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Character Profile on The Maker

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Today we are here to discuss the Maker, and no, I am not talking about Jesus. I’m talking about The Maker of Marvel Comics, the alter ego of Ultimate Reed Richards.  Let’s take a minute to appreciate that sentence. Reed Richards is Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. But this is not the normal canonical version of Reed Richards, this is the alternative Ultimate Universe version of Reed Richards.  But this is not quite that version either, we are going to discuss the second wave of the Ultimate Universe, the Ultimate Comics version. The Reed Ricards which has a big metal helmet on his head and is known as The Maker.

Secret Wars 4

So this story starts with Secret Wars Issue 4.  This is the issue in which the Life Raft (the one with the good guys in it) and the Cabal (the one with the bad guys in it) confront Dr. Doom.  When this happened I saw the Maker (Ultimate Reed Richards) for this first time and was very confused.  Why does he have this thing on his head?  Why was he on the ship with the villains and not the heroes?  WHY DOES HE HAVE THE THING ON HIS HEAD?

My search started on where else but Wikipedia and Comic Vine which were surprisingly little help.  Both mention that at some point Reed Richards becomes the Maker but no explanation of why or how.  The Marvel Wikia had more information but again still didn’t explain why or how Reed became the Maker.

So this lead to part two of my search.  I have a subscription to Marvel Comics Digital Unlimited and have access to every issue of the Ultimate Universe.  So I started by looking through the entire Ultimate Fantastic Four run (2003-2009) with no luck.  Not a single issue had the Maker on the cover and spot checking a few they all had the normal version of Reed Richards.  No problem I think, there are a half dozen other Ultimate Fantastic Four Series, surely it is in one of those.  I check Ultimate FF, Ultimate Fantastic Four / X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four MGC, and Ultimate Comics Doom.  No such luck.  At least a quick search through the covers all have the normal version of Reed Richards.

I’m stuck.  I don’t know where to look and there is no great source of information on Ultimate Reed Richards / The Maker.  Finally I have a breakthrough and realize the image that Marvel Wikia is using for the Maker is the cover of Issue 9 of Ultimate Comics Ultimates.  I open up the series on Marvel Unlimited and decide spot check some issues and see if I can find where this transition happens.  I open Issue 1, Page one and see the following image.

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What the fuck!  Issue one already has Reed Richards as the maker.  This had to have taken place before Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates started.  I go back to Wikipedia and look up Ultimate Comics Ultimates and have breakthrough number 2.  Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates is the result of the events of Ultimate Comics Doomsday.  Ah Ha I proclaim!  I go back to Marvel Unlimited and open up Ultimate Comics Doom and immediately notice something is wrong.  Issue 1 is in the middle of an action sequence and there is clearly something going on before this issue.  I go back to Wikipedia and learn that Ultimate Comics Doomsday is actually the combination of the following Ultimate Enemy, Ultimate Mystery, and Ultimate Doom, each of which is 4 issues long.  So I need to read these 12 issues before I can start the 30 issues of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates which will explain to me how Reed Richards became the Maker.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

So if you want to learn about the Maker here is the full reading order

  1. Ultimate Comics: Enemy 1-4
  2. Ultimate Comics: Mystery 1-4
  3. Ultimate Comics: Doom 1-4
  4. Ultimate Comics The Ultimates 1-4 (The Republic is Burning), 5-6 (The World), 7-12 (Two Cities, Two Worlds)

It’s a little spread out but all together it makes one complete story. I would like to bitch about how it wasn’t worth it but the truth is that this whole arc is actually really great and something I would consider a must read. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Fantastic Four but this is hands down the best Fantastic Four story I’ve ever read. If you have access to Marvel Unlimited or find it on sale at Comixology you should definitely give it a read.

If you don’t want to read it and just want to know what happens here is a brief super spoilery summary.

You’ve been warned.

Ultimate Comics Enemy, Mystery, and Doom

Ultimate Doomsdsy starts with a mysterious alien worm thing that goes loose on New York City.  At first it’s thought to be a Roxxon Corp experiment gone wrong but is quickly realized to be much bigger than Roxxon as it attacks the whole city.  In the end the aliens behind the attack are caught and the worm thing is stopped.  The worm thing causes a lot of damage including the entire Baxter Building.  It also destroys the childhood home of Reed Richards (with Reed inside) and the home of Peter Parker.

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Cut forward aliens are continuing to attack and various marvel heroes (Spider-man, Spider-woman, Captain Marvel, Nick Fury, the rest of the Fantastic Four) try to figure out who is behind it.  Susan Storm gets further than most and is brutually attacked by the person behind it all who is… Reed Richards!  It turns out Reed was behind it all and was using the attacks as distractions as he began to build a utopian society in the Negative Zone.  A whole mass of Ultimates go to the Negative Zone and attack him and are able to stop Reed while Reed himself is lost in the destruction.

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates takes place immediately following the events of Ultimate Comics Doom.  We last saw Richard Reed floating in the abyss of the negative zone.  In the first shots of this series we see Reed with his maker helmet on in the middle of no where Germany with a huge group of followers.  He builds “the dome” which is a huge structure in which he is able to slow down the effects of time.  So while only days passed in our world centuries passed under the dome which lead to the evolution of the human species.  Just to keep up Richard Reeds had to expand his own brain capacity which is now in a freakishly large shape that fills his maker helmet.  By the time the Ultimates come to investigate the Dome society is huge and more advanced technically and biologically than anything on earth.  Reed continues to expand the size of the dome outside of just rural nowhere to destroying occupied cities nearby that were in the way.  The Ultimates are literally powerless to stop Reed as all methods and technology they have are woefully out of date.  Eventually Reed stops the growth of the Dome and declares a truce.  He agrees not to expand in exchange for the outside world to leave him and his society alone.

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Of course the Ultimates aren’t going to just let this stand.  Now strap in because this is where things get really weird.  Ultimate Tony Stark has a sentient Brain Tumor which takes the form of a 8 year old child version of Tony Stark.  Tony has been talking to his tumor and realized the tumor has the ability to take over / hack machines.  Tony infiltrates the Dome his tumor takes over the AI of the city and causes it to collapse in on it self.  During this the Ultimates come in and wreck shop and are able to stop Reed this time for good (well for a while).

Evil Reed Richards! Utopian Society! Super advanced society from kind of the future! Tony Stark with a sentient brain tumor that has super powers.  Guys this comic has it all and you absolutely have to check it out.

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Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is Awesome

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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.

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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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