As the Ultimate line at Marvel is relaunched this summer, Ultimate Spider-Man will make a fresh start with a new #1 issue by Brian Michael Bendis and a new line-up of characters.
Following cataclysmic events in the current Ultimatum event, the entire Ultimate line will publish its final issues in April, putting an end to a 133-issue run for Ultimate Spider-Man.
Announced by Marvel at New York Comic Con this weekend, the end of the current numbering on the Ultimate line will be followed by "Requiem" issues released in May and June. Ultimate Spider-Man Requiem will be a two-issue story by Bendis and current penciler Stuart Immonen – plus a contribution of new work from former series artist Mark Bagley.
In July, the Ultimate line will begin anew as "Ultimate Comics," with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 in July featuring Bendis as writer with art by David Lafuente, who drew Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3. Also in July, Marvel will release a new Ultimate Comics Avengers title by writer Mark Millar and artist Carlos Pacheco.
The Ultimate line was launched with Ultimate Spider-Man #1 in 2000, beginning a series of comics that re-imagined the regular Marvel universe's characters, updating them for modern readers and giving them a fresh, continuity-free beginning. Although the comic has always been written by Bendis, former Marvel President Bill Jemas has been credited with conceiving the idea of the Ultimate Spider-Man launch.
Before Immonen took over as artist, Bendis and Bagley set a record for the longest continual run on a Marvel Comics series by two creators, working together on Ultimate Spider-Man from Issue #1 until Bagley's departure in Issue #111.
This summer's relaunch of Ultimate Spider-Man is not completely unexpected by fans, since Ultimatum has been marketed as a catastrophic event that will greatly alter the Ultimate Universe. Comments by Bendis and other creators about an upcoming "shift" in the Ultimate line were confirmed when April solicitations for comics like Ultimate Spider-Man #133 used the label "final issue."
Many fans have been concerned that Ultimate Spider-Man would be canceled, but Bendis told Newsarama in August: "We're not going anywhere. But Ultimatum will absolutely be felt in my book. It will alter the course of my book. And it will alter the supporting cast of my book in a dramatic way. So I can promise you you'll feel something different."
While Bendis also said he considered leaving Ultimate Spider-Man with the shift caused by Ultimatum, he decided to stay and finish his plans for the comic, saying he has a notebook of stuff he "hasn't even gotten to yet." Now he'll be completing those plans after a fresh start in July.
Newsarama found the writer on the con floor to talk more about the Ultimate Spider-Man relaunch.
Newsarama: Brian, when we talked to you in Chicago last summer about the future of this comic, you told us that Ultimate Spider-Man was not going to be canceled. Yet the solicitation for Ultimate Spider-Man #133 says it's the final issue. Want to explain what's actually happening?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, Jeph Loeb drowned my book. No, it's not going away. What is happening is we have a grand opportunity with the Ultimatum event to jump ahead a little bit. Just a little bit -- not a lot. At the end of Ultimatum, there's going to be a jump, and with that jump, we're going to have a brand new Ultimate Spider-Man comic book.
It's going to be written by me. It's going to be drawn by David Lafuente, who did the third annual, who is an amazing talent. I'm very excited about that.
And as I've been promising, now we have an opportunity, with a little bit of a clean slate, to really dig in and introduce new characters and set up a new status quo that you don't see in other Spider-Man books. But it is still a Spider-Man comic book. But show stories you haven't seen before. It's really a nice clean slate.
But it's Volume 2. And whether or not Ultimatum would have happened, we would have done a Volume 2 on this story, because now we're starting something else in Spider-Man's life.
NRAMA: When you say it's a clean slate, is it starting from scratch again and telling an origin story?
BMB: It's not starting from scratch again. It will be reader friendly just like Ultimate Spider-Man #1 was. But if you're reading Ultimate Spider-Man, this is Issue #136 of Ultimate Spider-Man. It's just Volume 2, Issue #1. It's story-driven Volume 2. It's just like with Powers, when we went to Volume 2, it would have been a big break in the story. Something happened when that volume ended. And here's the new thing, chapter 2.
It's been a few years, and Ultimate comics are supposed to be a gateway book. So here's an opportunity to reinvest the Ultimate line as a gateway line.
NRAMA: Can you tell us what the first storyline is going to be?
BMB: The first storyline is that you're going to find out who Spider-Man is. You're going to find out who the supporting cast is, and it will be different from who it was before Ultimatum. I can't give away too much because some people don't make it out of Ultimatum, sadly. No one's making it out of Jeph's book. But not everyone's making it out of my book. So with that will come the new status quo.
The new status quo will introduce new characters both hero and not-hero. Spider-Man's relationship to the world will be different than you've ever seen in a Spider-Man title – any Spider-Man title.
NRAMA: Now let's talk in general about the Ultimate line, because you pretty much kicked off the Ultimate line in the first place. Why does an Ultimate line need a big relaunch? Was there something wrong with it?
BMB: It doesn't have to. We were doing alright. I know there's this perception out there that it's dying, but meanwhile, most months, two titles in the Top 10 are Ultimate books, so how dying can it be? Ultimate Spider-Man trades are still huge sellers to this day. I can't believe it. I can't believe I have the job, I can't believe I haven't been fired from the job, I can't believe the book's still going on, so everything was fine, but here was an opportunity to look at what the manifest of the line was supposed to be and make sure it's still doing that. It's just a good opportunity to do that. But we didn't have to.
NRAMA: And the "manifest" of the Ultimate line was....??
BMB: It's a gateway book, it's fresh, it's the thing that will get you into comics.
NRAMA: So the Ultimate line was no longer doing that?
BMB: No, it still is for some people.
NRAMA: But Brian, you said the relaunch is an opportunity to make sure the line is still doing its job. If it was doing its job just fine without the relaunch, then why do it?
BMB: Well, okay a couple things happened. It wasn't so much the continuity, because I actually think the Ultimate line and some of the things Bill Jemas did with the Ultimate line changed the face of how reader-friendly some comics are. The recap page, and just that "every-issue-is-someone's-first" mentality has pushed itself all the way through Marvel comics now and into other companies. That still stood. You could pick up any issue of Ultimate anything and not be lost in what's happening. So that was fine.
What happened was they were somehow misaligned. The Ultimates book schedule was off of my schedule. It's such a tight line, but everyone was skewed off almost six months ahead or six months behind. So now we're all starting Issue #1 and pushing forward together. It's a lot easier for you to go, okay, I know where everybody is.
It was nobody's fault, but ultimately, Ultimates, when Mark and Bryan were doing it, had such an odd schedule that I couldn't reference it because I was scared I was going to spoil it. I mean, I knew how it was ending, but I didn't know what month it was shipping, for whatever reason. So I would just go about my day and be my own book. So it was like I was in my own little world, and he was in his own little world. And really, it's such a tight line, which I'm so proud of, and that's the reason the line's been so successful. They stuck to their guns and no matter how greedy people get, they never made the Ultimate line more than four titles and an ancillary mini here or there. And they're continuing to do that now. But now everything's lined up and good to go.
NRAMA: Okay. Anything else you want to tell people about the relaunch of Ultimate Spider-Man?
BMB: If you've invested your time in Ultimate anything, it's just more good. Don't worry. It's all good. If you need to add the numbers "35" on your Ultimate Spider-Man cover and want me to give it a little sig? I'll do that. No problem. But for people who were looking for a place to jump on, now you have a place to jump on.More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage: NYCC '09 Video Page