The Ultimates
Promotional art for The Ultimates 2 #1 (February 2005).
Art by Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
(Ultimate Marvel)
First appearanceThe Ultimates #1 (March 2002)
Created byMark Millar
Bryan Hitch
(based upon The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)
In-story information
Base(s)Triskelion
Ultimates Mansion
Leader(s)Captain America
Member(s)Nick Fury (founder)
Captain America
Iron Man
Thor
Wasp
Giant-Man
Roster
See: List of Ultimates members

The Ultimates is a superhero comic book series published by Marvel Comics and created by writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch, which first started publication from The Ultimates #1 (cover date March 2002), as part of the company's Ultimate Marvel imprint.[1] The series is a modernized re-imagining of Marvel's long-running Avengers comic-book franchise, centering around a task-force of super-humans and special agents organized by the U.S. government to combat growing threats to the world. The tale chronicles their progress as they bond and slowly learn to work together, despite their differing natures and personalities.[2]

Publication history

Writer Mark Millar signing a copy of the collected edition of the first miniseries during an appearance at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

The first volume of the Ultimates, written by Millar and illustrated by Hitch, was published in limited series format and ran for thirteen issues with production delays from January 30, 2002[3][4] until March 31, 2004.[5] Hitch described the alternative-reality reimagining as one where, "You have to approach it as though nothing has happened before and tell the story fresh from the start.... We had to get to the core of who these people were and build outwards, so Cap [Captain America] was a soldier, Thor is either a nut case or a messiah ... Banner [the Hulk] an insecure genius, and [superspy Nick] Fury the king of cool".[6]

A second series, also by Millar and Hitch, was released as Ultimates 2 and ran 13 issues from Dec. 2004 to May 2007.[7] The series had originally been slated for April 2004, but was resolicited to stockpile enough issues for a monthly release.[8][9] It ran into similar production delays, however, due to Millar's struggles with Crohn's Disease and involvement writing Civil War, as well as the artists' need to keep busy with other work in the meantime.[10][11]

In a 2004 interview, Millar outlined the difference between the Ultimates and the Avengers: "The idea behind The Avengers is that the Marvel Universe's biggest players all get together and fight all the biggest supervillains they can't defeat individually, whereas Ultimates 2 is an exploration of what happens when a bunch of ordinary people are turned into super-soldiers and being groomed to fight the real-life war on terror."[2]

This was followed by the one-shot Ultimate Saga (Nov. 2007), a condensed retelling, by writers C. B. Cebulski and Mindy Owens and artist Travis Charest, of the events of Ultimates and Ultimates 2. A third series, Ultimates 3 (Dec 2007 – Sept 2008) was written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Joe Madureira.[12]

Mark Millar returned to the Ultimates with a series of shorter miniseries, beginning in 2009 with Ultimate Comics: Avengers, which ran from August 2009 until July 2011.[13]

The Earth-6160 version of the Ultimates will have their own comic series on June 5, 2024. [14]

Plot

The Ultimates

Main article: The Ultimates (comic book)

General Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. establishes a strike force of government-sponsored superhumans which includes Steve Rogers (Captain America); scientist couple Henry and Janet Pym (Giant-Man and the Wasp); Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man). Together, they are based at the S.H.I.E.L.D facility the Triskelion. When Banner injects himself with the super-soldier serum and goes on a bloody rampage as the Hulk, he is eventually stopped by the other superhumans with the aid of Thor. The team then join forces with the mutants Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch and agents Hawkeye and Black Widow against the alien shape-shifters the Chitauri, who are defeated.[15]

The Ultimates 2

Main article: The Ultimates 2

A year later public opinion has turned against the team when it is discovered that Bruce Banner is in fact the Hulk and was responsible for hundreds of deaths. The team is undermined further when Thor is accused of being an escaped mental patient and is incarcerated. This is the doing of his brother Loki, who also facilitates the creation of a new team of anti-American multi-nationals called the "Liberators". With the aid of the Black Widow – who betrays the team to the Liberators – the Ultimates are captured, but eventually escape and battle the Liberators to the death. With the aid of Asgardian warriors, the Ultimates defeat both Loki and the Liberators. Seeing how having the Ultimates working with the United States government "policing" the world would produce similar results to their battle against the Liberators, the team decided to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. and to continue to work as an independent team instead.[16]

The Ultimates 3

Main article: The Ultimates 3

Promotional art for cover of The Ultimates 3 #1 (February 2008), by Joe Madureira and Christian Lichtner.

Hank Pym is under house arrest at Ultimates Mansion. One of Pym's Ultron robots drugs him and leaks a sex tape of Stark and the Black Widow to the internet. These distract from the robot's fatal shooting of the Scarlet Witch. Magneto abducts Wanda's corpse and retreats to the Savage Land, where he is confronted by the Ultimates. Pym and Wasp discover the truth about the Ultron robot, which has adopted the identity of Yellowjacket and uses the Ultimates' DNA to create a series of android duplicates. Although the true Ultimates destroy their android counterparts and Yellowjacket, Quicksilver is apparently killed by Hawkeye. The Wasp then invites Pym to return to the Ultimates, and he accepts. The mastermind behind the robot's plot is revealed to be Doctor Doom.

New Ultimates

Main article: Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates

The Ultimate Defenders, suddenly with superpowers, steal Thor's hammer from Valkyrie. Hela agrees to release Thor in exchange for a son. Loki arrives in Central Park with an army of monsters.

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates

Main article: Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates

Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribić relaunched the Ultimates with a different lineup consisting of Nick Fury, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Woman and others.[17][18]

All-New Ultimates

Following the conclusion of the miniseries Cataclysm and under the Ultimate Marvel NOW! banner, coinciding with the Marvel Universe All-New Marvel NOW! launch, writer Michel Fiffe and artist Amilcar Pinna brought together a new team, including Spider-Man, the new Black Widow who was formerly Spider-Woman, Kitty Pryde, Bombshell, and Cloak and Dagger.[19] The book ran for 12 issues.

All-New Ultimates has been collected in two trade paperbacks; Volume One is titled Power for Power, collecting issues #1–6; while Volume Two is titled No Gods, No Masters, collecting issues #7-#12.

Return

When the Maker collaborated with the High Evolutionary to destroy the Superflow that kept the different universes separate in order to merge them into one reality, the Ultimates members Captain America, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp, and Hulk were revived where they were to help Eternity fight the First Firmament.[20] When Earth-616's version of the Ultimates arrived on Counter-Earth to confront Maker about his actions, he ordered the Earth-1610 Ultimates to attack. As both versions of Ultimates concluded that there is no reason to fight each other, Maker killed the Earth-1610 Captain America for disobeying his orders. Upon Maker being defeated, both Ultimates helped Eternity to defeat the First Firmament. Afterwards, the Earth-1610 Ultimates left to pursue Maker.[21]

The Ultimates are later seen on Earth-1610 when it is recreated.[22]

Other versions

Earth-616

As part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel branding, the Prime earth version of the Ultimates make their debut where they deal with cosmic threats before they can affect Earth.

Earth-6160

During the "Ultimate Invasion" storyline, Maker traveled to Earth-6160 and remade Earth-6160 into his own image. After Iron Man sacrificed himself to seal himself, Maker, and a version of Kang the Conqueror in The City, Tony Stark and Reed Richards work to undo Maker's work with Tony placing the Immortus Engine into his armor and taking up the name of Iron Lad until he can come up with a better name. They later find the body of Captain America frozen in ice.[23] With Reed Richards having taken up the alias of Doom, he and Tony raid an Asgardian prison where they free Thor at the cost of its prison warden Sif being transported as well. She agrees to help them as they plan to do a raid on the repository in Maker's castle so that they can restore the stolen lives of those whose origins Maker had thwarted. They only made off with a few items due to being attacked by Henri Duggary. When the rest of Maker's council hears of this and makes use of an orbiting space station on Stark Tower which killed a bunch of people. The news media claims that Tony Stark "retaliated" over what happened to his father and that he is presumed dead. Unbeknownst to Maker's council and the world, Tony Stark used the Immortus Engine to save himself and his allies.[24]

Operating in a Stark/Stane corporate satellite after being sent six months into the future, Iron Lad states to Doom and Sif that they have 18 months before The City opens. Using the Immortus Engine, they can operate in the past, present, and future. They also must start a superhero resistance network against Maker's Council by trying to recreate it like Earth-616. When Doom states that some of the people in the files are dead, Iron Lad states that they can find replacements for them while quoting "When history fails, we'll let science choose". Doom states that after some calculations in modifying the Immortus Engine, they will build their superhero resistance movement six months in the past and have their army overnight. While Doom did the math, Iron Lad worked on some superhero identities, cracked the Captain America problem while explaining what happened to the world in 1969, and Thor hasn't healed because of the magic blade that was used on him. Seven days later, Iron Lad and Doom are told by Captain America that they need to start a revolution on the ground. Iron Man then sends some gifts back in time where only one or two took the gifts where everyone else declined, were intercepted, or deceased. Knowing that the second attempt won't work, Iron Lad states that they'll have to do it the other way. They start with exterminators Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne who had not opened the gifts they had. Janet recognizes Tony Stark as the one who "killed thousands of people" as Iron Lad asks if she believes everything she hears on the news. Captain America states to Hank and Janet that Maker had robbed them of the chance to be superheroes. Just then, they are attacked by Henri Duggary (who has gained control of the eastern coast), the Black Crusade, and Henri's army of giants. As the Ultimates battle Henri Duggary's forces, Janet finally becomes Wasp to help them out. Thanks to Captain America's convincing, Hank becomes Giant-Man and steps on some of the Black Crusade. The news mentions about a footprint caused by "a god" claimed by online conspiracy groups. Iron Lad states that the Ultimates are here and are going to leave a mark. 17 months are remaining before The City opens.[25]

Sales and reception

Overall, the Ultimates series has been generally well received by critics and readers, with the first two volumes being praised for the surprisingly mature themes and concepts, the more humanly flawed and layered characterizations of the original Avengers members, Millar's storytelling and writing, Hitch's photo-realistic and cinematic-styled artwork, the modernized, grittier and realistic, yet simultaneously engaging and intriguing re-imagining of the classic Avengers mythos and the political relevance of the first two volumes, while criticism was leveled at the unnecessarily adult-oriented, shallow attempt at maturity and the overly cynical tone and direction of the series, with the third volume: The Ultimates 3 being met with a mostly negative reception, compared to the positive response received by the first two volumes, for the aforementioned reasons. The first volume of Ultimates #1 ranked fourth among the top 300 comics sold for February 2002, based on Diamond Publisher's indexes,[26] with the next three issues ranked second,[27] second,[28] and third,[29] respectively.

Popmatters.com praised Mark Millar's writing in the opening eight issues, stating the writer "is able to walk a very fine line of keeping the story measured yet entertaining".[30] Comics Bulletin, in a review of the "Homeland Security" story arc, states the artwork is "visual magnificence" yet is concerned about the dark writing of the characters stripped of their "super-heroic nobility" and was "disheartened by the book’s tone and cynicism".[31] Shakingthrough.net gave "Homeland Security" a 4.2 out of 5.0 stating it is an "engaging read, filled with intriguing and amusing modern takes on classic Marvel characters" whilst praising Bryan Hitch's artwork by saying it is "amazing, gorgeous artwork, which continues to set the standard for cinematic photo-realism."[32]

Ultimates 2 #1 ranked second among the top 300 comics sold for December 2004,[33] with the next three issues ranked second,[34] fourth[35] and sixth,[36] respectively.

Reviewing Ultimates 2, Curledup.com praised Millar's writing of the classic heroes and the "inclusion of current-day politics" improves the storyline.[37] Comics Bulletin reviewed the final issue #13 but found it anticlimactic with the issue degenerating to a "slug fest". The artwork was praised with the reviewer stating that Bryan Hitch's "artwork has definitely been one of the main elements that will make this series memorable."[38] Denofgeek.com praised the artwork, with "Bryan Hitch doing some of the best work of his career", but was critical of Millar's writing stating it had "no substance".[39]

Ultimates 3 #1 ranked first in December 2007's Top 300 comics with preorder sales of 131,401,[40] Issue #2 ranked number seven with 105,070 preorders.[41] Issue three ranked better than its predecessor, falling at number five, but had a smaller number of preorders, totaling at 97,210.[42]

Reviewing Ultimates 3, IGN called the book a "reasonably decent experience" although the issue "falters on its own merits",[43] only to later state while reviewing the third issue that "Behind the theatrics and swagger, there's just nothing there to draw me in. These are the characters that I used to enjoy in name only, hollow shells of what they used to be."[44] Alvaro's Comic Boards' review was even harsher, remarking that Ultimates 3 "has somehow managed to entirely miss what made the Ultimates something other than alternative universe Avengers" and adding "this was the worst comic I've read all year".[45]

2011's Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates received highly positive reactions upon its debut. Chad Nevett from Comic Book Resources wrote that "the comic is exciting and sets up a large story that, right now, seems like it could easily end with the destruction of the team. A first issue that starts with its foot on the gas is exactly what’s called for",[46] while IGN gave the first issue 8/10.[47]

Collected editions

Title Material collected Published date ISBN
The Ultimates Vol. 1: Super-Human Ultimates #1–6 April 2006 978-0785109600
The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security Ultimates #7-13 April 2006 978-0785110781
The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection Ultimates #1–13 October 2004 978-0785110828
The Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters Ultimates 2 #1–6 September 2006 978-0785110934
The Ultimates 2 Vol. 2: Grand Theft America Ultimates 2 #7–13 January 2007 978-0785117902
The Ultimate Annuals Vol. 1 The Ultimates Annual #1, Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #1, Ultimate X-Men Annual #1, Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1 February 2006 978-0785120353
The Ultimate Annuals Vol. 2 The Ultimates Annual #2, Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #2, Ultimate X-Men Annual #2, Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #2 February 2007 978-0785123712
The Ultimates 2: Ultimate Collection Ultimates 2 #1–13, Ultimates Annual #1 December 2007 978-0785121381
The Ultimates Omnibus Ultimates #1–13, Ultimates 2 #1–13, Ultimates Annual #1 June 2009 978-0785137801
The Ultimates 3: Who Killed the Scarlet Witch? Ultimates 3 #1–5 May 2009 978-0785122692

In other media

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Animation

Video games

Novels

Two novels based on the Ultimates have been released:

Tomorrow Men (ISBN 1-4165-1065-6) Michael Jan Friedman
The Ultimates: Against All Enemies (ISBN 1-4165-1071-0) Alexander C. Irvine

See also

References

  1. ^ Brevoort, Tom; DeFalco, Tom; Manning, Matthew K.; Sanderson, Peter; Wiacek, Win (2017). Marvel Year By Year: A Visual History. DK Publishing. p. 311. ISBN 978-1465455505.
  2. ^ a b Estrella, Ernie. "Mark Millar Interview". popcultureshock.com. Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-03-20.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ Voiles, Mike. "Ultimates #1". Mike's Amazing World of Comics. Retrieved 2023-11-29.
  4. ^ Allstetter, Rob. "Saturday, January 26, 2002". Comics Continuum. Retrieved 2023-11-29.
  5. ^ Voiles, Mike. "Ultimates #13". Mike's Amazing World of Comics. Retrieved 2023-11-29.
  6. ^ Evans, Sam. "Bryan Hitch: The Ultimates Visionary". Comics Bulletin.com. Archived from the original on 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  7. ^ Voiles, Mike. "Ultimates 2". Mike's Amazing World of Comics. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  8. ^ Brady, Matt (2004-04-02). "NEWSARAMA - ULTIMATES DELAYED - VOL #2 TO BEGIN LATER IN YEAR". Newsarama. Archived from the original on 2004-04-02. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  9. ^ "Marvel Announces Postponement for Ultimates Volume 2". Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  10. ^ "So why is Ultimates 2 #13 delayed *exactly*? Let Hitch explain!". The Comic Board. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  11. ^ "ULTIMATES 2 #13's 8 PAGE SPREAD". Newsarama. Archived from the original on 2007-04-14. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  12. ^ McMillan, Graeme. "Ultimate planning.", Newsarama, June 26, 2006
  13. ^ Kiel Phegley (2008-09-09). ""Millar Launches Ultimate Avengers" marvel.com. September 9, 2008". Marvel.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  14. ^ "The Ultimate Universe's Mightiest Heroes Assemble in 'Ultimates' #1". Marvel Comics. February 22, 2024. Retrieved February 22, 2024.
  15. ^ The Ultimates #1–13 (March 2002 – April 2004)
  16. ^ Mark Millar (w), Bryan Hitch (a), Laura Martin (col). Ultimates 2 #13 (May 2007). Marvel Comics.
  17. ^ Manning, Shaun. "Marvel Announces "Ultimate Comics: Ultimates", Comic Book Resources, May 2, 2011
  18. ^ Kaye, Edward. "Marvel Announces Jonathan Hickman on Ultimate Comics: Ultimates in August!", Hypergeek, May 3, 2011
  19. ^ Moore, Matt (10 January 2014). "In Marvel's Ultimate universe, fate looms large". AP News. The Associated Press. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  20. ^ Ultimates 2 Vol. #9
  21. ^ Ultimates 2 #100. Marvel Comics.
  22. ^ Spider-Men II #5. Marvel Comics.
  23. ^ Ultimate Invasion #4. Marvel Comics.
  24. ^ Ultimate Universe #1. Marvel Comics.
  25. ^ Ultimates Vol. 4 #1. Marvel Comics.
  26. ^ "Top 300 Comics for January 2002". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  27. ^ "Top 300 Comics for February 2002". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  28. ^ "Top 300 Comics for March 2002". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  29. ^ "Top 300 Comics for April 2002". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  30. ^ Konczal, Michael. "THE ULTIMATES #1–8". popmatters.com. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  31. ^ Dallas, Keith. "The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security TPB". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  32. ^ Moreau, Kevin Forest. "The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security TPB". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  33. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual—December 2004". Icv2.com. 2005-01-18. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  34. ^ "Top 300 Comics for January 2005". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  35. ^ "Top 300 Comics for February 2005". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  36. ^ "Top 300 Comics for March 2005". Icv2.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  37. ^ Eaton, Lance. "Ultimates 2, Volume 1: Gods & Monsters". curledup.com. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  38. ^ Powers, Kevin. "Ultimates 2 #13". Comics Bulletin. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  39. ^ Mclaughlin, Robert. "Ultimates 13: Review". denofgeek.com. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  40. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual—December 2007". icv2.com. Retrieved 2008-03-07.
  41. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual—January 2008". icv2.com. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  42. ^ "Top 300 Comics Actual—February 2008". icv2.com. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  43. ^ George, Richard. "Ultimates Vol. 3 #1 Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  44. ^ Fuller, Kevin. "Ultimates Vol. 3 #3 Review". IGN.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  45. ^ Shyminsky, Neil. "Ultimates Vol. 3 #1 Review". Alvaro's Comic Boards. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  46. ^ The Ultimates #1. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
  47. ^ Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #1 Review. IGN. Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
  48. ^ Woerner, Meredith (2010-07-24). "Joss Whedon says Captain America and Iron Man won't be pals in his "Avengers". io9. Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
  49. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (May 13, 2014). "Avengers 2 Inspired by Ultimate Comics". IGN. Retrieved May 13, 2014.