Ah, the Ultimate Universe. The place where nothing was supposed to be the same and we wouldn’t even recognize our favorite heroes because new and exciting things would be done with them. Some might disagree but I think that for the most part that’s exactly what happened. Sure, Ultimate Cap is really just more of a prick and Ultimate Nick Fury is the same except for being Samuel L. Jackson. But for the most part we were given a bunch of new stories with familiar but slightly, different characters.
Above all, Ultimate X-Men is what got me into comics and quickly taught me that just because you spend money on something that doesn’t mean it can’t take your heart, still beating, from your chest and stomp all over it while you wonder what exactly went wrong.
Needless to say, I was not excited at the prospect of a new Ultimate X-Men ongoing especially when all of my old favorites were dead or gone or had now been replaced by their kids. But the sheer amount of talent on this book brought me back and I’m glad it did.
The second I finished reading the first trade of Morning Glories, I immediately began devising a plan to get Nick Spencer writing some form of X-Men comic. Though, I can’t take credit for him getting the job, I’m glad he did. Spencer is writing a ton of excellent comics right now. From his creator-owned work on Morning Glories and Infinite Vacation to work-for-hire stuff like Spider Island: Cloak & Dagger, Spencer infuses a bit of realism into his dialogue and paces his plotting so that all the little moments make an impact and then the bigger ones mean so much more.
With Ultimate Comics X-Men #1, Spencer gives us the new status quo for mutants in the Ultimate universe but he opens with a scene that all X-Men fans will recognize: one of Xavier’s students convincing some terrified parents that their mutant son or daughter should join the school. But something is amiss and this meeting doesn’t turn out the way we are used to which in turn frames all the events of the entire issue with something seemingly so small.
Typically, we have always had the struggle of Xavier’s X-Men versus Magneto’s Brotherhood. Of course, other warring factions are thrown in there like the Hellfire Club etc. but the main conflict was always between the first two. In a world without those two men, mutants have to fend for themselves. Spencer introduces us to a few different viewpoints from different sects of mutants that could mean trouble down the line and he covers all his bases by checking in with all of the familiar mutants that are still around. Also, lately Marvel has really been savvy about picking up writers who can write teenagers well and as with Sean McKeever, Kieron Gillen and Christos Gage, Nick Spencer delivers on dialogue that actually sounds like a teenager might say it.
Paco Medina is on pencilling duty and he does an excellent job at conveying the mood of Spencer’s script. One of the biggest strengths of the art in this book are the subtleties. The book opens with what seems like a relatively cheery scene. Sure there will be some crying but it’ll probably mean a new recruit for whatever semblance of a team there is. The gutters on the pages are white. But as the story continues and we learn that thing won’t be easy for the mutants in the Ultimate universe, the gutters become black lending a sense of claustrophobia and tightness to the panels. Suddenly, the action scenes are more weighty because they seem like they’re happening faster. Medina’s figures are compelling as well. He doesn’t use the same typical girl or typical boy figure to portray the young mutants. None of them look much older than they’re supposed to and when you realize that these kids are only kids then Kitty Pryde’s final declaration in the issue hits a lot harder.
This is a great debut and big things are definitely in store for the young mutant of the Ultimate universe. There is a changing tide in the attitude towards mutants and it’s not a good one. Spencer has done a good job of capturing that uncertainty and Medina has certainly drawn it. If you’ve written off the Ultimate universe before, this is an excellent place to jump on. Things will get heavy.
WRITING: 5 / ART: 5 / OVERALL: 5