The Unread Canon 13: Ultimate Spiderman #1-13

Ultimate Spider-man #1

When Marvel’s Ultimate line first launched, I hated it with the passion that only a fanboy can muster to hate something they’ve never read.  I eventually got around to sampling many of the titles, and what I read, I hated.  That tarred my opinion of the entire line for a good long while.  From the crass big-screen action of The Ultimates (which I never finished but plan to soon) to the cartoony retreads of Ultimate X-Men, it just seemed like a waste.  Here we had a major publisher, probably the biggest monthly comics publisher in the world, and they were wasting their time and money doing gritty reboots of old stories rather than doing something interesting and innovative.

I similarly dismissed Ultimate Spider-Man, though, unlike the other core books of the Ultimate Universe, I’d never actually read a page of it.  But I knew everything I needed to know – Spider-Man hasn’t grown and changed enough that I felt he really needed to have his entire mythos retold bit by excruciatingly slow, decompressed bit.  But then, something happened.  General interest for the Ultimates waned.  Same thing with Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four and a variety of other titles.  But Ultimate Spider-Man grew more and more respectable as the years passed until it became essentially the centerpiece of the Ultimate line and, this past year, made our list of the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2011.

Last year was the year I caught up with Ultimate Spider-Man.  This year is the year I write about it.

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The 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2011

read/RANT's Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2011

When I began compiling my list of the year’s best graphic novels, I found myself including dozens of books with little rhyme or reason. To help me narrow my list down a little bit, this is the rule I created: the first English-language collected edition or original graphic novel had to be released in 2011. And while this excluded some of my favorite books from the year (Waid’s Daredevil, Rozum’s Xombi, and Lemire’s Animal Man, to name three), it was a good guideline when I was constructing the list.

Obviously, we missed some things – sometimes great things. We don’t read every graphic novel that comes out (as much fun as that would be!). I even know for sure some major releases that I missed, like The Death Ray. So feel free to tell me just how wrong I am! What were your favorite releases this year? Because these were some of ours…

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Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #133

Oh, lord. I do love this series. I really do, but man, the last few issues have not been the best, and it all, unfortunately, culminates in this terrible issue. Ok, it’s not really terrible, but it’s frustrating.

“This is a SILENT issue.”

That’s on this book’s first page, as if it’s to save Marvel’s ass when the fans try to get their money back for a wordless, four-dollar issue. Yeah. Four dollars. Regular length. Wordless. Kind of pisses you off, huh?

Having said all that, this issue isn’t a train wreck, thanks to the talent of Stuart Immonen. I’ve never been his biggest supporter on this book. Yes, I liked Bagley. No, I don’t think Immonen is a bad artist. In fact, his work on Nextwave was exceptional. Anyway, even fans who didn’t appreciate Immonen’s art on this book can marvel at this issue’s beauty. Immonen does a stellar job, and he was indeed a fine replacement for Mark Bagley.

So, this was a decent issue. It’s not bad, but damn it, why pay four dollars for a wordless comic, when you could pay three dollars for a well-written comic with gorgeous art?

Grade: C-

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #132

Ultimate Spider-Man #132

This is the part where most reviewers would whine about how mean, old Jeph Loeb is making this comic late with his poopy-pants Ultimatum. Well, I’m not most reviewers. I’m better, and more humble. Actually, why was this comic delayed? It doesn’t really spoil anything from Ultimatum #3. It’s just kind of doing its own thing. And we already knew that the Dark Dimension was spilling into the Ultimate U from the last issue, and Fantastic Four if I remember correctly. Anyway, this book was very late.

Did the wait pay off? Not really. Like all of the Ultimatum issues of USM, this issue only inches forward the plot. What makes up the bulk of this comic? Splash pages! Immonen showing off! I like Immonen, loved his Nextwave art, actually, but he’s not really the guy who provides glorious splash-pages, except in Nextwave. Go read Nextwave! The other ingredient mixed in, is traditional Bendis Spider-Man. All hell has broken loose, and Spidey is in the middle of it. That’s new, right?

Sorry, this was a good issue, but just barely. There were a few moments that made me smile, and I think the best moment, both in writing and art, is the creative reimagining of the opening pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. We also get a little more background on Ultimate Dr. Strange, which, if he lives, is kind of interesting. This isn’t any sort of jumping-on point, and if you’re already a USM fan, you’ll be happy. But for those who are reading this just because it’s an Ultimatum tie-in: This series does have better to offer. Go read the first trade. This series can be a lot of fun.

Oh, and that cover is awesome. That event kind of occurs in the issue, but it’s brief, and it felt a bit forced.

Grade: C+

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #131

Ultimate Spider-Man #131

(***1/2)

Ok, so Ultimatum is still going strong, even though it’s been a few months since the last actual Ultimatum issue, and Ultimate Spider-Man is inching along. Due to the extreme decompression, we’re likely to have some good issues and some bad issues depending on what’s going on. The last two issues of USM have been excruciatingly boring. However, this issue will hopefully be a turning point. Even with the lack of actual content, this issue was written very well.

What can you expect to see? Lives change, heroes are realized, Hulk and Spidey team-up, and perhaps a few hints at the future. Oh and without getting too spoilery, a hero dies and I think something from Ultimatum #3 gets spoiled. It seems, from the conclusions of this issue and the last UFF issue, that something is going on with hell or the Ultimate Dark Dimension. It could be Hela, who we saw in the last Ultimatum issue, but she appeared to in the clouds, right? Also, I was very sad to see the fallen hero in this issue. He didn’t get much love in the Ultimate U, but he’s a favorite of mine in 616. Hopefully he’ll get more love in the reboot. Anyway, as I said, this issue was written well. And you know what? The art was pretty sweet too. I can’t wait to see Immonen on New Avengers, especially after Tan’s dismal renderings in fiftieth issue.