The Ultimate Cover Song

I haven’t read any of Marvel’s Ultimate line (except for the sublimely ugly Ultimates) for about a year now. X-Men fell down during Brian K. Vaughn’s run, Spider-Man never struck my fancy, Galactus was boring and delayed, delays ruined Iron Man and Fantastic Four was good, but I couldn’t justify adding it to my already healthy buy pile.

So, most of what I’m basing this off of are the covers I see during my weekly stroll through the comic shop and the last few issues of Marvel Previews, the latest of which I just flipped through.

I’m struck by what’s become of the Ultimate universe in the past year especially, and where it continues to go. That is, straight up ripoff alley.

Granted, it’s impossible for a company to rip itself off. But “straight into no-creative ideas land” doesn’t really ring off the tongue.

Just look at the ongoing and upcoming storylines from the Ultimate books: Spider-Man’s having a clone saga, then Carnage is returning. And once the X-Men get through a Phoenix saga they’ll face Ultimate Cable.

Now, I know the Ultimates line was created as a way to reimagine the stock Marvel superheroes, so bringing in characters from the “real” Marvel universe is to be expected. But in the Ultimate books, the popular “real” characters (especially villains) are being reimagined one after the other.

USM seems the worst to me, just judging by the covers. Every story arc, at least the more recent ones, has revolved around reintroducing a well known villain. Kraven, Hobgoblin, Venom, Carnage, the Black Cat, the Ultimate Six, Silver Sable, Deadpool and Morbius all get the treatment.

X-Men has been pretty comparable, trotting out Magneto, Arcade, the Shi’ar, Genosha, the Hellfire Club, the Acolytes, Mojo, Deathstrike, Sinister, Apocalypse and the Brood.

I don’t especially mind these recreations so much. It’s not the most creative thing, of course, but if done well (like the Ultimate Six mini) it can be pretty enjoyable. Still, the joy has limits. “Killing Me Softly” is a fine enough Fugees tune, but it’s just Roberta Flack’s song with better production value.

What I’m really curious about is what will happen once the Ultimate titles empty out the well of “real” characters to Ultimize. You see, it’s not like the “real” Spider-Man started out by fighting all his famous rogues, straight in a row. There were plenty of storylines (and villains) that were forgotten over the years because they didn’t work out or were just okay. Only occasionally would something become famous, famous enough to reimagine years later.

How many other Roberta Flack tunes can you think of?

So what happens once the stock of famous villains and storylines have been covered? Will we actually see some new, unknown directions taken with these characters? Or will they fall into the holes that even mainstream series have done over the years – the same heroes fighting the same villains, again and again?

The question is, what happens when and if the training wheels come off?