The Train Wreck That Was Ultimates 3 or Jeph Loeb Gears up to Destroy the Ultimate Marvel Universe

                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 “Stay drunk San Diego”; maybe a bit of an outdated reference at this point.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.

 We needed a pick-me-up in the intro bc it's about to get heavy

We needed a pick-me-up in the intro bc it's about to get heavy

                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.

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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?

 Yeah, CNN ain't airing that shit...

Yeah, CNN ain't airing that shit...

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.

 I guess maybe Loeb understood it. I sure'n shit don't...

I guess maybe Loeb understood it. I sure'n shit don't...

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.

 Me, after spending a couple hours writing about Ultimates 3

Me, after spending a couple hours writing about Ultimates 3

 

-          Dexter Busch-etelli, now needing a drink.

Miles Morales and The Death of Spider-Man or How Marvel Created One of Its Most Important Characters Ever Only to Turn Around and Nerf His Significance

Greetings drunk (and sober) comics fans! I guess that’s totally going to be my blog intro even though it doesn’t really make sense. I mean, who is really reading blog posts while intoxicated? I suppose some people do, who knows? Regardless, here’s a blog post for you, the fans, who voted overwhelmingly that you wanted to read about great runs and arcs in comics. And what better subject for that than the center point of a discussion recently in the circle of podcasters and fans we regularly interact with on Twitter, Miles Morales, THE Ultimate Spider-Man.

 First issue of Mile's solo series by Bendis and Pichelli

First issue of Mile's solo series by Bendis and Pichelli

                I’ve named him as such in the intro to this post because one simply cannot discuss Miles Morales without noting his introduction and its place within Ultimate Marvel/Ultimate Comics as a whole. When I say Miles is THE Ultimate Spider-Man what I mean is that he is the Spider-Man of Earth 1610, or at least he was before that universe was nullified from existence (or was it? Shoutout to anyone who read Al Ewing’s recent Ultimates series).

                So before we talk about Miles himself, let’s talk about Ultimate Comics. I’ll likely make a post about the line itself later on because it is one of my absolute things in comics ever so I’ll keep this brief. Though while, as I said, Ultimate Comics is one of my favorites I feel implored to note I’m not some mark for the line. It is not without its “issues” (pun da-dun-duns), but even as bad as some things like Ultimatum were, I feel they are absolutely integral to a full reading of the timeline of the 1610 or even any of its individual series; though the Spider-Man series was probably the least directly affected by the event. Ultimate Marvel, as it was called at the time, breathed new life back in to Marvel Comics after a pretty rough patch with the crash of the speculator’s market and Marvel filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and it gave writers a chance to play with classic characters and, in the beginning, their origins in a space that would not directly affect the continuity of 50+ years of publication but was still high-profile enough to matter.

 Early roster of Marvel's Ultimate universe by Bryan Hitch

Early roster of Marvel's Ultimate universe by Bryan Hitch

                One of those writers was a then-indie creator by the name of Brian Michael Bendis, you may know him from such events as Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, and (ugh) Civil War II. Okay, full disclosure here, I’ve long said that Bendis is a very hit-or-miss writer. I believe he has a good track record for being more the former than the latter but yeah, he’s written some absolute duds. However, when he hits he hits it out of the park, the county, the stratosphere, the man simply knocks this analogical baseball into orbit; and Marvel gave him free reign on starting an alternate continuity reboot of their world where he did just that. There’s a reason why Bendis wrote Ultimate Spider-Man from beginning to end, and in a way still is (but we’ll talk more about that later); it’s because he is just that damn good at it. From the very beginning Bendis took steps to not only connect the origins of Peter Parker and two of his greatest villains, threading together previously unconnected pieces of the mythos; but he also changed the very approach writers took to scripting and producing issues. Gone were the narrative boxes and thought bubbles of days past. Bendis wrote his book more like a television show, guiding the reader through a story rather than yanking them by the arm through it; and it worked. This is why more comic writers tell their stories this way today than don’t; and that’s what storytelling should do over time, evolve.

                Bendis also made Pete a character that was more relatable for a modern audience. He was a nerd, but he wasn’t a caricature of a nerd; and he felt like he fit in the world of the late 90s, 2000s, and on in to the next decade, in the same way the character had for readers of Stan’s orginal run in the sixties and subsequent writers of the next two decades. As a child born in the 80s and growing up in the 90s I would say my generation loved Pete, but we didn’t connect to him in the same way previous generations had. He was already an important and established character in his world when we came along, and we simply couldn’t identify with those original stories from a vastly different era than the world we were living in. Bendis made a world where we could, a world that was truly right outside our window.

 Ultimate Peter by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Peter by Mark Bagley

                I stated before that Bendis’ series was the one in the line to be less directly affected by the Ultimatum event, which is true, but more changes were made with the character and his relationships leading up to and after that, which is why what we’ll talk about momentarily was so impactful. Peter briefly dated Kitty Pryde and maintained a friendship with her after, and Aunt May took in Gwen Stacy, Bobby Drake, and Johnny Storm when the three had no place to go. This created a family dynamic between these five characters we had never seen before, aside from the previously existing friendship between peter and Johnny in the 616. It also helped to further ground Peter, having him experience real-world problems of the day. Peter, and his supporting cast, all felt tangible, believable, like they were someone you might actually know; and that’s what made the Death of Spider-Man story so huge. Even though it took place in an alternate continuity from the “real” Marvel Universe, readers had been with this version of the character for over ten years; and because this was the Ultimate Universe, we knew this was permanent (or at least we thought it was, thanks Bendis, ya knob).

                The Death of Spider-Man took place across two books, his own and Avengers Vs New Ultimates. In the latter book, both teams had been pitted against each other in a situation manipulated by the older brother of Tony Stark; and in an attempt to take down Captain America, The Punisher took a sniping position and fired a shot that instead hit an intervening Spidey. Wounded from this, Peter then had to take on a new incarnation of the Sinister Six; and in the climactic final battle with the Green Goblin, Peter was victorious, but at the cost of his own life. Lying on the front lawn of his home and dying from his injuries, Peter was surrounded by the family we’d watched slowly form around him. With his final breath, to the person who was most important in his life, he told his aunt “Don’t you see…it’s okay. I did it. I couldn’t save him. Uncle Ben, I couldn’t save him… No matter what I did. But I saved you. I did it. I did…” I can’t even write about this without tears streaming down my face, my chest tightening up, and my breathing becoming constrained. It impacted me that much; and Bendis says much the same about having written the panels:

 

Listen, I sat there typing this thing with tears in my eyes like a big baby!" Bendis says. "I went upstairs to my wife, and I go, 'I am so embarrassed. I think I've literally been crying for 45 minutes.' I've had real things happen in my life I didn't cry about, and yet I'm crying about this. I became very proud of it, and that's not an adjective I often put on myself.

 Peter's final moments by Bendis and Bagley

Peter's final moments by Bendis and Bagley

 

                I don’t think there is a single piece of fiction I have ever consumed, short of It’s a Wonderful Life, that makes me as emotional as this moment and a moment at the end of the Fallout series. It is tragic and beautiful at the same time, painful and inspiring, sorrowful in its dignifying of the character’s life. It is by far one of the greatest send-offs for a character ever written, and also shows a fundamental difference between this character and another that many of his very fans also love for similar reasons, Batman. Both are characters motivated by tragedies and the loss of loved ones, but whereas Bruce and Peter both blame themselves to some degree, those motivations move them forward in polarized directions. Bruce’s aim is to strike fear into criminals, to punish them, in the hopes of preventing others from suffering the tragedy that spurred him on. Peter, however, blaming himself for the death of his Uncle Ben, instead sought to HELP people. Both characters battle criminals and supervillains but for disparate aims. That’s a major part of why while we love both characters, we see ourselves in Peter.

                The epilogue to Peter’s death was the six-issue Fallout series, dealing with the experiences of characters across that world as they mourned the loss. There’s two main things that I want to note about this series. First, the final pages of it, where a vengeful Mary Jane, writing an exposé accusing Nick Fury of being responsible for Peter’s death, is confronted by him for the second time. Early on in the series Fury tells her he is aware of what she is doing, and attempts to intimidate her into backing out; but it is in this second moment between the characters that Nicholas J. Fury, the hardest-edged son-of-a-bitch protector-of-the-world, breaks down his walls, sheds a tear, and tells her she’s right; it is his fault. Following this moment, no longer hating Fury, she deletes all of the text she has written and the series ends. It’s a poignant moment, and the culmination of years of character development; and goddamn it I cry over it just as much as I do losing Peter.

 Fury tell Mary Jane she's right by Bendis and Bagley

Fury tell Mary Jane she's right by Bendis and Bagley

                The other important aspect of this series is it is where we are introduced to the character of Miles Morales. First appearing in an ill-fitting replica Spider-Man costume he defeats the much more menacing Ultimate Version of The Kangaroo, but is also told by Roo’s victim that the costume is in bad taste. Shortly after he is confronted by that world’s Jessica Drew, a female clone who became the Ultimate Spider-Woman. Jessica initially demands Miles stop what he is doing, but later presents him with his very own costume and web shooters, designed by S.H.I.E.L.D. After this Miles became the star of his very own book as the new Spider-Man. Like many changes Marvel has made over the years, and despite it being an alternate continuity, this was very controversial, being picked up by major news outlets and drawing the ire of many hardcore and casual fans alike. On the flipside of that coin, though, Bendis and artist Sarah Pichelli’s series inspired hope. For many fans of color this was a major milestone, a high profile superhero who was black and latino; and, for me personally, seeing a young man pick up the mantle because of the legacy that Peter had left behind and the importance he saw in carrying it on. Miles believed the world needed a Spider-Man, and as fate or circumstance would have it, he was given the means to be that hero.

 Miles foils the Kangaroo by Bendis and Bagley

Miles foils the Kangaroo by Bendis and Bagley

                Years later I think it is easy to forget how huge this all was; and it doesn’t help that Marvel dissolved the Ultimate line and folded Miles and many others into the prime continuity and to a degree, in my eyes, diminished his importance. For me, Miles in many ways is THE Spider-Man, the new Spider-Man, who took up the responsibility because the world, his world, had lost that hero. Sure, fans still look to Miles as being a milestone in diversity and representation for characters and fans of color, but before the incursions and Secret Wars, the character meant so much more in his home universe. The dynamic of Peter now being the more international Spidey and Miles being the street-level New York one is certainly interesting, but the character seems less significant, less integral to the world than he did previously; which is what the impetus for this blog post was.

                To circle the wagons back to the discussion mentioned at the beginning of this post, one which I hope to do a livestream soon for a few of us to break down even further, my good friend and the co-host of the SuperSuit Show, Task, posed the question to me of whether or not Miles is actually a “beloved” character. I would say that, yes, to myself and many others he is; but would add the caveat that he’s more important to many for what he is, rather than who he is and what he has done. And, as I said, I also feel that he was downgraded recently; which is disheartening for someone who cares so much about his character and what he means.

 Miles in the Prime Marvel by Nico Leon

Miles in the Prime Marvel by Nico Leon

                I’d love to know your thoughts, so feel free to drop a comment below or hit me up on twitter at @drunkcomicsfans. What does Miles mean to you? Is he beloved? Was bringing him into the prime universe a disservice to his character? Should Bendis give up the reigns of the character to a new writer? Are you a fan of Ultimate Comics or has this made you want to read it now? Let me know and remember, whether comics are great, terrible, or anything in-between, there’s always alcohol. Dex OUT!

 My ass NEEDS a drink after writing this piece...

My ass NEEDS a drink after writing this piece...

-Dexter Busch-etelli the drunk comics fan

Welcome to our blog section

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Hello, drunk (and sober) comics fans! Thank you for clicking on our first ever blog post. This will be my first time ever having posted an actual blog post , not a facebook rant or a thread on a forum, for a specific purpose. Thankfully, I do actually have some training in creative writing and my mom thinks I'm funny so I hope you enjoy it!

 

I want to start by saying showing my appreciation to all of the existing fans that we have. Mikey and I express this on the show from time to time but we really can't tell you just how much you all mean to us. We've been able to, for a little over two years now, sit down each week, drink and talk comics, and have people not only listen but take to Twitter and tell us what they think of our content. For all the bitching and moaning I do about the state of the world today as a result of technology and social media that is a truly amazing thing that never ceases to blow my mind. As we often say, we have no idea why any of you want to listen to our dumb fuckery, but we're glad you do. Also, to anyone who is getting their first introduction to us through this post, welcome! You can find every episode of our show and all of our YouTube videos right here on the site and I hope you both take the time to check it out and also enjoy it.

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As far as the blog goes I'd like to lay out what it's going to be moving forward. We currently have a poll up on Twitter that you can find here asking the fans what sort of content YOU would like to see that will run for a few more days so please jump over there and cast a vote. As I'm writing this before the poll is finished I'm going to do this one for me, though; and something I'd like to speak about is the state of the industry and fandom. That's a bit of a tall order and there's no way to cover everything here, but there is something more specific I'd like to touch on, and I'd also love to hear your thoughts on it as well.

 

First, that technology I mentioned before has completely changed the way that we interact with creators; and there are pros and cons that come along with that. When I started reading comics as a kid the internet didn't even exist. The only way you had to interact with the industry and tell publishers, editorial, writers, and artists how you felt was to sit down and write an actual letter which you then had to put in the mail to be sent off and then you just waited. You continued to pick your book up and checked the letters column and hoped that they would print your letter and respond to it. Let's just ponder how different that is from being able to instantly send one hundred and forty plus characters from a small personal computer that we still call a phone for some odd reason, despite that no longer being its primary function. That instantaneous ability to voice your feelings seems to have emboldened some fans in their anger and agitation. People still sent angry letters back in the day, but there's something about sitting down and writing out your thoughts in a longer format that seems to chill you out and something about that instant messaging that makes you more reactionary. I try to be more mindful of the things I tweet at people for that very reason; plus my great grandma always said you catch more flies with honey, although my grandpa also said sometimes you just gotta raise some hell.

 

Which is what is happening with a portion of the fandom. What I view as fringe groups, but extremely vocal ones, have taken to the platform to let creators, primarily from Marvel comics, know that they are unhappy with a number of things. The two biggest ones we are seeing are the crowd that hates what they view as being “SJW Marvel” and the crowd who seemingly will never be satisfied with any steps that Marvel or DC take with diversity and representation. I'd love to see a Venn diagram of the crossover between these two groups in regards to their hatred of Secret Empire and HydraCap; because on everything else in comics they're pretty at odds with each other yet from both of these groups I saw an awful lot of “good morning to everyone but Nick Spencer, he can choke” over the last two years. It's the strangest crossover since Archie met the Predator.

 

Which leads me to ask the question, did the technology make us this way or is this just how we are? Most comics fans can tell you that comics fans are crazy people; but it seems sometimes like social media brings out the worst of us. We see it in more than just comics. I think we all know at least one person who quit Facebook either permanently or temporarily during the election last year. There's something about these screens and these keyboards that leads us to say things we would never voice face to face with another human being.

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On the flipside doing this show and using Twitter I've been able to connect with tons of creators and actually engage with them. Whether its just a thank you for telling them I like their book or an actual conversation, that's amazing. Anyone who's ever had so much as a favorite on a tweet from someone they're a fan of knows that giddy feeling it creates inside. It's an acknowledgment from someone we've placed on a pedestal and elevated to a god-like status. It's the very hand of the creator reaching down from the heavens and giving you a thumbs up.

 

I guess the main point I want to make here, and in truth I suppose I'm making it to an audience who already feels the same and doesn't need to be told this, is we should be more mindful with how we are on that platform, and all platforms. It doesn't need to be ass-kissing, we can be critical; but a modicum of respect should be given when speaking with creators and even just other users. Unless somebody's already being an asshole, in that case they can fuck themselves off a cliff.

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But what do you think? Do you have any interesting stories about interacting with creators and other fans? Make sure to reach out to us on Twitter @drunkcomicsfans and let us know. Thank you for reading, and do me a favor and go comment on one of our YouTube videos. We need help getting pushed up in the algorithm.

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Thanks again 

-Dexter Busch-etelli