Ultimate Origins #1–5 by Brian Michael Bendis and Jackson Guice
The basis of this story is at the heart of a big problem in comic books: EVERYTHING has to be connected. Despite having the scope of the Ultimate universe to do anything, there is still the urge to have the paths cross of everyone in the stories and connect at different points. Here, Nick Fury and Logan were soldiers in the second world war who did a bit of thieving on the side; Peter Parker is orphaned by Bruce Banner hulking out when he first takes the super soldier serum, based on the blood of Fury, who was the first successful test of the serum before Steve Rogers; Magneto freed Logan, who was the Canadian attempt at the super soldier but they kept him to experiment on him when they mutated his genome and accidentally created the first mutant (although how did Xavier get created if Logan is Mutant Zero? Are all mutants a result of this? It’s not clear). I’m not saying that all the interweaving of stories back on themselves is bad, but why does comics have an unhealthy obsession with it?
Bendis does a good job – he constructs plots well (as long as they’re not sprawling, over-long crossovers) – devoting a chapter to the Fury/Logan creation, creation of Captain America, the start of the Xavier/Magneto friendship, the creation of the Hulk, and the final chapter about the end of the Weapon X programme/Xavier and Magneto’s friendship/explanation of the ‘Watcher’ probes being investigated by the Fantastic Four in the present day (and ending, rather annoyingly, with the start of the next story, as Rick Jones is turned into the herald to help with the new world order of superheroes and supervillains).
Guice has a specific style – it looks like a modern Joe Kubert to my untrained eye – which works well in the in the sections set in the past, but seems out of sync for the modern-day scenes. For some reason, the faces and clothes look wrong: there is a double-page spread when the Watcher probes appear all over the world and Peter Parker’s face looks like it is being distorted through a circus mirror, or the clothes on Sue Storm on the last page of issue 4, where her costume looks like ill-fitting pyjamas (it looks rather ridiculous). He copes well with Bendis’ over-reliance on excessive dialogue balloons (it would have more impact if it was used more sparingly), but the art looks quite muddy and muted, full of browns and dark greens and greys.
This is a strange and slightly unnecessary story that is enjoyable without being satisfying – did this really make the Ultimate universe more cohesive? Who cares? I know I don’t …