Monthly Archives: September 2015

Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is Awesome

Ultimates Splash
When I first started really getting into comic books back in 2011 I was picking up a lot of titles but had pretty much written off the Ultimate Universe entirely.  The idea that this whole universe of comics was non-canon and thus “didn’t count” made me feel like it was a waste of time and something I shouldn’t bother with.  Now 2015, years wiser and stacks of comics later I realize just how wrong I was.

Ultimate Thor

If you are completely unfamiliar with the Ultimate Universe lets get into its history briefly.  Back in 2000 Marvel realized they had a problem on their hands.  The vast majority of their comics were turning 40 years old and so the origins of their most popular heroes were vastly out of date and touch with the modern world.  Marvel can do tricks with de-aging its heroes and condensing history but the fact remained that you can only really tell an origin once.  Marvel was stuck with two choices.  Reboot their lines so their stars have clean histories and relatable origins, or create all new characters to replace fan favorites.

The Marvel New Universe

This isn’t a problem that was new to Marvel.  Since the 80’s they had been trying to find a way to simplify the years of incoherent back story and clean the slate with its most popular characters.  In the 80’s Editor in Chief Jim Shooter tried to do just that with the launch of the New Universe.  Rather than reboot characters like Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men he decided to create a slew of new characters with the hopes they would replace the old characters and become the new foundation of Marvel.  The fact that kids don’t dress up like Mark Hazzard or Star Brand for Halloween can clue you in that this idea was a spectacular failure.  The lesson learned from the New Universe was that while fans want new and interesting stories fans also are also unwilling to abandon the characters they love.

So creating a world of new characters was out.  But how does Marvel reboot their comics?  If you throw out 40 years of canon you piss off and alienate fans who have spent their lives following these characters.  If you keep in 40 years of canon the characters become an incoherent mess and the story telling suffers and you lose fans.  Marvel was stuck in a real catch-22 which no answer that would please everyone.

Ultimate End

Their solution was a compromise and the creation of the Ultimate Universe.  The Ultimate Universe would be a complete reboot and have separate continuity of the main Marvel Universe.  Fans of Spider-man could continue reading Amazing Spider-man which contained the 40 years of history.  However, if fans wanted a new take on the character they could pick up Ultimate Spider-man and read it instead.

The big selling point on the Ultimate Universe was that the stories would have teeth.  If someone dies in Amazing Spider-man they would generally find their way to being alive again within 5 years.  In fact it became such a joke that the saying was “No one stays dead in comics except Bucky and Jason Todd” (who ironically have both been brought back to life in the last 10 years).  The promise was that if someone died in the Ultimate Universe they would stay dead.

Ultimate Comics Ultimates 1 Cover

The Ultimate Universe kicked off with Ultimate Spider-man in October of 2000 written by Brian Michael Bendis in October of 2000 which remains the only Ultimate title that was still ongoing prior to 2015 Secret Wars (which has temporarily suspended all titles for Marvel).  The next titles were Ultimate X-Men written by Mark Millar, The Ultimates (the ultimate universe version of the avengers) written by Mark Millar, and Ultimate Fantastic Four also written by Mark Millar.  There were more limited series, one shots, and ongoing series that came and went but these four are what I consider the pillars of the original Ultimate Universe.  These four titles represent the characters that were some of Marvel’s oldest and were most in need of a updated origin.

The Ultimates 1

I started my dip into the Ultimate Comics pool with reading Mark Millar’s Ultimates 1 and 2.  These are both limited series runs with Ultimates 1 having 13 issues and Ultimates 2 having 15 issues.  I have a subscription to Marvel Digital Unlimited so I figured what the hell, it doesn’t have a ton of issues I’ll give it a shot.  After reading the first arc (issues 1-6) I was hooked and finished out the series.

I don’t know if I can place my finger on what I like most about Millar’s Ultimates but overall its just a fun read.  It’s got some truly shocking moments (Ant-Man and Wasp) and just plain crazy stuff in there as well (Hulk).  Millar makes bold choices are gives a version of these characters that I have truly never seen before.  I never imagined a Hippie version of Thor, psycho version of Hulk, or a Black Widow / Iron Man romance but somehow Millar makes this work.  I really liked that Millar decided to take so many of these characters in different directions because if you are going to do something as big as create a whole new universe of Marvel characters you really should do something interesting with it.

Once I got hooked on the Ultimates I started looking for more titles under the Ultimate Comic brand to read.

Ultimate Spider-man

My next read was Ultimate Spider-man.  So far I’ve only read the Volume 1: Power and Responsibility which is a retelling of Spider-man’s origin.  Out of all the Ultimate stories I’ve read so far Bendis’s Spider-man is the most straightforward adaptation.  There aren’t a lot of frills here, just a update of the classic story.  The Ultimate Peter Parker is still bitten by a now “genetically enhanced” spider, uncle Ben still dies, Power and responsibility are learned.  I don’t want this to sound like Ultimate Spider-man is not a great read, because it really is.  If someone wants to read Spider-man and start from the beginning this is where they need to go.  It is a well told update of a classic story.  If anything Ultimate Spider-man proved that Stan Lee really nailed it with this story, in this case we don’t need a gimmick, just a little update.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1

These days if you hear the word Ultimate Spider-man it isn’t associated with Peter Parker at all but the new Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales.  In 2011 after 160 Ultimate Spider-man ended with the Death of Peter Parker and the introduction of Miles Morales in a new on going series Ultimate Comics Spider-man.

Ultimate X-Men 1

Next I read Ultimate X-Men.  Ultimate X-Men is much more liberal take on the origin of the X-Men.  It throws us right into the mix where the original X-Men are already at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters.  There is the establishment of Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil mutants and the first arc is centered around that clash.  The series also distances it self from the regular Marvel universe and establishes complete different back stories for many of the characters.  Wolverine starts as an spy for Magneto and immediately begins a relationship with Jean Grey (who has not been in a relationship with Scott Summers).  Beast and Storm begin a relationship early on and Weapon X is a program started by SHIELD.

Ultimate X-Men

I enjoyed reading the first volume of Ultimate X-Men and continued reading it through the first 30 or so issues.  The downside to Ultimate X-men is that while it is an “update” of the X-Men origin story it is already beginning to feel aged being 15 years old now.  The first issue cover alone has a very “Lisa Frank” feel to it and the style of the whole thing screams early 2000’s.  If someone wanted to get into the X-Men with no prior history I would probably point them toward 2012’s All-New X-Men instead of Ultimate X-Men.  That being said I would definitely recommend the series to anyone.

Ultimate Fantastic Four

Most recently I have started reading Ultimate Fantastic Four.  This is actually the first Fantastic Four comic book series I’ve ever read.  Like most of the country I just don’t find the Fantastic Four appealing at all, and out of all the big Marvel properties it feels the most out of date.  If any series could use a fresh coat of paint and an updated origin it is Fantastic Four.  I started just reading Volume 1: The Fantastic and to my genuine surprise I loved it.  Changing the Baxter building to a sort of Hogwarts for super genius kids was a great change.  I thought the re-imagining of their origin made sense and was much more relatable than the original Stan Lee origin.  In fact I was actually really stoked to go see the new Fantastic Four film knowing they pulled a lot of the source material from the Ultimate universe.  That was of course, until the reviews starting coming in…  This is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone especially if they are new to the Fantastic Four.

Ultimate End Vol 1 1

Having this renewed interest in the Ultimate Universe it’s sad that the current Secret Wars mini-series currently in production is actually ending the Ultimate Universe altogether.  Fantastic Four and X-Men had a decent run but started falling off in the late 2000’s (both Ending in 2009).  Marvel tried to revive the line in 2011 with the new Ultimate Comics line with a new Ultimates, X-Men, and Spider-man but they winded up canceling most the titles by 2014.  Prior to Secret Wars the only ongoing Ultimate title left in production was Spider-man.  At the end of the day Spider-man has been the real break out title of the entire Ultimate line and the only title to continually release since it’s inception in 2001.  Miles Morales has been an extremely popular character and will be folded into the All-New All-Different Avengers main team following Secret Wars.

For the time being it looks like there will no longer be an Ultimate Universe and only one main Marvel Universe.  My thought is that in the next 5 years we will reach the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Ultimate Universe and that Marvel will look at it as a good time to reboot the franchise.  Until then I still have a decade worth of Ultimate material to keep my occupied.

Marvel_Unlimited_Logo-790x790

Now that I have you chomping at the bit to read some Ultimate Comics where can you buy them?  If print is your preferred method you can pick up trade paperbacks pretty much anywhere comics are sold.  You will also likely have good luck finding copies of these trade paper backs at used book stores or for cheap online.  If digital is your method you can get the majority of the Ultimate universe on kindle, comixology, google play, itunes, or where ever you buy digital books.  However, if you really want to dig into the Ultimate Universe I would suggest looking into getting a subscription to Marvel Digital Unlimited.  It is an all you can read Netflix style comic book service for Marvel Comics and they have literally every issue of every Marvel Ultimate comic for you to read until your eyes bleed.

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Elseworlds Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl

Elseworlds Finest - Cover

Today’s installment of Elseworlds we’ll be discussing 1998’s Elseworlds Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl.  If you would like to read along at home you might be able to find a copy at your local comic book shop but the easiest option would just be to get it from Comixology here for 1.99.

Elseworlds Finest - Image 6

While this is definitely an Elseworlds story the main two characters, Supergirl and Batgirl, have their normal identities of Kara Zor-El and Barbara Gordon.  In this world there is no Superman and Kara Zor-El is the true last daughter of Krypton.  Bruce Wayne exists in this world but rather than his parents getting killed, Barbara’s parents were killed and she was raised by the Waynes.

Elseworlds Finest - Image 2

This is an interesting twist.  Barbara and Bruce are roughly the same age in this universe and have a Brother/Sister relationship.  Bruce acts in a support role similar to Alfred, while Barbara is Batgirl.  Barbara is still a computer genius and uses her “Oracle” computer program to protect and isolate the entire city of Gotham.  No one is above Batgirl’s reach and neither the Justice League or anyone with powers is allowed to enter Gotham.  Barbara keeps Gotham in a police state and while it may be safer it is clear there is mixed feelings from the citizens.

Elseworlds Finest - Image 7

In this world Lex Luthor is not a villain but instead a benefactor of the Justice League.  The story kicks off with Luthor receiving an award from Barbara Gordon (and the city of Gotham) for his work in renewable energy.  A super buff Joker who has been taking Bane’s venom uses the opportunity to kidnap Luthor.  This super buff Joker of this world is obsessed with Batgirl and uses the kidnapping as an excuse to gain her attention.

Lex Luthor was the one who found Supergirl when she landed on Earth and represents a father figure to her.  She becomes distressed learning he has been kidnapped and, despite knowing Gotham is off limits, enters the city anyway to rescue him.  Batgirl is immediately alerted and confronts Supergirl.  Once seeing how distressed Supergirl is, and possibly realizing that she is overpowered, Batgirl invites Supergirl to assist her in finding Luthor.

Meanwhile Luthor cuts a deal with Joker and gets Joker to work with him in exchange for an unlimited supply of venom.

Batgirl takes Supergirl to a secret underground lab of Lexcorp where we learn the true nature of Lex Luthor.  Superman had in fact come to Earth but Lex got to him first and used the Kryptonite from the crash to kill Kal-El while he was still a baby.  Lex has since been using Kryptonian technology and Kal-El’s own corpse to further Lexcorp.

Elseworlds Finest - Image 4

Supergirl naturally goes into a blind rage and is set on killing Luthor for the horrible acts he has committed.  Batgirl manages to stop Supergirl from killing Luthor and we then learn Batgirls backstory.  An aging Joe Chill winded up getting a commuted sentence for killing her father in exchange for naming names.  One of the people he named was Luthor as the man responsible for contracting the murder that killed her father.  Jim Gordon was never the target that night, Joe was suppose to kill the Waynes but when Jim Gordon intervened he was killed instead.

The award was a set up from the start.  Batgirl planned it to get Luthor out of Metropolis long enough for her to gather evidence against Luthor.  Luthor plays it off that it doesn’t matter anyway because he is beloved and no one will believe their story against him.  However Batgirl had been live streaming the entire encounter which Luthor had confessed all.

Elseworlds Finest - Image 5

The comic ends with Supergirl burying Kal-El’s body and that start of a friendship between Supergirl and Batgirl.  Barbara however hides away a kryptonite ring stolen from Luthor “just in case”.

Overall I really enjoyed the comic.  I think it was a fresh take on both of the characters.  Rather than just being side characters or part of a bigger bat or super family this had Batgirl and Supergirl front and center as the leaders of their world.  I did think it was odd that they didn’t go by Superwoman and Batwoman seeing as they were the main forces in this world.  This isn’t a huge deal but would have helped to separate this world from the typical DC Universe.

I liked the different take on Batman’s origin in which it is the Gordon’s that died instead of the Waynes.  I liked that Bruce Wayne takes on the role of Alfred and helps assist Batgirl while she’s out in the field.  They appear to have a romantic relationship in the public eye but seem to be truly platonic while in private.

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My only real complaint is that I would have liked to see more of the rest of the world this comic takes place in.  We got to see some bits and pieces on how things are different such as Abin Sur as this worlds Green Lantern but it never really goes into any depth.  This is just a one shot comic so they are limited on what they can tell in this story but it would have been nice to see more.  Part of what I really love about these elseworlds comics is the details and smaller changes.

Anyway if you like Elseworlds and are a fan of Supergirl and Batgirl this is definitely a book you should check out.


Comic Block August 2015 Unboxing

Comic Block Web Clipping

August’s Comic Block came with the following items:

  • Bombshells 1 from DC Comics
  • X-Files Season 11 Issue 1 from IDW (Comic Block Exclusive Variant)
  • Red Sonja / Conan 1 from Dark Horse (Comic Block Exclusive Variant)
  • Heart and Brain Comic Block Exclusive Print
  • Spider-Gwendom T-Shirt

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First let’s take a look at the art print that came in the box.  This is the second time that a box has include a art print, the very first box had a cool Batman Print.  This month came with a print that was a Web Comic that was ok, but not particularly funny.  I’m not familiar with the web comic and it had the level of humor of a Bazooka Joe wrapper.  Regardless I would rather there be an art print than some of the random extra items that some of the other boxes have had.

Comic Block August 15 - Comic Print

Next was the Spider-Gwendom T-Shirt.  It is a White shirt with the following print in the middle.  While I’m happy to now have my first Spider-Gwen T-shirt, it is kinda of creepy.

Comic Block August 15 - Gwenom T-Shirt

Bombshells Issue 1

Comic Block August 15 - Bombshells 1

If you have been following my blog than you already know I am a big fan of the DC Bombshells.  I picked up quite a few of the variant covers of the initial set back in August of last year, and have picked up even more of this years set.  I was actually planning on picking up this issue myself at my local comic shop until I went online and spoiled myself that it would be included in this month’s comic block.

The first thing to know about Bombshells is that it is a Digital first comic.  This means that it is released weekly on ComiXology with every 3 issues collected and released for print each month.  So then it makes sense that this issue is split up into three parts.

Comic Block August 15 - Bombshells 1 Image (2)

The first part introduces Batwoman.  Batwoman is the star player of the Gotham Knights and does vigilate work on the side.  For reasons not really explained the players on the Gotham Knights all where disguises and keep their identity secret.

Comic Block August 15 - Bombshells 1 Image (3)

Batwoman breaks up a robbery at the Ballpark (which we won’t go into how ridiculous it would be to rob a ballpark), and we see her romance with Police Captain Maggie Sawyer.

Comic Block August 15 - Bombshells 1 Image (4)

It ends with a cliffhanger with Amanda Waller recruiting Batwoman to help stop the war.

Comic Block August 15 - Bombshells 1 Image (5)

The second part introduces Steve Trevor whose squadron is shot down by Amazonians as they unknowingly fly into their airspace.  This is a much shorter section so not much else happens in it other than he is brought to Wonder Woman for questioning.

Comic Block August 15 - Bombshells 1 Image (6)

The last part takes place in Russia with Kara and Kortni Duginovana aka Supergirl and Stargirl.  I’m not sure if both have powers but Kara definitely does.  They are fighter pilots for Russia and during their first mission Kortni’s plane malfunctions and Kara must reveal her powers to save her.

I enjoyed this comic enough that I’ll start picking up the other issues as they are released.

X-Files Season 11 Issue 1

Comic Block August 15 - X-Files Season 11 Issue 1 Comic Block Exclusive

I did not like this comic much at all.  I was in the process of giving up until I realized I only had 4 more pages to read.  If you are into the X-Files this will probably be your jam but it has been since the late 90’s since I’ve seen an episode so I was more than a little confused.

Comic Block August 15 - X-Files Season 11 Issue 1 Comic Block Exclusive Image (7)

For reasons unexplained Mulder and Scully are not together and the FBI is looking for Mulder who is on the Lam.  We don’t know what he did or why the FBI is after him.  Mulder finds the debris of satellite and there are some wolves.  I don’t know.  It’s a confusing mess and honestly I just didn’t care.

Red Sonja / Conan Issue 1

Comic Block August 15 - Red Sonja Conan 1 Comic Block Exclusive

This is my first time to read either a Conan or Red Sonja comic so going in I am unfamiliar with the characters.

Comic Block August 15 - Red Sonja Conan 1 Comic Block Exclusive Image (8)

The story centers around Red Sonja and Conan preparing for a war in Kush.  There are several smaller mercenary forces that are going to team up for this attack and it has been decided that the leader of each fraction will fight to the death until only one remains.  Red Sonja and Conan decide that rather than fight each other that they will lead together.  This upsets the remaining warlords so the pair make quick work killing them off.  While this is happening a wizard named Kal’ang is in the final stages of making some sort of super potion that will give him immense power.  He gives a couple of his men a taste of his unfinished potion that, while not giving them full strength as the completed potion will, still greatly increases their strength.  The superpowered troops try to surprise Conan and Red Sonja and are quickly killed.

Comic Block August 15 - Red Sonja Conan 1 Comic Block Exclusive Image (10)

After the attack Red Sonja and Conan decide to immediately go to war instead of waiting until the morning.

Overall it was pretty good.  I thought the art was great, it was a cartoonish style but not so much that the people stopped looking real.  The level of violence felt inconsistent.  It’s not that I even minded it but it seemed like it just jumped from being extremely mild to cutting off heads pretty quickly.  It was just jarring because the level of sexuality and language was extremely tame so I just assumed that this book would be for younger audiences.  I don’t think I’ll pick up the series but I liked it well enough and might keep an eye out if it falls in dollar bins.

Well that’s it folks.  I’ll probably keep doing these posts monthly as I’ve been enjoying writing them and it encourages me to really read all the comics I get in the box.


DC Comics November Looney Tunes Variants

DC continues it’s theme variant covers this November with Looney Tunes Variant Covers.  Here is the complete collection.


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