Greetings Drunk (and sober) Comics Fans! I really need a good catchphrase to go along with that intro, something like “Drunkcelsior!” No, that’s terrible. “Stay drunk San Diego”; maybe a bit of an outdated reference at this point. “I’m Peter Jennings.” That doesn’t even make sense. I’ll kick some more ideas around over the week.
Hemingways, you may have noticed there was no blog post last week; how very observant of you. On the morning of Monday October 2nd I awoke and did my normal morning routine of checking e-mails, notifications, and the news. As no one needs to be reminded, the dominant news story was of the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas the previous evening. In light of such a horrific tragedy the idea of sitting down and writing about comics just didn’t feel right. I considered putting out the blog a couple days late but eventually decided to give it time for myself, and the world, to try and process what happened.
Mass shootings are, sadly, somewhat of a staple of this country today. Generally there is a clear motivation, however irrational, on the part of the shooter; but this incident has far more unanswered questions as of me writing this. Seemingly not motivated by any political leaning, ideology, racial prejudice, or any other clear cut reason; the situation is in ways more distressing because we don’t know why 64 year old Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd at a music festival, killing 59 people and injuring well over 500.
As the saying goes, though, “the show must go on (although it probably shouldn’t have the night Owen Hart died)”. As in all things, life continues, and so too does this blog; but the situation, as it should, does give me pause to consider this week’s content. In the poll we ran on Twitter you, the audience, made it overwhelmingly clear that you wanted to read about Ultimate Comics for the month of October, and I intend to deliver on that; and there is a thread that ties Ultimate Comics to the devastating scene of last weekend, a scene that will likely influence some creators and find its way into fictional media, much like post-9/11 Bush era America influenced the Ultimate imprint, specifically Mark Millar’s Ultimates series but more importantly, what followed it. That’s right, folks, we’re talking the proverbial Ultimate elephant in the Ultimate room so strap in, make sure your shoes are tied, drop yo’ baby, and nut up Doug because we’re talking the single most violent event in all of Ultimate Comics: Ultimatum.
Actor James Purefoy said, of working on the film Ironclad “Violence is a very ugly thing. Violence is often so casual on film, and made to look so cool and so sexy, but violence is a repulsive, repugnant act that human beings inflict on each other. It shouldn't seem to be cool and sexy, ever really.” Millar’s two series struck a near perfect balance in this regard, never shying away from brutality but never glorifying it either. In the very ugly world Millar constructed that marred reflection of our own reality is presented with purpose, intended to give pause for a reexamining of American politics, both domestic and abroad, in the wake of a terrorist attack and our country’s response in the subsequent war in Iraq.
Where Millar take great care in crafting his story throughout Ultimates 1 & 2, developing the world and its characters with meticulous intent, Jeph Loeb followed in with reckless abandon in Ultimates 3. Loeb doubled down on shock factor, giving us a story angle that included a sex tape of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanov, and that’s the first page. Yeah, one page in and Loeb has a seemingly unedited sex tape airing on live television. Refresh my memory but was the Kim Kardashian and Ray-J tape ever shown on television in ANY capacity?
From there he just barrels forward with the insanity, taking the implied incestuous relationship between siblings Pietro and Wanda that had been introduced in the previous arc and just word-vomiting it out with all of the subtlety of, well, just having a character outright say it. What’s frustrating about this is it’s not as though Loeb is a writer with a poor track record; his work on Batman in arcs like The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Hush are some of the most highly regarded in the character’s history. On the controversial scene in IT in which preteen characters engage in group sex (or a train or something, I’m not gonna read that shit), King has since said he regrets having written that and blames it on heavy cocaine use. Fully candid here, I’ve done a fair amount of coke and I have never been so jacked up on blow I felt a need to write about kids having an orgy or a pair of siblings who are banging each other. I can in no way fathom what was going through the minds of any of these writers when they came up with these story elements, Millar included (though he was at least less explicit about it).
There’s very little, if anything, that can be of any redeeming value in this series; which is likely why it got pared down from an intended two volumes to one five-issue mini. We’re talking about a comic that has Ultron stating that humans see his as vibrators. We’re talking Wolverine sexing up the Witch of Wundagore only to be thrown down a mountain by Magneto and then watch Mags’ kids share “a love no one in this room can understand” in the jungle. Yeah, no one in the room can understand it, because it’s incest, Logan. No one reading the book could understand it either.
This is a book filled to the brim with attempts to go over the top and beyond, to be the most extreme of extremes, to shock the unshockable; and it fails on every. Single. Level. This book fails so badly that, as I said, it was likely changed from the original intended series mid-way due to fan reception. I just imagine someone in editorial at Marvel looking at the reception of this and just immediately opening a bottle of Jack Daniels, downing several gulps, and questioning every choice in their life that lead them to overseeing this book; stepping towards the window of a high-rise office and pondering if jumping off the roof would distract, in death, from the fact that they’d ever been a part of this.
This scenario is unlikely though, because then they gave him an event that in his own words he described as him destroying the Ultimate Universe. Yeah, you’ve probably guessed where we are at in this blog post, the end of what will now be a two-parter. In sitting down to write about Ultimatum I couldn’t NOT talk about Ultimates 3 which is impossible to do without talking about how terrible Ultimates 3 is which took up so much of this blog that now we won’t even be discussing Ultimatum until part two. So make sure to tune in next week where we move on from this shitpile of a book to the shitpile of an event that actually spawned some of the line’s best runs in its wake.
Until then, though, I suppose it’s time to sign off; but if YOU have any thoughts on Ultimates 3 make sure to leave them in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter. And sharing is caring, so make sure to share this blog with others, so I have a reason to keep coming back and torturing myself writing about horrible comic arcs.
- Dexter Busch-etelli, now needing a drink.