What happens to the world when it loses its hero? This is the question that Marvel set out to answer with Ultimate Fallout. While there were some small differences between Marvel’s Mainstream Universe and their Ultimate Universe, there simply were not enough to warrant Earth-1610’s existence. Like any entity that fears it has become stale or has reached a plateau, Marvel’s Ultimate Universe had to make a change. So, they made a drastic shift: the death of Peter Parker, our Ultimate Spider-Man. But with Spider-Man gone, the Ultimate Universe needed to begin to ask itself questions. How does this dimension move on? How do we deal? How can we once again rise up? How should we cope? Writers Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer — currently Marvel’s best and brightest — along with a mixed bag of artists, have been trying to show their readers that the Ultimate Universe is something unique and that the journey to find these answers will be one that we wish to travel.
How do we move on?
With the first story, we fall back onto Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. It opens on May, laying in Peter’s bed, clutching her nephew’s Spidey suit. As she stands up to look outside, she sees a sea of press figures outside her home, waiting for her and her ward, Gwen Stacy, to come out. When Gwen enters the room, she appears with a shorter, black hairdo. After Gwen speaks of how she needs a change, Aunt May shares that Tony Stark has offered to move the family anywhere they would like. After Gwen convinces May that she deserves to be happy, the call is made and arrangements are set for the two to move to the French Riviera, in Stark’s villa that he is now giving to them. Bendis uses this story to very effectively write these characters out of the Ultimate line, but he does so in a way that is satisfying to the reader, leavning with the feeling that the story is complete. And having this final moment with Aunt May and Gwen Stacy written by Brian Michael Bendis and penciled by Mark Bagley — the team that gave us these wonderful characters in Ultimate Spider-Man — is the perfect way for us, as readers, to say goodbye. Many have had nearly 11 years with these characters and Bendis sends them off in good Bendis fashion: with care and much humor. The last line of the story is Gwen Stacy saying, “I already don’t miss this place.” In all honesty, as a reader, I cannot say the same.
How do we deal?
The second story from Nick Spencer and Eric Nguyen is a short three-pager that continues the team’s Kitty Pryde story from Ultimate Fallout #3. When we last left Kitty, Bobby Drake (Iceman) and Johnny Storm (Human Torch, formerly of the Fantastic Four), Kitty was telling the two of “a safe place” where the government “can’t find mutants.” But, there was one catch: no more super heroics. In this story, we see Kitty leading the other two to this safe haven while they impatiently ask where they are headed. These characters had become some of Peter’s best friends. Kitty was a former flame, who was still holding a torch for Peter when he died, and Bobby and Johnny were living with Peter and Aunt May under the guise of being Peter’s cousins. Johnny was even with him as Peter died. These three characters loved Peter just as much as the three characters that the media chooses to focus on — Aunt May, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. But with Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters gone and Aunt May grief-stricken, these three young heroes are homeless and Kitty comes up with a brilliant idea of where these kids can make a new home — the Morlock Tunnels. Especially in the Marvel-616 universe, this is the best place for any mutant to hide from the outside. After all, that is why they exist. This short story does two things: it ends the Ultimate X-Men storyline while also beginning the upcoming series, Ultimate Comics: X-Men. Writer Nick Spencer — who will be taking on the upcoming series — is best known for his work on Image Comics’ Morning Glories. With the new X-Men series revolving around the younger members, Marvel could not have picked a better writer for the job. Spencer has a talent for writing young characters with both wit and charm and seeing him carry this talent onto these stories is something that fans of both Spencer and X-Men can look forward to reading. And with the Morlock Tunnels laying just beneath New York City, this new headquarters could lead to some fantastic stories when the comic premieres next month. I am almost sorry that Eric Nguyen is not joining Spencer on the new series. His art style has always been something different in superhero comics and I’ve grown to love his few pages with these characters.
How can we once again rise up?
In this series, we have seen a number of characters who either blame themselves or feel there are others responsible for Peter Parker’s death. One hero who blames himself — and may actually be right — is Captain America. In this four-page Jonathan Hickman and Mitch Breitweiser story featuring Nick Fury, the team drops a pretty big bomb on the reader that will inherently affect Hickman’s upcoming run on Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and on the Ultimate Universe as a whole: “Captain America just quit,” Nick Fury says. This is huge for the Ultimate Universe! Captain America is synonymous with heroism in Marvel Comics. It is very hard to think of Captain America not being in The Ultimates, despite his mug gracing the cover of the first issue. This choice that Hickman is making has me both excited and curious of what he will be bringing to the table with next week’s premiere. In this story, Fury implies that what is happening in the Ultimate Universe now is just the calm before the storm. I, for one, am anticipating Hickman’s storm with much enthusiasm. As for Mitch Breitweiser’s art, I am a fan of the sketchy technique, which, along with Bettie Breitweiser’s use of cool colors on the warm, orange backgrounds, make for some beautiful panels. And given that the story has very few pieces of dialogue, Breitweiser’s art works well on the muted scenes. In fact, the final panel in the story — which just shows Fury’s aide holding Captain America’s shield — is probably my favorite piece of art in this issue.
How should we cope?
When we la
st see Mary Jane Watson, at the end of Ultimate Fallout #2, she is writing an article titled “How the World Killed Spider-Man.” A story that is set out to expose Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., the government, the media and the other superheroes as the as the cause of her love’s demise. When we open on this final story — also by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley — MJ’s exposé is now done and copies of it now lie next to envelopes addressed to CNN, FOX News, the Daily Bugle and the LA Times. When Nick Fury enters her room, he reads the story and confesses that he, too, loved Peter, knew his parents before they died and was grooming him to be the “man he was supposed to become,” but failed. At the end of the story, Fury tells Mary Jane that she is “absolutely right” to blame him for Peter’s death. In Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, there was always a struggle between Fury and Peter. With this story, you see where it all derived from. Fury, even in his most radical of choices, was always trying to protect Peter. Bendis adds this wonderful emotionality to Fury’s character here. In the final page, when Fury blames himself for Peter’s death, we see him begin to weep. With all of the things that Nick Fury has been dealing with since Peter Parker’s death, Fury finally broke down. I also found this final piece interesting in the fact that it does not quite give MJ an out from the Ultimate Universe, like May and Gwen. We never really know whether she gets on that helicopter. Mary Jane remaining in the Ultimate Universe may not be such a strange thing. If Bendis is keeping her in New York, I hope we do see more from her in future tales.