate Universe was created to divest itself of continuity; these days, by continuing interaction and establishment of months and years between stories, there is almost as much for the writer and editor to follow. I don’t need to know that a story takes place on Thursday, unless the lead character lost their arm on Wednesday; then the presence of two arms would be vaguely important.
It’s also valid when you see that this series is an effort to tie literally everything in the Ultimate Universe together. As Newsarama’s preview showed, things go back to World War 2, where a younger Nick Fury, James (Logan) Howlett, and a certain Mr. Fisk are indulging in a little Three Kings/Kelly’s Heroes action. The group is splintered, and Nick Fury gets enrolled in a rather familiar program. Meanwhile, Howlett gets into some lab-based problems of his own.
There are some interesting ideas here, and Bendis keeps it all moving. The connecting of previously established dots isn’t bad; it’s just not terribly exciting. A lot of this draws from things that many readers would have already intuited, while other points just don’t seem of grand importance in the overall scheme of things. The last piece may raise eyebrows, but what does it do in a story sense?
On the art side, Butch Guice does his usual great job. I’ve always felt that Guice is underappreciated for whatever reason. With the varied settings of this issue, he proves again that he can draw anybody in any time with a great deal of detail. His Howlett looks appropriately rugged; his Hulk is appropriately huge. (The Hulks coloration here is not an error, as he was depicted as green in the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up issues where the rampage occurred; it’s been established in other Ultimate books that his color changes on occasion).
If you’re really into the Ultimate universe, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you’re coming into it cold, you’ll probably be rather confused as to why certain characters may be important. On its own, it’s just okay. If you want to sample Bendis in great Ultimate form, check out last week’s issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. Unless you’re clamoring for Ultimate dirt, this one is just kind of pedestrian.