Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Ultimate Success

I decided to put off my reviews of the individual issues of the DCnU relaunch and take a look at what Marvel is doing with the Ultimate Line.

I will preface this by stating that I am a DC fan first, but I still enjoy the products coming from the House of Ideas. Marvel has done this right, especially when compared to the abysmal relaunch of the Ultimate line just two years ago. Instead of springing from a cataclysmic, world changing event, it is the death of Ultimate Peter Parker that put the wheels in motion.

Ultimate Fallout set the stage with several disjointed events taking place in a small window. Peter's funeral was handled beautifully. I have to say I nearly teared up when the little girl told Aunt May that Spider-Man saved her from a fire. Then Captain America's confession that it was his fault Peter was shot justifiably sent her over the edge. We are then given insight into the remaining Ultimates, X-Men and Pietro Maximoff. Pietro has taken over his father's mantle as top mutant with ill-intentions and is brokering deals to use mutants as slaves. We get a look at Miles Morales as Spider-Man, who is lambasted by a crowd of lookers-on for wearing Peter's suit as he takes down the Kangaroo. The series closes with the announcement that Captain America has quit due to his grief.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the relaunch begins proper. The first thing Marvel did correctly was launch with three regular series and one mini. The main event titles will once again build the foundation of the universe as Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates are the chosen three. An Ultimate Hawkeye 4 issue arc rounds out the line.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man:

By Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli

A daring move, subject to much criticism and ignorance, was to kill off Peter Parker and replace him with a minority. Miles Morales, a half Puerto Rican/ half Black teenager is bit by a genetically engineered spider, and starts to develop "Spider-Powers." For all intents and purposes, this is very much a Spider-Man book. However, a great deal of social issues can now be addressed since we have a minority character.

Miles is shown to have caring parents, working to give him every opportunity. By sheer luck of the draw, they are able to get him enrolled into a prestigious charter school. Miles is shown to be visibly upset, not because he got in, but because everyone else could not. This was an interesting moment where you learn a lot about the character in a single panel.

Miles decides to visit his uncle, who unbeknownst to him is a criminal name The Prowler. The uncle stole the spider from Oscorp that would eventually bite Miles and turn him into Spider-Man, but a lot more happens in the exchange. Miles father arrives and screams at him, exclaiming that he is not allowed to be around his uncle. The father then goes off on his Miles' uncle, (his brother) telling him to stay out of Miles's life. Miles storms out, running away from the scene only to wind up turning invisible. The issue ends on that note.

Marvel knew they were taking a big risk in making one of their flagship characters a minority. It certainly made Glenn Beck angry. So angry that he threw out a gay slur and took a jab at Michelle Obama in the process. Marvel wanted a character that would sell to a diverse crowd, ya know because lots of people read comics and might want a Spider-Man that appeals to them. Mr. Beck seemed to feel that the First Lady somehow had something to do with this character. Heaven forbid Blacks and Latinos have a role model to look up to.

At a time when the comic book industry is struggling to stay afloat, it is important to pull in as diverse an audience as can be. Everybody needs a hero they can look up to and judging by the way Ultimate Spider-Man is shaping up, he will turn out to be the kind of hero anyone can aspire to be regardless of race.

I will touch on some of the other Ultimate books in a future update.

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