ComicsAlliance Presents the Worst of the Worst: Ultimatum



Today at ComicsAlliance, we’ve launched a new recurring series called Worst of the Worst, and for the first installment, I’ve reviewed Jeph Loeb and Dave Finch’s ULTIMATUM.

I’d been warned that Laura Hudson asking me to read Ultimatum would officially constitute a harsh workplace environment, but just to get this out of the way up front: No, I did not think it was the worst comic ever written, but as long as we’re being honest, I might have a pretty unique perspective on that front that a lot of readers didn’t. But as evidenced by the panel above, it is certainly not very good and it’s the kind of comic that just gets worse the more you think about it.

This is probably the most “ISB-ish” post I’ve ever done for ComicsAlliance (I even dropped into the first-person pronouns, because it’s hard to stress strong opinions without standing behind them yourself), so even if you’re one of the legion of haters that’s tired of me actually getting paid for what I write, you might want to check this one out.


35 thoughts on “ComicsAlliance Presents the Worst of the Worst: Ultimatum

  1. “this was the first Ultimate title I’ve read in years”

    did you have Millar’s new run in your list or do I have some sort of weird early onset alzheimer’s?

    anyways good article as always

  2. Hey Chris, are you okay?
    I mean, there’s the whole Anita Blake/Tarot thing which is horrible but also kinda fun.

    But now you’ve been watching these bad movies, and reading Twilight on purpose, and now this comic here that looks like it was written just to torture you and we all know you like the bacon.

    I’m starting to worry about your health, nah-mean?

  3. “I don’t have the emotional investment in the Ultimate universe characters that I do for the versions of the Core Marvel Universe.”

    Part of what specifically annoyed me was Ultimatum (and Ultimates 3) really seemed to ignore the Ultimate versions of… well, anything, and use completely ‘Core’ versions. It appeared that Loeb had not even read an Ultimate line book and had simply used continuity-free dopplegangers instead of any unique character qualities or history.

  4. I can’t say that the disregard for continuity was the worst part of Ultimatum, because of…well…everything else, but it was still aggressively stupid. When the book takes a character who was up to this point a dyed-in-the-wool tragic hero and portray him as an evil rapist with no explanation (that’s Pyro), you have to wonder what the hell the editors were doing when this came across their desks.

  5. Ultimates 3 really was the deathknell of the Ultimate universe… this was just the final blow, like you basically pointed out. I only bought and read the first issue and was just so disgusted that the only Ultimate books I’ve bought since are the Iron Man ones. Ultimate Armor Wars has been getting crappy reviews from what I hear, but I’ve been enjoying it… it basically dismisses all of Ultimatum within the first 5 pages and then says ‘right, and now back to our regularly scheduled programming’ and goes back to telling Iron Man stories.

    I still just don’t get how scenes like the Wasp being eaten could even get into the comic. I know the Ultimate line has always been more ‘edgy’ and whatever, but it’s like noone even stopped to check over Millar’s ‘scripts’. The rest of the story just sounds like nonsense.

  6. did you have Millar’s new run in your list or do I have some sort of weird early onset alzheimer’s?

    Huh. You know, I completely forgot that book was coming out. Weird.

  7. I know the Ultimate line has always been more ‘edgy’ and whatever, but it’s like noone even stopped to check over Millar’s ’scripts’.

    That would be Loeb’s “scripts”. I doubt even Millar would write something that balls to the wall awful. Even his Fantastic Four was better than that.

  8. I would say that Bill Jemas’ mean spirited, nonsensical, and ultimately aimless Marville was a much worse comic than Ultimatum by dint of looking like one thing on the shelves but not having a single coherent idea in the pages, or Loners, which was a comic book that only had to have its disparate cast of characters who hadn’t been in print in over ten years show up and stare at a wall to go over with a bunch of nostalgic fanboys – the comic book retail equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel using dynamite – yet somehow still managed to lose eleven thousand readers in four months. Cry For Justice – I don’t even have to start on that because the ISB has a handy little search bar at the top of the page, but it’s also a little worse than Ultimatum because it isn’t set in a ‘pocket universe’ full of deliberately dickish alternates of well-known characters, but the actual DCU.

    For all it’s faults, Ultimatum knew where it was going, what it was, the level it was pitching at, and was no better than can be expected from Loeb when he’s specifically being asked to write a big, stupid comic full of splash images and violent deaths that’s supposed to be a deliberate game-changer and which most likely won’t see much editorial interference. There was an unnecessarily personal slant to some criticism of Loeb, too, so thanks for a level-headed review that doesn’t go so far as to suggest Ultimatum might be good and retains the perspective necessary to maybe admit that expecting better – never mind objectively good – might have been unrealistic.

  9. It’s like there’s a bet between comicbook creators to see who can get away with the most grotesque stuff in a mainstream book by the Big Two. *sigh*

    I actually read the first few pages of the Ultimatum TPB in a shop and thought it didn’t seem too bad. Looks like I made the right choice in not buying this.

  10. Ultimates 1 & 2 were “This Man, This Monster” compared to Loeb’s work. Millar has his shortfalls, but he was highly entertaining in the Ultimates books.

  11. Man, it didn’t take long for the comments over on comicsalliance to get classy! By the fifth one down you had the old strawman standby of “if you don’t aggressively hate how women are drawn, you jack off to comics and will never associate with a real woman!”

  12. Man, this is the kind of comicbook that just makes me think the entire industry has been taken over by Sid from Toy Story.

    Fuck Ultimatum.

  13. Andrew Says:

    “Man, it didn’t take long for the comments over on comicsalliance to get classy! By the fifth one down you had the old strawman standby of “if you don’t aggressively hate how women are drawn, you jack off to comics and will never associate with a real woman!””

    We must be reading two different comments’ sections, then. The majority of the comments were actually thoughtful on both sides.

  14. Ultimatum was like being punched in the stomach repeatedly after a while. I understand the line is all “edgy” and shit, and they were cleaning house, but really? The Blob eating the Wasp? Magneto snapping Xavier’s neck as if he were an idiot sheep? It read like some kind of bizzare manatee script. (I like Family Guy, but damned if that still isn’t a funny rip.) I read doggedly to the end for the sake of finding out what happened, and realized I could have just imagined a storyline at random that would have satisfied me more. And possibly made more sense.

    And, yeah. Boobies.

  15. There’s a difference between “prolific edginess” that should make the reader think beyond the bounds of a current medium and “over-the-top edginess” that just does something to get a sheer thrill response out of a person. Miller’s run might not exactly be the smartest in comics, but it does give a different take on familiar characters which in itself is admirable. This just seems like it’s just getting a rise out of people, a knee-jerk reaction.

    And really, when the two things a reader notices actively notices in that Blob-eating-Wasp scene are (1) a man eating a woman raw and (2) the woman’s really large boobs, it says something.

    In regards to the boobs issue, maybe taking the dialogue as “it’s offensive to women,” while morally true, isn’t the most convincing. It might be more convincing for the comics community as a whole to make them realize that, for a medium that they’re trying to have others take seriously, having women drawn like hot air balloons isn’t convincing anyone in taking it seriously.

  16. Worst, or best? I have such a hard time deciding with Loeb. I always feel ripped off when I buy a Loeb comic (I even disliked Long Halloween) but when I see a panel like the one where Magneto is snapping Xavier’s neck…

    I mean, as juvenile as Loeb and Finch both can seem, if you don’t find anything funny about Magneto’s facial expression or the fact that Xavier was murdered without resisting, I think you might just be taking things a little too seriously.

    Also, we all should realize that the point of writing comics is not to be taken seriously, whether you want to or you are actually taken seriously

  17. Definitely true, though I think my impression of “being taken seriously” is more for the rest of the population to see a comic as a medium that many people can read and get into (i.e. something my mom would actually try out, which she may given her interests in world mythology) rather than equating it to Hemmingway. As Chris would say, “In the core Marvel Universe….”

    But at the same time, I think most people don’t want the medium to appear absolutely juvenile and misogynistic. Do people want comics to be represented by the movie-equivalent of a Michael Bay movie? To have child-like ideas and creative imagination (say, like, the core Marvel Universe) is a great thing that can become both entertaining and prolific. But to be childish and not have some level of restraint on some issues like excesses in sex and violence doesn’t help expand that audience and leaves it as a medium strictly for horny 13-18 year old boys.

  18. For me, the oversexualization can pull me out of a story. There’s one panel in CIVIL WAR #2 where various registered heroes are standing around celebrating after having kicked the ass of some baddie, and for some reason the center of the shot is She-Hulk’s ass. No reason for it, if it were framed like that in a movie the audience would burst into laughter, completely distracting.

    There’s a time and a place for everything.

  19. Andrew…
    What comments are you reading…the few people making a critical assessment of the notions of sexism in and over the top sexual exploitation of women in comics at no time suggest people who read those comics don’t know real women. We do express some shcok at the “ho hum, it happens everywhere, why do I have to hear about it” attitude.

  20. True story-

    At the big annual comicon in Toronto last year, I sat in on a Q&A session with Joe Quesada and several other Marvel bigwigs. I got called on to ask a question, and I asked Joe Q how Marvel could justify doing a Ultimatum tie-in in one of their books the most heavily marketed to kids (Ultimate Spider-Man), when Ultimatum featured such gruesome and needless violence. His response? Outside the Marvel Adventures line, “Marvel Comics aren’t intended for kids”.

  21. Hi Chris,
    I love your site, and it routinely makes me laugh my ass off. BUT This objectifying women argument is tired… IT’S SUPERHERO comics..
    Anyway if you want to read what I think I posted it on CA, BUT Laura has apparently decided to not let me post anymore because I disagree with the agenda being sold there…
    I’m saddened by this, and will still visit your blog, click on your ads, but cannot abide a website admin like Hudson, who when you disagree with her, tells you to “Go read another Blog” and won’t allow youto post a response.
    AND no I didn’t attack, or act in any manner that would deserve this treatment. I am currently posting on EVERY site I visit about CA’s horrible relationship with it’s readers. AND YEAH I hope the ads on CA do get clicked less, and they make less $$$. You don’t treat your consumers the way CA does…

  22. Tommy,

    I’m glad we can still be friends and all, but I disagree with you and I find your statements about the “agenda” at ComicsAlliance to be pretty off-base, too.

    There’s no agenda. Laura doesn’t tell me to write about the treatment of women in comics; I write about it because it’s something that I notice and that I think is worth mentioning. You say “IT’S SUPERHERO comics” like there’s something inherently exploitative and tawdry that’s inherent in the genre, which I think says a lot more about you than it does about super-hero comics. I think we can agree that it’s prevalent, but you don’t think there’s a problem and your “solution” is to tell others to shut up about it. I point it out because I think it’s wrong–or if that’s too strong or morally loaded a word, we can go with “overused and trite”–and worth criticizing.

    I appreciate your attempts to keep me from aligning myself with some sort of evil empire that doesn’t think every comic–EVERY COMIC–needs to have porn-star poses, but your concern is unwarranted.

    Enjoy complaining about it everywhere you post. Hey, maybe someone will tell you that this stirring issue you care about isn’t worth discussing too.

  23. Also, Tommy, I’ve never blocked a single comment by you on the site. I’m sorry you’re having trouble negotiating the comment system, but that is primarily on you.

  24. I am sure that the e-mail I got telling me how to get my comment to post required that I agree to a statement regarding exploitation of women in comics. It was like seven pages. :)

  25. So wait…this Tommy guy says that, if you don’t like the over-sexualized images in super-hero comics, go read something else…then gets butt hurt when told “if you don’t like our blog topics, you’re free to read other blogs”? Baffling.

  26. Oh, thank god… I thought the comments about an “agenda” were linked to my “company line” statement, which I intended to be supportive (I may have thought some recent costume commentaries were a little silly given the medium, but The Wasp using her last gasps of energy to try and look sexy while being disembowelled is just asinine).

    Also@Laura: I think Tommy is referring to the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a “reply” button on certain posts. I was going to respond to responses by both Chris and yourself in that I meant neither to insult Chris by saying he was incapable of his own opinions nor to misinterpret his inclusion of Mark Millar in his article about Loeb.

  27. Yeah, it’s one of the many problematic aspects of the comment system — the fact that you can only reply to a single original comment. Add that to the confirmation e-mails, and I’m the first to admit that it is a huge pain, especially since I have to go through the same BS when I want to comment. It’s a conversation I have literally every week with AOL, and something I really, really want to fix.

    It is not, however, a conspiracy to silence poorly thought out commentary.

  28. @Laura-

    I am happy to see the equality being imposed via your commentary system, in that you have to keep an extra page/tab open to your yahoo to click “yes, I really meant to say that, no matter how poorly I conveyed my point.”

    That said, I am deeply offended by the oversexualization of the lack of a reply button in follow up topics and anywhere on this board.