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Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001_blogtrailer

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Age of Apocalypse (2015) #1 [Review]

secretwars_ageofapocalypse001Sticks and Stones…

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Sandoval & Curiel
Asst. Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Katie Kubert
Executive Editor: Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel
Cover Date: September 2015
Cover Price: $4.99

For what I believe is the first time in years, the “classic,” ORIGINAL Age of Apocalypse logo is back (though lacking the oval and “After Xavier: The“). For over a decade, it seems a newer logo/font has been the “in” thing for use with the branding, from the 10th anniversary-onward. Add to that the fact that we have Magneto and Rogue prominently shown as well as a gratuitous placement of Weapon X (Wolverine)’s hand and claws, and this is something that absolutely grabbed my attention. (There’s also the fact that I revisited the saga in its entirety earlier this year, too!). While the characters are a bit “off” in appearance on the cover, this is still a great image to me, and I especially dig this rendition of Rogue.

We open the story to find the Savage Land under attack by Holocaust–son of Apocalypse (and in this Secret Wars version of the world, Apocalypse is Baron of the realm, with only god Doom above him). Holocaust is also one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, sent to retrieve the young mutant Doug Ramsey (aka “Cypher”). Storm and Quicksilver’s squad of X-Men arrive to fight the monster and save Cypher…though things quickly go pear-shaped for all involved. We then shift to the aftermath and find what Mr. Sinister, Dark Beast, and the Summers brothers are up to as well as learning more about the situation, as Cypher pieces together an important bit of information. And finally, we get to Magneto’s squad of X-Men…and are left hanging for next issue.

As mentioned above about the cover, Sandoval and Curiel‘s art has the characters looking a bit “off” to me…but despite that, the work is very good, and overall I like what I got in this issue. Maybe I would have enjoyed this even more with one of the “classic” artists that worked on the original 1995 Age of Apocalypse, but this IS a newer story, a new look at stuff, and is not actually that SAME Age of Apocalypse (evidenced especially by the presence of modern Tablets that didn’t exist in any sort of commonality back in ’95). There are some differences–Magneto seems overly muscled, Cyclops’ hair seems a lot thicker, longer, and far more wild, and Sinister’s coloring seems more muted than I expected–but in and of itself, I’m cool with it. I enjoyed the look and feel of this issue.

Another selling point for me was very definitely that Nicieza–one of the writers on the original story–is the writer here on this book now. I generally find that I am far more accepting of changes to core elements of a story in new “takes” on an original when an original creator is involved…it’s sort of their seal of approval, being involved.

As we only have a few issues for this story as opposed to several dozen for the original, Nicieza deals nicely with scaling down the cast for the main story while directing our focus a bit. There’s a certain familiarity here that I truly appreciate, while the differences seem to come primarily from the fact that this is an Age of Apocalypse that is part of Battleworld and not solely its own thing…so certain continuity elements simply don’t exist here that did in the original…and/or they flat-out don’t matter. The story rang true to my reading, even more than probably anything else done with the AoA in the past 10  years.

You don’t need to have read the original story to follow this…there’s plenty in-context to move things along. As a part of Secret Wars and the whole “NOW, ALL THAT REMAINS…IS BATTLEWORLD!” this functions believably as simply an alternate take on/situation for X-Men characters. If you’re familiar with and enjoyed the original Age of Apocalypse epic, this version of the characters seems plucked from the heart of that, rather than some new status quo picking up years after the original.

The $4.99 cover price is a bit steep…and though I think I knew OF it a few weeks back looking ahead, I forgot about it, so was somewhat surprised when I re-realized what I’d paid for this. That’s probably also credit back to the cover imagery and logo and then my enjoyment of the story–I was distracted and not bothered by the price. We get about 30 content pages–more than the standard 20-22, so as much as any are these days, I’ll accept that as “justification” for the $4.99.

I thoroughly enjoyed the issue, and despite trying to shift to Marvel‘s Digital Comics Unlimited, I may actually keep current with this series. Highly recommended to Age of Apocalypse fans in particular…this may not be nearly as special as the original story, but as a new story it captures something that really works…at least to me.

Secret Wars – Week of June 3, 2015

I actually enjoyed reading the Secret Wars comics I bought this week…so much so that I spent more time reading and less time even considering reviewing. And given general “life gets in the way” time-constraints (and lack of patience, if I’m totally honest) I decided instead of writing up single-issue reviews, I’d just touch base on the issues I bought this week and thoughts I had. Not exactly reviews, not exactly something else. Just my rundown of my trip into Battleworld.

Secret Wars #3

secretwars(2015)003I continue to be surprised (pleasantly) at this series. I’m less and less appreciative of the full-page text/chapter breaks (seems like a waste of pagespace to me), but I’m finding the core story here to be a lot more accessible than I expected, given the writer. Given we basically already know the outcome, and have for months before this even started, it’s still a good ride going through. As this third issue in the series, there is a shift and I sort of feel like we’ve had 3 distinct “situations” presented with the first issue giving us the end of the 616 and 1610 Earths, the second immersing us in this current Battleworld Earth, and now we begin to see some cracks and the drawn-back curtain on how this world was came to be and its background. I definitely look forward to the next issue, and whatever tie-ins I do or don’t get, I’m pretty sure I’m “all in” for this core book.

X-Tinction Agenda #1

secretwars_xtinctionagenda001The cover alone for this issue would have sold it for me. Having a classic cover-dress absolutely punched my nostalgia button–corner box with the character headshots; the bold, blocky title logo, the overly dramatic image, and even the “ACTION-PACKED FIRST ISSUE” blurb…totally something out of the early 1990s. Topping that off, the simple fact that this is an X-book. I’ve yet to read the original X-Tinction Agenda story, but I know OF it. And this issue provides some interesting (to me) character sets as well as the situation casting certain characters into a “villains” type of role…while keeping them sympathetic to me as a reader. Despite that, I’m not overly invested in these versions of the characters, and the cliffhanger doesn’t mean much to me except as “generic” potential foreshadowing. Given my enjoyment of classic ’90s X-Men stuff, chances are good that I’ll stick with this series for its duration.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1

secretwars_amazingspiderman001Given the better part of the last decade has had me with near-zero interest in the One More Day/postOne More Day take on Spider-Man, getting a fresh take on a MARRIED Peter Parker (who HAS A KID, to boot!) is something I really could not NOT support. And thankfully, despite some wariness on my part at Slott writing the book (what I’ve read of his work on Spider-Man over the past view years has had mixed reactions on my part)…I quite enjoyed the issue. Some page layouts were a bit weird and distracting as I tried to determine the exact flow of panels, but the art itself was great. The story gives a nice mix of Peter in action and interacting with his family, as well as setting up the world he and MJ live in, and providing an interesting spin on the character as things are set up for the rest of this series. I definitely look forward to the next issue (for better or worse, this is a double-ship month so I only have a couple weeks) and will see how things are shaping up from there as to whether I keep up with the series to its conclusion.

Future Imperfect #1

secretwars_futureimperfect001This is another Secret Wars tie-in based on a story I’m quite AWARE OF but have yet to actually read. I didn’t REALLY have any particular interest in it…but then I saw that it IS a Peter David book, so on his name alone, I decided to check this out. And overall, I’m glad that I did. I had no particular pre-conceived notions getting into this, so it just unfolded, and even gave an interesting twist where I thought I saw something developing but then got something else that felt like it should have been equally obvious. I also enjoyed the art overall in itself, if not all the character designs. Despite that, this is one that as a story doesn’t hit any real nostalgia buttons for me, and given the large quantity of books each week may fall off for me as I simply don’t have the “budget” to get every last tie-in title that’s on my radar. Still…having the original creator (David) getting to revisit something like this with a fresh series is something I welcome, and am glad to see out there. It also leaves me much more interested in actually reading the original, just to “experience” that for myself after all these years.

Years of Future Past #1

secretwars_yearsoffuturepast001The original Days of Future Past story in X-Men was probably the first major story that I spent awhile trying to track down just to read. I was aware of its existence, knew what issues it had been in…but did not have actual, physical access to it to read the thing. I was introduced via the ’90s cartoon, then eventually found a paperback children’s novelization, and finally at some point found the two-issue “mini tpb” to read it (years ahead of collected volumes and digital or even eBay negating such troubles). This is an oversized issue at $4.99 instead of $3.99, and that almost put me off from getting it, but since it even FELT oversized, I decided to suck it up and buy the thing…I’m giving as many of the #1s a shot as I can, figuring shops will have a better handle on ordering for the second issues, and at least I won’t miss out on a surprise #1 taking off in popularity. This had some interesting enough bits, but overall this didn’t exactly grab me…I appreciate it being drawn from the Days of Future Past-era stuff but doesn’t actually hold the tight significance of that original story for me.

Overall Thoughts on the week

Considering I’ve been largely away from Marvel for most of the past couple years, with most weeks not even buying anything they put out, it’s been quite an anomaly the last several weeks actually having Marvel in my purchase stack. This week brought out the sticker shock…with a cluster of THREE Star Wars books, and buying FIVE Secret Wars tie-ins, as well as a couple random issues AND my usual pull-list issues. Even so, while I may be “iffy” on tie-ins on a case-by-case basis, five or so weeks in and I’m still enjoying Secret Wars and still looking forward to more!

Inferno (2015) #1 [Review]

secretwars_inferno001Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Javier Garron
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Javier Garro and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Katie Kubert
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I have yet to read the original Inferno saga. I remember and recognize its logo from comics I first saw in a friend’s collection, though now know it more personally through comics in my own collection, issues I’ve seen in passing in back issue and bargain bins, and know of it historically through prior revisitations and references as well as the “after-effects” it left on the X-Men-universe. But as a sucker for classic X-stories (with added appeal of late for lack of great X-stuff to get into), I was quite interested in this, if only to “check it out.” I wouldn’t necessarily choose Inferno–it’s hardly at the top of my list of favorite X-stories–but this issue was yet a mostly enjoyable read for me.

Several years after the demons took over the city, we find the Colossus willingly submits to doing Cyclops’ bidding in exchange for being allowed to–one day per year–take a squad of X-Men into the Inferno to attempt to free his sister from the demons’ grasp. After a particularly costly such encounter, the losses are driven home all the more, and Colossus finds himself nearly cut off, faced with one final rescue attempt that does not go nearly as he had hoped.

The story itself is good, taking the core concept of the classic story and giving it a different ending, pulling a “present” timeline out of that change. I’m not consciously familiar with the art team, but there’s a definite air of familiarity to me with the visuals, reminding me (I think) of Chris Bachalo‘s work…though that’s not entirely a positive. The art is not horrible or anything but it’s not exactly to my liking. Stylistically, it fits the story pretty well, and much of its simplicity works for getting across what’s going on. It could certainly be a lot worse, a lot more jarring, so I’m good with it as-is.

Where The Infinity Gauntlet had originally been its own title, and the 2099 line was basically a bunch of books with the 2099 tacked onto something (Spider-Man, Punisher, X-Men, etc) and so works with the current Secret Wars as Secret Wars 2099, Inferno works a little less so as a standalone to me. The logo is familiar and simple but on the cover seems to just be floating. Perhaps it’s the lack of a Secret Wars or Battleworld logo stretched across the top, but this mostly looks like a Bachalo-esque image with the logo elements pasted onto it.

In and of itself, this was a good issue and I’m definitely interested to see what happens in the next issue. I liked the stand-alone nature of this book: consciously I know it’s part of Secret Wars, one of the realms in that world, but on the whole this could just be an introductory issue of some parallel reality with the X-Men characters…and that works in a good way.

Perhaps not entirely worth $3.99, but getting an older, more classic-ish X-story back in the forefront is good enough for me. And given the seemingly arbitrary pricing model of Marvel‘s collected editions, I’m definitely ok with buying this as singles. Recommended particularly to fans of the original story, or early-’90s/pre-’90s X-stuff.

Secret Wars Journal #1 [Review]

secretwars_journal001The Arrowhead; We Worship What We Don’t Understand

Writers: Pru Shen; Matthew Rosenberg
Artists: Ramo Bachs; Luca Pizzari
Color Artists: Jean-Francois Beaulieu; Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Kevin Wada
Editor: Jake Thomas
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I think I thought and "assumed" that this was to be some broad, "down-to-earth" sort of title, like the "man on the street" view of Battleworld, since I’m pretty sure not every last inhabitant is a version of one of the previous multiverse’s "named" super-powered characters. What I got was two short stories (much like Battlworld #1), one of which trailed off into a "follow this character into a full title" note.

The stories are short and basic; Kate Bishop sneaks into Doom’s castle to steal an orb, and winds up having to take the "noble" road to see her thieving partners have a chance to escape. The second story follows some mutants as they seek to end Khonsu as their god, that they might know freedom.

In and of themselves, the stories aren’t bad…they just did not come off as very interesting to me. The first one really felt like some sort of prologue or such, particularly for having a blurb to follow the main character into the pages of another Secret Wars tie-in series. The second has an ending, but was tainted from the start by the end of the first, and ultimately feels like just some random one-off. As "moments" within Battleworld’s existince, sure, that’s fine, it’s nice to have stuff that isn’t necessarily part of the driving force behind a singular "core event series story" and all that.

But…?

But I wasn’t expecting half-issue-length stuff, I either hadn’t read at all or didn’t particularly mentally "register" what this title was…I saw THAT it was coming out, so planned on picking it up, as a tie-in to an event whose start really worked for me, more than I’d even figured at the time.

I’m not all that familiar with the visual team. I’m not all that thrilled with it on the whole–it’s ok, it fits the stories, but nothing about it is consciously memorable for me (this goes for the cover as well). You could certainly do a lot worse, but this is also a good bit of distance away from my favorite comic art. It works for the issue, but–especially for one such as me–the art is by no means a "selling point."

All in all, I suppose it’s not the worst $3.99 I’ve spent. But especially in comparison to more specific stuff–Inferno, Infinity Gauntlet, and other stuff coming up like X-Men ’92, Years of Future Past, and so on–this is a fairly disappointing issue, and if I had to choose right now for certain one way or the other if I’d get the remainder of the series, I’d err on the side of caution and give it a pass. As-is, we’ll see what kind of week it is when #2 arrives, whether or not I continue with the series.

Secret Wars 2099 #1 [Review]

secretwars_2099001Writer: Peter David
Artist: Will Sliney
Colorists: Antonio Fabela & Andres Mossa
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Dave Rapoza
Editor: Devin Lewis
Senior Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I haven’t read a 2099 book in years. Sadly, it may have been well over a decade, and closer to two. But I’ve been on a major Spider-Man 2099 kick lately with toys and really loving the classic Spidey 2099 costume, having avoided the recent series primarily for the $3.99 cover price (though there were other ‘standard’ Marvel factors for me). But throwing in with a bunch of the Secret Wars stuff, this seemed well worth checking out, so I grabbed it.

The story of the issue gets around a bit, as we begin with getting to see the 2099 Black Widow in civilian guise get called away from flirtation to action, then we meet the other current ‘Avengers’ (a female Captain America, a new Hawkeye, a new Iron Man, and Hercules, as well as Black Widow). They face off against some teched-up thugs, while interpersonal stuff comes out about the characters, and after the fight with the villais we’re given more insight into who the new characters are as well as what’s exacerbated stuff with Hercules. We meet the team’s advocate in Alchemax, as well as the current Vision, and learn of a pending threat to the team.

Even as this story is relatively simple and generic, if not a bit blatant in showing us various personality bits with the various characters and how this tea has come to be, it still works well. There’s a definite feeling for me of an "older" comic with these elements, and knowing this is Peter David back on 2099 stuff is a definite treat, perhaps contributing to my enjoying this…to my wanting to enjoy this.

I’m less familiar with the art team, but I do like the visuals on the whole. I don’t care for the cover art overall…except for Iron Man, whose armor looks fantastic to me on the cover. I actually like it throughout the issue, but particularly on the cover.

As this is new stuff, pushing the 2099 universe forward a bit or in a different direction (but no mention or reference to Doom having taken over, etc), it’s not exactly a beginning…yet it doesn’t entirely feel like just some continuation, either.

I was curious about this…curious enough to check it out. This was not a bad issue, and I’m interested on the whole in learning more of these characters…but with all the many Secret Wars tie-ins, some of these will ultimately competed with each other. I’m more willing to check out *A* first issue than to stick with an entire (mini) series. I’m not choosing from this issue to not continue, but this isn’t quite enough for me to say I absolutely will get the next issue.

If you’re a 2099 fan, you’ll definitely want to get this; ditto (I imagine) if you’d followed the recent Spidey 2099 series…or if you’re just a fan of Peter David‘s work. And of course, if you’re an Avengers fan this could almost be titled Avengers 2099, except its timing is such that it gets the Secret Wars branding foremost, and may prove to take on the entirety of the 2099 stuff, with just this first issue so focused on the Avengers team.

Recommended, definitely one of the more interesting of the tie-ins so far.

Ultimate End #1 [Review]

secretwars_ultimateend001Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Production Design: Manny Mederos
Cover: Mark Bagley
Assistant Editors: Chris Robinson, Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Despite missing the first two issues (to this day 14-some years later I’ve had to rely on reprints for my personal collection) I had jumped into the Ultimate universe basically at its start, with Ultimate Spider-Man #3, and I believe I finally got to read the first two issues initially in a Mighty Marvel Must-Have edition. As such, seeing as how–after several false-starts on the “end” of the Ultimate universe–the ending is finally here, I couldn’t pass this up. And like I started with Ultimate Spider-Man with the single issues, so, too, I found it fitting to follow the single-issues here as well.

This triggers plenty of nostalgia for me from the cover, which utilizes the original trade dress of the Ultimate books–the two solid-color bars down either side of the cover with a skinnier image between. The Ultimate End logo looks familiar, though I think the font is slightly “off” from some of the other Ultimate _______ logos; and of course we have the Battleworld banner across the top and the Secret Wars stamp marking this as part of the overall Secret Wars 2015 event, specifically the Battleworld class of tie-ins. I had noticed an alternate cover with the Miles Morales Spider-Man costume, that looked like the original Ultimate Spider-Man #1 cover that I almost chose over the standard cover. However, never having acquired an original USM #1, I stuck to my guns on getting just the standard/main non-variant cover for this.

We open on (a) Spider-Man tangling with a Serpent Squad, putting him into interaction with Cloak, Dagger, and a Spider-Woman. We then shift to a huge gathering of heroes that seems made up of a mix and combination of “616” characters and “Ultimate” characters. Spidey joins in as everyone is debating the fault and situation itself they all find themselves in, before the party is further crashed by Thors.

Simply opening the book and reading, I was actually expecting the Miles Morales Spider-Man, so was surprised to see a classic-costumed Spidey. Further, this seems to be a Peter Parker Spidey, suggesting he’s either the 616 Spider-Man or another. The issue has a prologue and then jumps to “3 weeks ago,” and references a white portal/other world, so as a cursory read-through I’m not certain on the timing and how much the characters know of where they are and if that was pre-incursion or what; I have not kept up on any Marvel the last several years until Secret Wars #0 and 1. So what may be totally obvious to readers following along was not to me.

Still, knowing the basic premise, that didn’t bother me much…I recognized the various characters overall. Whether this was actually Battleworld as I assumed or a flashback to the universes still being separate isn’t a huge deal to me. Story-wise this worked well enough and had a familiar “feel” stylistically. The art of course is familiar, and Bagley‘s work is just as good now as I recall from when I was following the Ultimate Spider-Man series with his art.

This is only the first issue of–I believe–five, so there’s by no means a complete story here. We’re introduced to stuff, mostly, with a little bit of background/flashback given; this is clearly a first chapter of a larger singular story within the Secret Wars/Battleworld stuff. As I expected that going in and did NOT expect some one-off single-issue tale, I’m fine with that; I also went into this with the expectation that I’d enjoy it and that barring some huge disappointment or negative factor, I wasn’t going to bail on the series just from whatever this single issue held.

I enjoyed the issue overall–story and art, and appreciated the mix of nostalgia and new. I do look forward to the next issue and want to see where things go. I bought this because of my own history with the Ultimate books; though I suspect this may be one of the more “key” tie-ins to the overall Secret Wars as it deals specifically with ending the Ultimate Universe. (After all, Secret Wars is kicked off by the Ultimate and 616 Universes as the final two in existence, merging).

This seems like a very strong issue for a tie-in reading experience, and well worth getting if you’re following Secret Wars. It also seems likely to be a good story overall for putting the lid on the Ultimate Universe, fairly friendly even to readers like me who haven’t really read any of the Ultimate books for years. You could certainly do a lot worse than this issue!

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