Publication history Edit
The first volume of the Ultimates, written by Millar and illustrated by Hitch, was published in limited series format and ran for thirteen issues with production delays from March 2002 until April 2004. Hitch described the alternate-reality reimagining as one where, "You have to approach it as though nothing has happened before and tell the story fresh from the start.... We had to get to the core of who these people were and build outwards, so Cap [Captain America] was a soldier, Thor is either a nut case or a messiah ... Banner [the Hulk] an insecure genius, and [superspy Nick] Fury the king of cool". A second series, also by Millar and Hitch and with similar production delays, was released as Ultimates 2 and ran 13 issues (Dec. 2004 - May 2007). In a 2004 interview, outlined the difference between the Ultimates and the Avengers: "The idea behind The Avengers is that the Marvel Universe's biggest players all get together and fight all the biggest supervillains they can't defeat individually, whereas Ultimates 2 is an exploration of what happens when a bunch of ordinary people are turned into super-soldiers and being groomed to fight the real-life war on terror." This was followed by the one-shot Ultimate Saga (Nov. 2007), a condensed retelling, by writers C. B. Cebulski and Mindy Owens and artist Travis Charest, of the events of Ultimates and Ultimates 2. A third series, Ultimates 3 (Dec. 2007 - Sept. 2008) is written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Joe Madureira. Marvel announced at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con that Mark Millar will write a new ongoing series, Ultimate Comics: Avengers, beginning in 2009.
The Ultimates Main article: The Ultimates (comic book) General Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. establishes a strike force of government-sponsored metahumans which includes Captain America; scientist couple Henry and Janet Pym (Giant-Man and the Wasp); Bruce Banner (the Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man). Together they are based at the S.H.I.E.L.D facility, the Triskelion. When Banner injects himself with the super-soldier serum and goes on a bloody rampage as the Hulk, he is eventually stopped by the other metahumans with the aid of Thor. The team then join forces with the mutants Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch and agents Hawkeye and Black Widow against the alien shape-shifters the Chitauri, who are defeated.
The Ultimates 2 Edit
Main article: The Ultimates 2 A year later public opinion has turned against the team when it is discovered that Bruce Banner is in fact the Hulk and was responsible for hundreds of deaths. The team is undermined further when Thor is accused of being an escaped mental patient and is incarcerated. This is the doing of his brother Loki, who also facilitates the creation of a new team of anti-American multi-nationals called the Liberators. With the aid of the Black Widow - who betrays the team to the Liberators - the Ultimates are captured, but eventually escape and battle the Liberators to the death. With the aid of Asgardian warriors, the Ultimates defeat both Loki and the Liberators.
The Ultimates 3 Edit
Promotional art for cover of The Ultimates 3#1 (February 2008), by Joe Madureira and Christian Lichtner. Hank Pym is under house arrest at Ultimates Mansion. One of Pym's Ultron robots drugs him and leaks a sex tape of Stark and the Black Widow to the Internet. These distract from the robot's fatal shooting of the Scarlet Witch. Magneto abducts Wanda's corpse and retreats to the Savage Land, where he is confronted by the Ultimates. Pym and Wasp discover the truth about the Ultron robot, which has adopted the identity of Yellowjacket and uses the Ultimates' DNA to create a series of android duplicates. Although the true Ultimates destroy their android counterparts and Yellowjacket, Quicksilver is apparently killed by Hawkeye. The Wasp then invites Pym to return to the Ultimates, and he accepts. The mastermind behind the robot's plot is revealed to be Doctor Doom.
Sales and reception Edit
The first volume of Ultimates #1 ranked fourth among the top 300 comics sold for February 2002, based on Diamond Publisher's indexes, with the next three issues ranked second, second, and third, respectively. Popmatters.com praised Mark Millar's writing in the opening eight issues, stating the writer "is able to walk a very fine line of keeping the story measured yet entertaining". Comics Bulletin, in a review of the "Homeland Security" story arc, states the artwork is "visual magnificence" yet is concerned about the dark writing of the characters stripped of their "super-heroic nobility" and was "disheartened by the book’s tone and cynicism". Shakingthrough.net gave "Homeland Security" a 4.2 out of 5.0 stating it is an "engaging read, filled with intriguing and amusing modern takes on classic Marvel characters" whilst praising Bryan Hitch's artwork by saying it is "amazing, gorgeous artwork, which continues to set the standard for cinematic photo-realism." Ultimates 2 #1 ranked second among the top 300 comics sold for December 2004, with the next three issues ranked second, fourth and sixth, respectively. Reviewing Ultimates 2, Curledup.com praised Millar's writing of the classic heroes and the "inclusion of current-day politics" improves the storyline. Comics Bulletin reviewed the final issue #13 but found it anticlimactic with the issue degenerating to a "slug fest". The artwork was praised with the reviewer stating that Bryan Hitch's "artwork has definitely been one of the main elements that will make this series memorable." Denofgeek.com praised the artwork, with "Bryan Hitch doing some of the best work of his career", but was critical of Millar's writing stating it had "no substance". Ultimates 3 #1 ranked first in December 2007's Top 300 comics with preorder sales of 131,401, Issue #2 ranked number seven with 105,070 preorders. Issue three ranked better than its predecessor, falling at number five, but had a smaller number of preorders, totaling at 97,210. Reviewing Ultimates 3, IGN called the book a "reasonably decent experience" although the issue "falters on its own merits", only to later state while reviewing the third issue that "Behind the theatrics and swagger, there's just nothing there to draw me in. These are the characters that I used to enjoy in name only, hollow shells of what they used to be." Comicboards' review was even harsher, remarking that Ultimates 3 "has somehow managed to entirely miss what made the Ultimates something other than alternate universe Avengers" and adding "this was the worst comic I've read all year".
The Ultimates #1-13 The Ultimates 2 #1-13 The Ultimates Annual #1-2 The Ultimates 3 #1-5 Ultimate Captain America Annual #1 Ultimate Hulk Annual #1 Ultimate Six #1-7 Ultimate Power #1-9 Ultimate War #1-6 Ultimate Nightmare #1-5, 2004-2005 Ultimate Secret #1-4, 2005 Ultimate Extinction #1-5, 2006 Ultimate Spider-Man #70 Ultimatum #1-5 Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1-present (Aug. 2009-present) New Ultimates #1-present
Collected editions Edit
Hardcover The Ultimates (ISBN 0-7851-1082-8) collects Ultimates #1-13 The Ultimates 2 (ISBN 9780785121381 ) collects Ultimates 2 #1-13 and Ultimates 2 #1 Variant Sketch Edition The Ultimates 3 (ISBN 0785130373) collects Ultimates 3 #1-5 Softcover The Ultimates Vol. 1: Super-Human (ISBN 0-7851-0960-9) collects Ultimates #1-6 The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security (ISBN 0-7851-1078-X) collects Ultimates #7-13 The Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods And Monsters (ISBN 0-7851-1093-3) collects Ultimates 2 #1-6 The Ultimates 2 Vol. 2: Grand Theft America (ISBN 0-7851-1790-3) collects Ultimates 2 #7-13 The Ultimate Annuals Vol. 1 (ISBN 0-7851-2035-1) includes Ultimates 2 Annual #1 The Ultimate Annuals Vol. 2 (ISBN 0-7851-2371-7) includes Ultimates 2 Annual #2 In other media
Films Main article: Ultimate Avengers Main article: Ultimate Avengers 2 The Ultimates have also been the basis for two animated films, Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2. Novels Two novels based on the Ultimates have been released: Tomorrow Men (ISBN 1-4165-1065-6) Michael Jan Friedman The Ultimates: Against All Enemies (ISBN 1-4165-1071-0) Alexander C. Irvine