Friday, 12 March 2010

Its so hard to let go.... of a sticky spider web

To me the comics world is like a world of giant skyscrapers, each character has their own building dedicated to them. At the heart of these buildings is a giant elevator filled with fans, each week the elevator stops and new stories are thrown in, as well as new fans stepping in. Old fans never leave, they may lose interest and stare at the wall for a while, but they'll always still be there. This analogy has flaws of course, and with people liking multiple characters we get into the messy world of clones with a shared hive mind of experiences, and probably alternate universes as well. All of which is much too complicated, and yet strangely fitting given the subject material.

Personally I ride the Spider-Man elevator, and I got on at the Ultimate Spider-Man floor, something that is sneered upon by a lot of other Spider-Fans. The wonderful thing about any form of art is that it's subjective, although that can also be it's curse, for example many people dislike Ultimate Spider-Man, as they feel it was a childish reboot and that people should just jump onto the classic comic if they wanted to be fans of the web head, nevermind that at the time there were 3 seperate Spider-comics (Amazing, Spectacular and Friendly Neighbourhood) and that the character had been running for longer than a lot of younger readers had even been alive. It was for this very reason that the Ultimate series was created, going right back to the start and telling the story with a modern twist, and in my opinion it was absolutely awesome. From the very first issue I read I was hooked, and I've followed the series religiously ever since, regardless of other fans opinions of the series. Clearly not everyone had such a cynial view, as Ultimate Spider-Man spawned an entire spin-off universe as he was joined by the Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate Avengers (called the Ultimates) and many more. Nine years after the first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man it was decided that it was time to shake up the Ultimate universe with it's first cataclysmic event in the same style as those featured in the regular marvel universe (Earth 616) such as House of M and Civil War, with every comic in the series all tying together.

The event was called Ultimatum, and I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that it is the worst comic I have ever read! 32 Characters were killed off in the space of just 5 issues, so obviously given the space and time restraints not a single one of them was offed in a way that suited their characters or did justice to the work that had been invested by so many writers over the previous nine years. This may have been something to do with Jeph Loeb writing every character as if they were doing impressions of themselves, with so much over expository dialogue that not a word uttered sounded natural. Why a writer who by the looks of things had never even heard of the ultimate universe before was singled out to write the closing chapter of the series is simply mind boggling. The art work is the only redeeming feature of the entire 5 issue run, but given what is actually happening on the page it's impossible to enjoy it.

Obviously given the emotional investment that is gained from following a series for such a long time it is hard to objectively look at any work that changes the norm, especially one that involves the death of a beloved character. Maybe this is why I disliked the Ultimatum even so much, because I'd travelled with these characters for many years, grown with them and now had to watch as they acted in a way which didn't fit with the preconceptions I had come to form of them, and then had to watch them die as a consequence. Obviously they were never 'my' characters in the sense that I never had any input into the actions, nor any rights to creative control, so ultimately everything event that ever happens in their lives it is up to Marvel. The main outcome of the Ultimatum event is the re-launch of the franchise under the new name of Ultimate Comics, with new characters for a new audience. So now I find myself in the position the the old Spider-Fans were in all those years ago when I had joined, wondering why something I love has to be re-adapted so that a new audience can get on board. Ultimatum was without a terrible series, and a low point for a wonderful franchise to go out on, but I'll always have my old Ultimate comics to re-read, I don't feel that a new re-boot cheapens the enjoyment I've already experienced. I welcome new fans to the fold, if a change around is what is needed to encourage more people to read comics (or read in general) and hopefully pursue a path more creative, then so be it.

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