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With Secret Wars on the horizon, and with the (hopefully) fall of the Ultimates Universe – here comes rolling down a top 5 that strikes down to my very core. The top 5 stories that I consider the Ultimate Universes best offerings. Sorry, but full disclosure – this does not contain any Jonathan Hickman. Just putting that out there right now.
5. The Death of Spider-Man
This particular story has the dubious honor of being up here. Normally I wouldn’t have given it much thought, but I know a mob would form if it was left out. Not that I am saying that it was a bad story, not exactly, but it didn’t make much of an impact on me to be listed as a “favorite”. Sure, however, it can be seen as Bendis taking what many are coming slowly around to thinking is/was his last work of actually quality and giving it the heartwrenching climax it deserved.
It just simply cannot overcome the behind the scenes machinations that controlled its every move. The push for Miles Morales (who isn’t bad but hasn’t done much to make him that good) aside, the entire story just seems engineered for Peter to die. Now that might sound silly to point out, but when doing a death story the tantamount idea should be that it has to flow naturally. That’s not exactly how this went down, but people enjoyed it enough to merit a mention.
4. Ultimate Fantastic Four: “N-Zone”
Now this is just one particular story-arc of one of the original ongoing series, but I like to believe it stands among the rest on this list – mainly by the attribute of how fun it is. The Ultimate Fantastic Four series really gets a lot of undue flack these days, especially due to the interference of subpar writers. Yet there was a time when they were the best that the line had to offer, and with the talent of Warren Ellis behind them and boundless room to play “N-Zone” came to fruition.
“N-Zone” is the best encapsulation of the series. For anyone who wants a primer about what it was like, what the series was REALLY like, then it has it all. The fun characterizations, the goofy exposition, and the exuberance of the youth that emanated from every panel. UFF really deserved better than to be remembered as the twist to a really bad Bendis mystery or an afterthought to a lot of Hickman praise.
3. Ultimate Galactus Trilogy
If you’re looking for nothing but the patented brand of old-school blockbuster action that the Ultimates events stood for – then Ultimate Galactus Trilogy is the third best one you should be on the look out for. Set between the first two Ultimates and penned by Warren Ellis, it was a series of three miniseries that told the story of Galactus in the Ultimates tradition. There are a lot of dull moments, but when the series striked it struck hard.
Things really escalate issue by issue, and the very beginning is one of the most powerful and dangerously scary intros the line ever had. While the very last mini is more focused on a brawl, the prior two brick up this sense of dread and death. There’s also just a lot of humor and memorable action set-pieces. My absolute favorite bits concern the Fantastic Four and their role in the whole story – which were top notch.
2. The Ultimates
The Ultimates is a series that is far more controversial than it really should be, but it is by far one of the most absolutely riveting Ultimate Universe stories ever constructed. Only topped by one other story, The Ultimates was like everything good about Bruckheimer and Emmerich in their primes topped off by some incredibly interesting ideas and character moments. People like to hate Ultimate Captain America, but in this and one other story – he was pretty good.
Infused with Post 9/11 fervor and energy, it’s not hard to see why people would be so put off, but personally it only adds to the good kind of dated feeling it has. Much like Con-Air, it owned what it was. The action is good, the humor can be rather funny, and there are some really well-done character pieces. The bits with Captain America and Bucky, alongside the ENTIRE first issue is pitch-perfection. If anything should be saved, it should be that issue.
1. The Ultimates 2
There is only one way to sum up The Ultimates 2: “Character Moment: The Series”. Everybody, and I mean Everybody, gets a role to play. Quicksilver, The Wasp, Scarlet Witch, even The Hulk (in an actually nuanced role this time) get to share the spotlight. While people might have been wary of the first, the second is in every way an improvement on form. This is why it stands as what I consider – the best Ultimate Universe story ever told. It takes advantage and delivers.
The whole moral center of the story might be a bit schizophrenic, but the character arcs are solid and carry throughout the series, fulfilling their destinies in the final act. Men are men, patriots are patriots, and Quicksilver is a goddamn badass. It’s as perfect as The Ultimates 1 #1 was throughout the entire thing. The ending is perhaps the perfect ending point for the universe as a whole as well, cathartic and allowing for something new on the horizon, but not necessary – and neither is its continued survival. Roll on the end.