Tuesday, September 16, 2014
How much longer for Ultimate Marvel?
As we head towards Axis the next big Marvel event series, the rumors continue to swirl about what may happen with the Ultimate Marvel Universe. As of today we're down to three Ultimate Marvel titles: Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four, and Marvel Ultimates. Fantastic Four has been rumored to be on the chopping block for some time now, and the Ultimates series has been treading water at best with the new team. Most of the characters in the Ultimate Marvel universe that people cared about are dead or presumed dead - Captain America, Thor, most of the X-Men. The two recent major Ultimate event, Ultimatum and Cataclysm, seemed to serve as much of a character housecleaning as they did big series. From the looks of things, it at least appears that Ultimate Marvel may closer to the end than the beginning after going for almost 15 years. As far as I know there are no new plans for any new Ultimate Marvel series; the guys at my local comic shop threw it out there that Axis, with its promise of shaking up the Marvel continuity in major ways, could serve as a backdrop for folding the Ultimate universe into the main 616 universe in some kind of dimension altering Crisis on Infinite Earths style merging of realities. If so that's a perfect outlet to bring Miles Morales Ultimate Spider Man into the 616 world, and (possibly) bring back Wolverine.
If in fact the end is near for Ultimate Marvel, it had a decent run. Fifteen years for a alternate version of an existing continuity is nothing to sneeze at. The line also had a real influence on movies, especially on the Spider Man films. Both the Sam Raimi films and the Marc Webb-Andrew Garfield version take lots of things from the Ultimate Spider-Man series. On the Marvel Studios side, the Samuel L. Jackson version of Nick Fury is taken directly from the Ultimate Marvel universe. So no matter what happens with it, you can say that Ultimate Marvel did it's job. It had some good stories, gave some tweaking to long existing characters and took some chances that Marvel may not be so eager to try out with their main properties. It shouldn't be a surprise to see some of the things that were done in the Ultimate universe come to be in the 616 world. Miles Morales is here to stay in Marvel comics; he's the most recent new superhero in either major company to really take off with readers so some way of maintaining his presence in print will be executed.
As people continue to debate DC's New 52 (which anyone reading me regularly knows I'm a big fan of),one question I've heard from New 52-haters is that DC should have done the New 52 as a an alternate universe like Ultimate Marvel. I, for one, am glad they didn't. Ultimate Marvel has gotten plenty of complaints during it's run despite not messing with the main continuity. Some fans just don't want anything different, period, whether it's a side by side or a replacement. I doubt that presenting an entire New 52 universe as a separate entity would have stopped anyone from complaining about it. Unless you do an Earth 2-style series, which has gone over very well and is excellent, than creating an entire extended universe with a full universe of characters is a lot more trouble than it's worth. Earth 2 has worked because it's focused on a relatively small group of characters. To carry it out to a full world of second and third tier characters over several series is a major undertaking that would take a lot of effort to follow. Focusing on telling good stories that sell far outweighs trying to appease the fanboys who don't ever want anything to change. The other thing is that there just isn't enough time to keep up with all of those continuities. With both companies getting more attention, and the potential for more sales from both, it's better to keep it simple and accessible.
What do I mean by that? Well, imagine having to keep track of 616 Marvel, Ultimate Marvel, pre-New 52 DC and New 52 DC. I don't care how much time you have on your hands, that would be damn near impossible and overall sales would likely be affected. It's hard enough for me to just dabble in Marvel while mainly focusing on DC. I wouldn't even bother in the scenario I just described. If Ultimate Marvel does stick around then I'll gladly stick with the books I'm reading from them but if not, I'm good. And on the DC side, I'm satisfied with the New 52 while going back and reading some of the big stories from the Old DC world.