Sunday, September 25, 2011
Ultimate X-men #1 - The Ultimate Letdown
I consider myself an equal opportunity drunk. By that I mean if I get fucked up on one exotic substance, I make it a point to get fucked up on another just to ensure the karma of the universe remains intact. Sure, it makes me sick to my stomach. I think I puked up half my small intestines after reading Ultimate Spider-Man #1. And I can objectively say that the reddish brown entrails on the gas station toilet had more creative merit than that piece of shit. Ultimate comics have sucked so bad that it's made me wish that kid who kicked my ass in school spiked my milk with rat poison rather than laxatives. That would be far less painful than this shit. But in the spirit of fucking myself up on a balanced level, I've decided to review Ultimate X-men #1. After reading Ultimate X #4 I now go into uncontrolled convulsions every time I read the worlds Ultimate and X-men in one sentence. It's hard to believe that this used to be my favorite book for the better part of a decade. Since then it's crashed harder than Tiger Woods's image.
Ultimate X-men is like a corpse that's already been butt-fucked by necrophiliacs, lit on fire, pissed out by incontinent monkeys, and then shit on again by a pack of constipated elephants. Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Moses, and Xenu couldn't fix this shit with all the magic from every holy book ever written. That's what happens when you have an event like Ultimatum that essentially butchers good characters in a way so tasteless that Marvel might as well have paid a bum four bucks to stab their fans with a rusty knife. Now the only fans who seem to enjoy Ultimate X-men are the fans that never gave a shit about X-men in the first place or hate the major characters that make up the X-men. But by that definition, they aren't really X-men fans! So what the fuck is the point of this book?
Apparently, Marvel is treating Ultimate like that sandbox every kid takes a shit in. It was once fun, but nobody wants to go near it anymore. It's like that slut in your senior year of high school that everybody fucks and will do anything you want. Those sluts usually disappear without a trace for a reason. But not Ultimate X-men. Marvel insists on telling an X-men story where Cyclops, Wolverine, Professor Xavier, Magneto, Gambit, and Angel are dead. Well if that's the story they want to tell, then why the fuck call it X-men? But I digress.
Ultimate X-men is basically a world where all X-men are screwed. Magneto inflicted mass genocide. Now all mutants are basically criminals by association. They're to be shot on sight or thrown into prison camps. It's not an issue of them being victims. Magneto fucked them all over and there's no going back from it. They might as well be Nazis trying to win the Jewish vote in Florida. There's just no coming back from genocide. You're either screwed over or slightly less screwed over. The new writer, Nick Spencer, has a proven track record with titles like Morning Glories (a book you should totally read if you haven't already). However, he seems to have drawn the short straw and has to tell stories in this shitty series about how shitty the lives of mutants are. I actually feel sorry for the guy because he might as well be trying to market used toilet paper. But enough shitting over this already wrecked stage. What exactly does this shell of an X-book have to offer? Well that's why I'm here, people! I review this shit so you don't have to.
Ultimate X-men #1 starts off with Karen Grant. She's another brilliant fuck-up from the X-books. She was once Jean Grey, an outgoing and passionate character that was one of Ultimate's most lovable characters. Then after Ultimatum she changed her appearance, took on the role of Karen Grant, and become this emo porcelain doll with the personality depth of someone who had a botched frontal lobotomy. She even refers to Jean Grey in the past tense. She doesn't even consider herself Jean Grey anymore. And maybe that's for the better because she has the people skills of a crack head. It shows when she visits this woman who just found out her daughter is a mutant. She has red hair and telekinesis. Really? In a book where and I quote "Anything can happen" this is what they come up with? I'm sorry, but Generation Hope beat this book to the punch by over a fucking year. Since when did "anything" mean shit that was done less than a year ago?
So they're talking and Jean goes over how fucked all mutants are. They're basically under the thumb of the government and the only reason she's not in a prison camp is because Nick Fury says so. She didn't even say she could help. She says she's just visiting out of "concern." As if somehow that's enough to do much good. She has nothing to offer this woman. No hope for her daughter other than a life that sucks. So when there's a bang off panel and the girl's father comes down carrying a shotgun saying he just killed his daughter, there's really no impact. It's not all that shocking or all that hard hitting. It's meant to be an emotional scene, but since this is an Ultimate book it's just par for the course. So a man kills his daughter when she finds out she's a mutant. In Ultimate, that's like finding out that Lindsey Lohan got arrested again. Boring!
Then the book gets political because seriously, what's more exciting than politics in comic books? Isn't that why fans read books and not because of the characters that the title on the cover promises? Or maybe I'm just crazy. Anyways, Valerie Cooper basically holds a press conference telling the world what readers found out in Ultimate Origins (nearly four years ago). Mutants aren't a big step in evolution. They're just a failed science experiment. This as opposed to being the product of alien space gods like the Celestials in 616. That's like going from fucking Pamela Anderson to fucking Betty White.
Watching this news conference are the rag-tag team of non-X-men that were assembled in Ultimate X. They include Jimmy (Wolverine replacement), Derek Morgan (a Batman/Daredevil/Angel ripoff), and Liz Allen (whiny bitch that's just annoying). They're understandably frustrated by the royal screw-job that mutants are getting. But again, they got no choice and no hope. They're basically just hanging around Karen because she's on Nick Fury's good side and he's keeping them out of jail. This leaves Jimmy the Wolverine rip-off to basically copy his old man completely and strike out on his own. He wants to see this place where mutants were first made. For a moment it sounds like Wolverine isn't even dead. Ultimate X sucked ass, but at least Jimmy made an effort not to be too much like his old man. Seriously, if Marvel wants an X-men series where Wolverine is dead, why replace him with a kid that acts just like him?
So the news report continues because politics are just so exciting. Valerie Cooper continues answering questions, basically taking excuses right from the press in 1942 when everyone was justifying the internment of the Japanese. The difference here is that mutants are being prodded like cattle as a scene with Colossus so nicely illustrates. There are some places that claim to be nice such as the one Storm is at, but those are just for photo-ops. I'm not sure if the historical parallels are supposed to apply here, but they do to a point. The only difference is that if a guy like Magneto inflicts mass genocide then something as shitty as internment camps actually seems reasonable. That's how fucked up politics are in Ultimate. Michelle Bachmann would be right at home.
But it isn't just prison camps that are screwing mutants over. Some are still on the loose. Some still need to be hunted. How do they do that? Well here's a pop quiz for all you X-men fans out there. What other reality has mutants being hunted and thrown into prison camps? If you answered Days of Futures Past, you get a gold star and bonus points for being able to look up a story that is over 30 years old. Now Nick Spencer claimed that he's simply taking some inspiration from Days of Futures Past. He's not just ripping it off. I want to believe him. I really do. But when Rogue, who has been on the run since Ultimate X, is confronted by a Nimrod sentinel that might as well have been copied and pasted from the old Days of Futures Past storyline then I have to cry foul.
This is a huge problem for me among many. Ultimate has been pitched as this place where these new, novel stories can be told that can't be told in 616. But mutants being hunted and thrown into prison camps is not new. Days of Futures Past is an old story. It's one thing to take some elements from it. I know pretty much everything is a rip-off these days, but it's a matter of degree. When you throw the Nimrod sentinel into the mix and it looks almost exactly like it's 30-year-old counterpart then that's ten degrees too much. It's such an egregious level that Al Gore could make a documentary out of it.
So the White House press event went about as well as it does in real life. That is to say it triggered riots all over the country. So at least Ultimate still gets some things right. It falls on Nick Fury to do something about it. Yet he's the guy putting together a mutant team with a Karen Grant and Wolverine's kid. So how is he credible again? He's prepared to call in the National Guard, which in comics is like admitting your a pussy. That's when Quicksilver shows up. You know, the guy who basically manipulated Magneto into conducting mass genocide by making him believe his children were dead? He comes along and no one shoots on him the spot because only the readers know that. Now I know dramatic irony is supposed to heighten the moment here, but all it really does is make Fury and the President look like morons because they actually take him seriously. Pietro doesn't actually reveal what he has in mind. No, that's because this is a setup issue. That means shit isn't going to happen until the next issue. It's not a cliff-hanger. It's basically a hostage situation.
So most of this comic has essentially showed you how fucked mutants are and how fucked they're going to be with Quicksilver working out his daddy issues. Now we revisit some of the other X-men that weren't horribly butchered. Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake, and Johnny Storm have all basically given up on the whole hero gig. It's hard to be a hero when everyone wants to kill you. So they just live the life of hobos, sleeping in old Morlock caverns. Yet they're aware of the crap that's going on and aren't inclined to thrust themselves into that shit storm. And who can blame them? This is one instance were being a hero is not just stupid. It's pretty much pointless.
But then Bobby points out on his nifty product placement ipad (I'm sure Marvel gets a shit ton of free itunes cards for this) that Rogue is involved in one of those riots. Well that seals it. When an old girlfriend is about to get lynched, that warrants coming out of the sewer and actually kicking some ass. It would be so heroic if at the end Kitty doesn't narrate it as saying this is how she became the world's most wanted terrorist. There's trying to twist the plot and then there's just trying too hard. So now they're going to become terrorists? Yet this book is called Ultimate X-men, isn't it? Four years ago I would have been confused and intrigued. Now I'm just bored. It's the end of the issue and all the elaborate setup, but I have no desire to see the action. I think it's safe to assume that the setup failed for me. Watching heroes become terrorists and mutants become increasingly screwed may make for a decent arc, but not a whole fucking comic series.
I know I come off as harsh, but in reality I'm saddened by how terrible this series has become. I can't find anything appealing about this book at all. A book where anything can happen except the return of the characters that most X-men fans actually give a shit about isn't a very good premise for a book. Not only is this book basically a setup issue, all it really sets up is that mutants are fucked. The only stories you can really look forward to is how fucked are they. The only way they can not be fucked is if the story becomes extremely contrived and just starts ignoring all the shit that led up to it. So in order for the stories to be good, it has to use bad storytelling. In a universe with working physics, that's just not possible. Nick Spencer is basically in a catch 22. There's really nothing he can do here other than roll with the punches and there's nothing to work with. Not in the slightest. Now like Brian Bendis, I like Nick Spencer. He's a great writer and if I met him and real life, I would buy him a beer and a hooker. But the circumstances of this book are beyond salvaging and he doesn't do anything to make it better. That's really the least I can say about this book.
I want to be excited for an Ultimate book again. I really do. But this series has just turned into a What If story that won't fucking end. What if Marvel was actually stupid enough to kill Peter Parker? What if Marvel was actually deluded enough to kill most of the X-men, try to replace some of the characters, and make a series out of it? What if Marvel made a series about the Avengers just being a bunch of assholes who only occasionally acted heroic? Part of the appeal of What If stories are that they're finite. They're not dragged out or used to destroy the potential of a series that actually was once a top tier series. But Ultimate X-men #1 epitomizes all that is wrong with Ultimate comics. It's boring. It's bland. The characterization sucks. The premise sucks. There's no sense of progression. No build-up or promise. No hope whatsoever. Now if this story happened without Ultimatum, then it may have some merit. But Ultimatum did such a thorough job of desensitizing the series from any shock or intrigue that there's nothing this book can do that will leave the readers' jaw on the floor. When a series has resorted to cannibalism, decapitation, and replacement characters shrouded in race gimmicks that's it. Game over. There's nothing left to surprise anyone.
At the very infinitesimal least, Nick Spencer makes sure his talent is apparent in the way the characters talk and interact. However, all the talent in the world couldn't make this shit ball shine. I hope Spencer gets a shot at another X-men book, but this just has nothing going for it. I can't find any reason to recommend it to anybody, even if they were just going to use it as toilet paper. No ass deserves the crap that's within these pages. If Ultimate were a dog, it would have been shot and buried by now. That's really the only thing that will make this series meaningful again. If Marvel decided to kill it like it should have after Ultimatum. Ultimate X-men #1 only gets a 0.5 out of 5. I didn't want to give the 0 I gave Ultimate X #4 because that book also had shitty art to go along. That book will make you spew diarrhea through your tear ducts. This one will just make you sick to your stomach and depress you that this is how low Ultimate has sunk. Nuff said.