The Ultimate Universe is ended! See the remnants on Battleworld! Can the heroes of two universes band together?
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Production Design: Manny Mederos
Assistant Editors: Chris Robinson & Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Variant Covers: Bagley, Hennessy & Woodard Marquez & Ponsor Bagley & Guru-eFX Skottie Young John Tyler Christopher
STORY: The Punisher readies his gun and takes aim at the heroes of Earth 616 and 1610 as they charge into battle against each other. Flashback to three weeks prior to that and Spider-Man comes across the Serpent Squad breaking into a secret Hydra safe house. Spidey (616?) gets an assist from the All-New Ultimates and then takes off to the Triskelion for a meeting hosted by 1610 Nick Fury of the 616 and 1610 heroes. Nothing gets resolved and we see a flashback inside this flashback of how the two Tonys meet. The meeting (1st flashback) dissolves and as the 616 heroes depart back to their HQ, the Thors descend upon the Triskelion.
THOUGHTS: MARK BAGLEY IS BACK ON SPIDER-MAN/ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN!!!
Right off the bat, I want to exclaim my favorite part of the issue-the art. Not only is it great to have “Bags” back on Spider-Man pencils, but it’s fitting that he return to the Ultimate Universe he kicked off with his art on Ultimate Spider-Man #1. He even does a variant paying homage to that issue’s cover! I don’t think I’ve yet to meet a Spidey fan who didn’t like his art. The panoramic panel of Peter over the skyline is perfect! I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the entire art team. The story on the other hand…
Bendis opens up great, with each shot cinematically built up and paced as we see the Punisher, of which world I’m not 100% sure, scoping out his targets. Bagley treats us to a great two page spread of the heroes rushing at each other, with ten targets focused on below. It’s a classic composition that has been around for as long as I can recall in my comic reading experience.
As you turn the page we get the recap box and a map of the new Manhattan, laying out where some of the landmarks are. Nice, but doesn’t really aid this issue. Even with this quick setup page, it feels like we get thrust into this world with little explanation. I think the discombobulation I felt on my first read through stems from expectations. The Miles Morales series ended with Earth 616 looming in the sky. Secret Wars #1 featured the ends of those two earths and I attempted to read Ultimate End #1 next and stopped shortly into Spidey’s appearance and switched to Secret Wars #2 in case I was missing some setup regarding the new Manhattan, only to find there really isn’t any.
Diving back into Ultimate End #1, I was confused as to which Spider-Man this was. Is this 616 Spidey? Renew Your Vows Spidey? When I initially read the issue, I was under the impression that RYV Spidey was on the merged Manhattan as I didn’t see their own little patch on the Battleworld map. One thing I appreciated in Secret Wars #1 was the breakdown of who the characters were and what earth they were from. We don’t get that here, unfortunately. After doing some internet research during writing this review, RYV Spidey is on “The Regency”, but I didn’t know that whilst reading this issue.
As Spidey encounters the Serpent Squad, I continued to revel in the Bagley art. However, my confusion to what I was missing intensified. During the aftermath, Spidey and the All-New Ultimates discuss their prior meeting. Apparently, the Wall-Crawler was none to kind to the youth of Earth-1610. Based on the conversation, I have a hard time thinking Peter would call them those names. And when did this meeting take place? Off panel in Secret Wars #1 or was it post those events in the new, merged Manhattan? Back in the day, we would have gotten an editorial note, but alas…
Also, having just gone through Spider-Verse, Peter’s reaction to Jessica seems odd. I understand clones not being his favorite subject, but he just teamed up with every Spider-Person EVER, so I don’t get why he’s so weirded out. How many different people did he just meet that are either him or now know throughout the Marvel multiverse that he’s the Spidey of 616?
On the other hand, the reception 616 Iron Man gave Ultimate Tony Stark didn’t surprise me in the slightest. It should come as no surprise to Marvel fans that the meeting was antagonistic. You could feel the disdain 616 Tony had for his drinking-during-the-meeting counterpart. I got the sense that 616 Tony feels, um, superior to his more fallible duplicate, even though he acknowledges he most likely would have done the same thing to the reality tear. I can see how he would be repulsed by his other self and the conflict between the two was one of the better parts of the issue. Ultimate Tony definitely came off more immature. I would love to see Robert Downey, Jr. pull off this scene in a movie. As enjoyable as the Starks interacting was, the Hawkeyes didn’t really get to have their moment. A shame, as Bendis did a great job of the All-New X-Men/Ultimate X-Men crossover in the former’s title a few months ago.
I also felt having a flashback inside the flashback didn’t help the storytelling oddities this issue. The whole issue has a weird sense of time displacement. Who knows when the opening of the issue takes place in relation to the main Secret Wars series? All we are given is that the majority of the story is three weeks prior to that scene and the flashback during that is probably pre-Secret Wars #1 and post-Spider-Men. Is this issue happening before or after Secret Wars #2? I’m surprised there isn’t a reading checklist, especially as Spider-Verse had one. Help a reader out, Marvel! I would definitely recommend reading this issue after Secret Wars #2, though, if only to understand why a legion of Thors are descending at the end!
I think my big disappointment is that I was expecting this series to pick up directly where Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man left off. For a series titled “Ultimate End”, the Ultimate characters don’t seem to take the stage, so much as share it. Understandable to a degree, as the two Earths have merged, but Miles and his supporting cast, unless you count the All-New Ultimates, don’t make an appearance, and even the Ultimates acknowledge to Peter how they are being brushed aside. Guess I’ll have to wait till next time to see Bagley render Miles and company. Hopefully, Ultimate Peter, MJ, and Gwen will be along for the ride.
Ultimate End #1 is a joy to look at from start to finish, and a welcome return for Amazing and Ultimate artist Mark Bagley. He elevates the material with his pencils. Unfortunately, the story is too convoluted to jump into if you’ve only been following Miles Morales and haven’t kept up with the 616 universe. Whilst seeing Bagley pencil an adult Peter Parker is wonderful, the absence of Miles Morales is keenly felt in a title bearing the “Ultimate” moniker.
MY GRADE: B-