Friday, March 20, 2009

Ultimate X-Men #98-100

Writer: Aron E Coleite
Pencillers: Mark Brooks and Dan Panosian
Inkers: Karl Story, Danny Miki and Victor Olazaba
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Albert Deschesne
Editor: Mark Paniccia

So it's come to this.

Remember when the Ultimate imprint was a big deal? Marvel hope you do. They'd like to recapture those days.

In hindsight, the Bill Jemas era was a strange period. It was the aftermath of Marvel's bankruptcy, and they were throwing anything and everything out there, to see what worked. Sometimes the result was inspired and imaginative; sometimes it was self-indulgent and misconceived. And in there, there was the Ultimate imprint.

The big idea, in theory, was to get back to the core ideas of the characters, and have a fresh start without the burden of forty years of continuity. There would be a small, focussed line of books, with big name creators. And in that way, the Ultimate books would be important.

Where did it all go wrong?

Well, for a start, Marvel singularly failed to keep up the idea of having big name creators on the books. Other than Ultimate Spider-Man, which is still written by Brian Bendis, there's been a constant trend away from the top writers, and towards some bloke you've never heard of who once wrote an episode of something on Sky One. In the case of Ultimate X-Men, the rot set in with Robert Kirkman, who was a somewhat credible choice of writer, but whose stories were uninspired. Now we have Aron Coleite. Who the hell is Aron Coleite? On most books that wouldn't be a problem - but the Ultimate imprint is supposed to be some sort of flagship, and you can't maintain that pretence while hiring complete unknowns.

Ultimate X-Men also suffered from the fact that it was never very well thought out to start with. The early issues embodied everything that is irritating about the work of Mark Millar - interchangeable characters being gratingly kewl. He brought nothing much to the X-Men concept, and left his successors nothing to work with. It was never a particularly worthwhile comic.

And now we come to Ultimate X-Men #100, the final issue. Of course, there's still a two issue epilogue to go, and this being Marvel, there's always a fair chance they'll bring it back in a few months. But I sincerely hope they won't, and frankly, I think they'd be very ill-advised to do so. The Ultimate imprint has big problems; they can't afford for the upcoming relaunch to look cosmetic. This is precisely the time to kill off Ultimate X-Men for the greater good.

What do we get in our final arc? Well, nothing that works as a finale for the series, that's for sure. It's an Ultimatum tie-in, rather optimistically billing itself as a three-parter. In fact, the previous two issues were mostly about Ultimatum survivors attacking the Mansion. This one is mostly about Madrox being used as a suicide bomber. A three-issue storyline? Do me a favour.

At best, this is forgettable nonsense. I'll grant that the idea is quite cute: Madrox, the infinitely duplicable man, being used as a suicide bomber. But it's not a story, just a throwaway idea strung out for a few pages. Who could possibly care? This final "story" can't even muster the dumb thrills of Millar's run. It's got nothing.

Superficially competent, yet utterly devoid of content, this is a book that deserved to die, and has just spent three issues advertising that fact. May it never darken our door again.

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