I have never been much of a Marvel fan. In my youth, before the bars and the women, I read everything I could in comics. Therefore, I do have maybe five hundred Marvel books stashed away that I don't read very often, if ever. I do like X Force (the later issues anyway); I have maybe the first ten issues of one of the newer series. I can remember vaguely that it deals with the genocide of mutantkind, and the characters are the survivors of this ethnic cleansing. So, when I asked the man playing hero clix at the comic store yesterday to find me a marvel book to review, it seemed apropos that he picked Ultimate X-Men #1.
This review is all about my attempt to keep an open mind. Cody Miller writes for this site. I respect him, so I figured that maybe I could try and leave the prejudices behind and discover something new in comics that suited my tastes. Honestly, I wasn't holding out too much hope. I'm barely hanging on to my own DC titles, and in a lot of ways those books are more of a homage to my misguided youth than anything else. But in fairness, the adult comic world has been missing a little something lately, and while that genre is on the decline, DC comics is coming out with new, interesting, and innovative stuff almost every month. And although I personally feel that Sweet Tooth, The Walking Dead, and The Unwritten are the best books out right now, it is unfortunate that the rest of the adult themed field is regrettably concerned with fitting in as many "fucks" in per issue as possible, pages of inanely topless women, and people exploding or being torn to shreds in every other panel.
Back to the matter at hand. The things that I have always hated about Marvel were the stupid jokes that were crammed in to every page, the poorly developed characters, and a certain book about a patriotic super hero decked out in red, white, and blue whose McCarthyesque existence seemed to revolve around felating the people at The Comics Code. The same people who set the medium back about thirty years.
There was an adaptation of The Stand Marvel produced that I had to purchase because of my love for all things The Stand. The lettering in that book looked like Times New Roman font and the thing was slapped together, truly a piece of shit on so many levels. So let's get into Ultimate X-Men #1, and see if the artists and writers at Marvel were able to change my mind.
The book starts with a great opening scene. Nick Spencer develops the setting well, and a father killing his mutant daughter in her sleep merely for being a mutant was a great way to set up the fear and the desperation gripping the majority of Americans in the reality of this book. Now I accept the fact that superhero comics recycle a lot of the same plots. I know that at one point Stan Lee famously said something about how he wanted the appearance of change in Marvel books without actually making major changes. Admittedly, some changes in mainstream comics are bad. Dick Grayson as Batman sucked, and I had to read letters pages month after month that were nothing but a futile ego exercise. It honestly seemed like the editors went through and handpicked letters from every kiss ass idiot talking about how great these new Batman books were when the majority of fans knew this simply wasn't true. The applesauce you tried to feed us did not cover up the taste of the medicine DC. We’re smarter than that.
Back to Ultimate X-Men. I quickly realized that this plot was almost the same as the X-Force plot that I liked back in the day, and it was a huge coincidence considering that the one Marvel title I actually picked up happened to be almost the same book that I was reading now. If you love something, you do not mind the same repeated incantation of the object of your affection. People get married every day. I have seen a lot of the same plots recycled again and again in the DC universe. But at the end of the day, I like a handful of the characters in DC books way better than anything Marvel could ever produce. To me, Marvel characters were always like a Chinese buffet of luke warm food. DC only has six or seven characters that I really like, but they are steak and potatoes, not chewy nasty pieces of General Tso's chicken that are barely edible. I don't want to eat something just because there is a lot of it; quality over quantity.
There was a new twist (new to me anyway). The United States Government initially created mutantkind through Weapon X, and mutants were not a product of evolution; they were not a more evolved version of humanity. I sensed that this aspect of the story may change over time, but I wasn't necessarily happy about that plot change anyway.
At the end of the day, you really have to love superhero books to get excited about them, and most of the time I am reading actual books as opposed to comics because most of the stuff out there just isn't done that well. There are hundreds of titles at my local comic shop and I maybe read eight regularly. I didn't think that Ultimate X-Men #1 was a bad book. The story was recycled. The art was average. In the end, I am going to go with my DC titles for now, but this is not the last Marvel review this fanboy will have written. I am still trying to keep an open mind, and hopefully find something entertaining and new to read in the process.
By: William R. Davis Jr.