View Poll Results: Rating "The Ultimates" (2002)

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  • 5 * Masterpiece

    10 26.32%
  • 4 * Good

    14 36.84%
  • 3 * Average

    3 7.89%
  • 2 * Bad

    5 13.16%
  • 1 * Disaster

    6 15.79%
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  1. #31

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    The Ultimates were released in 2002, and the world back then was a completely different one, in all levels. Marvel had just escaped from bankruptcy, but the risk was still near. Marvel was still clinging to characters and a style that were an innovation in the 1960s and 1970s, but were terribly dated by then. There was a fiercely loyal fandom that still followed them no matter what, but that fandom could only diminish: fans eventually retire (by moving to other hobbies, by work and family leaving them with less time and money to invest in hobbies, or simply by dying of old age), and the genre was basically unassailable for new readers. Out of comic books, DC blown the superhero genre to pieces with "Batman & Robin". "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" were promising new takes, but they yet had to live up to their potential; they could very well fail and the genre fall into obscurity once more. And out in the real world, the 9/11 shaked the American and international arena, the fear to terrorism and the War on Terror dominated everything.

    None of that is the same now in 2020. The superhero genre is definitely a staple of modern pop culture, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest franchise of all time, and Marvel Comics has no need to ever fear for its future again. The superhero comic books have been updated: designs and scenes are far less campy, dialogues are far less grandiloquent, there's more diversity and you don't require an encyclopedic knowledge of the full history of Marvel Comics simply to understand what's going on. And the presidency of Dubya Bush and the War on Terror are long gone. Can the Ultimates still be a relevant comic in 2020?

    Yes. Of course. Now more than ever.

    The Ultimates are an alternate universe version of the Avengers, but unlike Ultimate Spider-Man that does not mean a streamlined new version of the original characters and mythos (or, more correctly, it means that, but not just that). The Ultimates take the readers out of the comfort zone, defy their preconceptions about those characters and about superheroism in general. Captain America is usually seen as the paragon of every virtue known to man, it can be shocking to see him humbly deferring to a war-loving crusader like Bush. But then again, isn't Captain America a bit of a war-loving crusader himself? Isn't he troubled, both in comics and the MCU, by his inability to stop fighting and embrace peace? Why shouldn't he support Bush and the War on Terror? Ultimate Hulk is a cannibal, something that is truly terrible and that nobody could support, and his rampage through New York is a 9/11 type of disaster. But then again... isn't Hulk supposed to be a monster? Isn't the people, in-universe, afraid of him? Why shouldn't we see him as a monster, too? Why should he get absurd excuses like "Banner makes subconscious calculations to ensure that nobody ever dies" to allow him to get away with his usual massive destructions? Ultimate Henry Pym performs probably the most graphic and explicit case of domestic abuse ever seen in mainstream superhero comics, but then again, wasn't Pym already known mainly for that specific incident? So why should it be just a slap? Why not show the audience a bit of what domestic abuse can really look like? (and note that not even the Ultimates take it as far as it can really be). Black Widow is a a defected spy from the Soviet Union, who turns to be a traitor and kills children, but then again, why shouldn't she? Is it so weird for a trained agent to put her country above a military operation of another one? Wasn't she trained for killing and for infiltration, after all? Thor says that he's the reincarnation of a Norse god, and everybody thinks he's nuts, but why wouldn't they? How else would people realistically react to anyone saying such a thing? And then there's the more provocative scene: during the climax, fighting against an alien that also survived from the times of WWII, Captain America boasts that America, unlike France, did not surrender to the Nazis. But, although the phrase may be politically incorrect, it is not incorrect: Nazi Germany invaded France, the French authorities surrendered, and no amount of glorification of the French Resistance can change that. It's not a fact that people may like, but that's the thing about facts: that it is irrelevant if people like them or not, and a good provocative work puts such facts on people's face.

    But more than that, the Ultimates defy the very notion of superheroism. All superheroes are defined by the "Superman" ideal, the idea of a hero that willingly dedicates his whole life to fight against evil only because it's the right thing to do. We have seen heroes of all types everywhere in the sliding scale between villainy and the Superman ideal, defined by the place they have in that scale. And we also have the protagonist-centered morality, the premise that the protagonist of the story has to be in the right and have the moral high ground. Between both, superheroism as a norm, the idea that the Superman ideal is a desirable ideal (or that it can even exist to begin with) has hardly ever been defied. But it should. Dedicate your life to fight against evil... just because it's right? How can that be a motivation, the single motivation? And more, what isevil, what is the right thing to do? Comics usually make it easy for us: the one who is right is the protagonist. The antagonist may have a point, but he's ultimately wrong because of some reason, or because he's evil all along. Well, The Ultimates 2 does not make things easy for us. It is a story about the Ultimates, but it is also a story about the Liberators. It is a story about Thor being misunderstood, but also a story of everyone else reaction to an unlikely claim with very little to be backed on. Both sides have fair points, both sides do what from their perspective is the right thing to do. And the story does not tell us who is right and who is wrong: we have to figure it out ourselves.

    Nowadays, there are very little stories like that, if any. Superhero fiction is usually sweeter than diabetes. Provocation is mostly absent: stories sound as if writers had marketing bosses in their back, overseeing their work to make sure that nobody can ever get offended in the slightest. Even a minor and harmless joke like that "I'll reinstate prima-nocta" leads to an uproar between SJW, and the political correctness is reinforced even further. We seldomly have to question if the heroes are in the right or the wrong, either. "The Avengers" adapted the Ultimates, but removed all the offensive stuff and all the morally challenging issues. "The Winter Soldier" started that way, but soon degenerated into a fight against a nazi subgroup (and thus invalidated the whole idea they standed for). "Civil War" also had a promising start, but then degenerated into a conflict over personal issues (the fate of Bucky and Stark's parents). The original Civil War from comics had conflicting premises between writers, and soon replaced Iron Man, leader of one of the sides, with the villain Norman Osbourne (thus turning it into a dictatorship, followed by the inevitable superhero victory). Even the later comics of the Ultimates themselves have their highs and lows, but never lived up to the original series.

    Marvel would never publish a comic like the Ultimates nowadays. So let us treasure and value it.

  2. #32
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    That's an interesting take there. While I might not agree with all of it, I'll admit it's very thought-provoking and well-reasoned.
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  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimate Captain America View Post
    The Ultimates were released in 2002, and the world back then was a completely different one, in all levels. Marvel had just escaped from bankruptcy, but the risk was still near. Marvel was still clinging to characters and a style that were an innovation in the 1960s and 1970s, but were terribly dated by then. There was a fiercely loyal fandom that still followed them no matter what, but that fandom could only diminish: fans eventually retire (by moving to other hobbies, by work and family leaving them with less time and money to invest in hobbies, or simply by dying of old age), and the genre was basically unassailable for new readers. Out of comic books, DC blown the superhero genre to pieces with "Batman & Robin". "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" were promising new takes, but they yet had to live up to their potential; they could very well fail and the genre fall into obscurity once more. And out in the real world, the 9/11 shaked the American and international arena, the fear to terrorism and the War on Terror dominated everything.

    None of that is the same now in 2020. The superhero genre is definitely a staple of modern pop culture, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest franchise of all time, and Marvel Comics has no need to ever fear for its future again. The superhero comic books have been updated: designs and scenes are far less campy, dialogues are far less grandiloquent, there's more diversity and you don't require an encyclopedic knowledge of the full history of Marvel Comics simply to understand what's going on. And the presidency of Dubya Bush and the War on Terror are long gone. Can the Ultimates still be a relevant comic in 2020?

    Yes. Of course. Now more than ever.

    The Ultimates are an alternate universe version of the Avengers, but unlike Ultimate Spider-Man that does not mean a streamlined new version of the original characters and mythos (or, more correctly, it means that, but not just that). The Ultimates take the readers out of the comfort zone, defy their preconceptions about those characters and about superheroism in general. Captain America is usually seen as the paragon of every virtue known to man, it can be shocking to see him humbly deferring to a war-loving crusader like Bush. But then again, isn't Captain America a bit of a war-loving crusader himself? Isn't he troubled, both in comics and the MCU, by his inability to stop fighting and embrace peace? Why shouldn't he support Bush and the War on Terror? Ultimate Hulk is a cannibal, something that is truly terrible and that nobody could support, and his rampage through New York is a 9/11 type of disaster. But then again... isn't Hulk supposed to be a monster? Isn't the people, in-universe, afraid of him? Why shouldn't we see him as a monster, too? Why should he get absurd excuses like "Banner makes subconscious calculations to ensure that nobody ever dies" to allow him to get away with his usual massive destructions? Ultimate Henry Pym performs probably the most graphic and explicit case of domestic abuse ever seen in mainstream superhero comics, but then again, wasn't Pym already known mainly for that specific incident? So why should it be just a slap? Why not show the audience a bit of what domestic abuse can really look like? (and note that not even the Ultimates take it as far as it can really be). Black Widow is a a defected spy from the Soviet Union, who turns to be a traitor and kills children, but then again, why shouldn't she? Is it so weird for a trained agent to put her country above a military operation of another one? Wasn't she trained for killing and for infiltration, after all? Thor says that he's the reincarnation of a Norse god, and everybody thinks he's nuts, but why wouldn't they? How else would people realistically react to anyone saying such a thing? And then there's the more provocative scene: during the climax, fighting against an alien that also survived from the times of WWII, Captain America boasts that America, unlike France, did not surrender to the Nazis. But, although the phrase may be politically incorrect, it is not incorrect: Nazi Germany invaded France, the French authorities surrendered, and no amount of glorification of the French Resistance can change that. It's not a fact that people may like, but that's the thing about facts: that it is irrelevant if people like them or not, and a good provocative work puts such facts on people's face.

    But more than that, the Ultimates defy the very notion of superheroism. All superheroes are defined by the "Superman" ideal, the idea of a hero that willingly dedicates his whole life to fight against evil only because it's the right thing to do. We have seen heroes of all types everywhere in the sliding scale between villainy and the Superman ideal, defined by the place they have in that scale. And we also have the protagonist-centered morality, the premise that the protagonist of the story has to be in the right and have the moral high ground. Between both, superheroism as a norm, the idea that the Superman ideal is a desirable ideal (or that it can even exist to begin with) has hardly ever been defied. But it should. Dedicate your life to fight against evil... just because it's right? How can that be a motivation, the single motivation? And more, what isevil, what is the right thing to do? Comics usually make it easy for us: the one who is right is the protagonist. The antagonist may have a point, but he's ultimately wrong because of some reason, or because he's evil all along. Well, The Ultimates 2 does not make things easy for us. It is a story about the Ultimates, but it is also a story about the Liberators. It is a story about Thor being misunderstood, but also a story of everyone else reaction to an unlikely claim with very little to be backed on. Both sides have fair points, both sides do what from their perspective is the right thing to do. And the story does not tell us who is right and who is wrong: we have to figure it out ourselves.

    Nowadays, there are very little stories like that, if any. Superhero fiction is usually sweeter than diabetes. Provocation is mostly absent: stories sound as if writers had marketing bosses in their back, overseeing their work to make sure that nobody can ever get offended in the slightest. Even a minor and harmless joke like that "I'll reinstate prima-nocta" leads to an uproar between SJW, and the political correctness is reinforced even further. We seldomly have to question if the heroes are in the right or the wrong, either. "The Avengers" adapted the Ultimates, but removed all the offensive stuff and all the morally challenging issues. "The Winter Soldier" started that way, but soon degenerated into a fight against a nazi subgroup (and thus invalidated the whole idea they standed for). "Civil War" also had a promising start, but then degenerated into a conflict over personal issues (the fate of Bucky and Stark's parents). The original Civil War from comics had conflicting premises between writers, and soon replaced Iron Man, leader of one of the sides, with the villain Norman Osbourne (thus turning it into a dictatorship, followed by the inevitable superhero victory). Even the later comics of the Ultimates themselves have their highs and lows, but never lived up to the original series.

    Marvel would never publish a comic like the Ultimates nowadays. So let us treasure and value it.
    I find it funny how you consider comics like "The Ultimates" rare.

    Writers love to "deconstruct" the nature of superheroes to the point where the Heroic Age was highly celebrated when it was initially released. People were tired of having no one to root for in their stories.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCN24454 View Post
    I find it funny how you consider comics like "The Ultimates" rare.

    Writers love to "deconstruct" the nature of superheroes to the point where the Heroic Age was highly celebrated when it was initially released. People were tired of having no one to root for in their stories.
    Also a good point. It's one thing to examine how superpowers, superheroes, and even supervillains would be treated in contemporary human society, especially in light of how the issue of who the "good guys" and "bad guys" are in real life is subject to constant interpretation and reinterpretation depending on changing circumstances and social norms and mores. It's flatly another to make everyone involved in the story so thoroughly unlikeable, unsympathetic, and just plain unpleasant that it'd be very hard to care for any of them to survive or succeed. In shorter words, maybe, a superhero story --- of all things --- shouldn't make someone utter these eight deadly words: "I don't care what happens to these people."
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  5. #35
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    Ultimates isn't anything special but it did have indirect positive effects. It brought more awareness to the Avengers as an IP and partially paved the way for the MCU.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by PCN24454 View Post
    I find it funny how you consider comics like "The Ultimates" rare.

    Writers love to "deconstruct" the nature of superheroes to the point where the Heroic Age was highly celebrated when it was initially released. People were tired of having no one to root for in their stories.
    I basically agree. Millar had just come off a run on The Authority and was doing Ultimate X-Men, both of which had deconstuctionist or at least "edgy" elements. If they've since dialed things back a little, it's because that's what the trend is now.

    And keep in mind, they're still publishing stuff like Conan, Savage Avengers, and Punisher Max. Plus they just printed Miracle Man which helped start the whole superhero deconstruction trend.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaitou D. Kid View Post
    Ultimates isn't anything special but it did have indirect positive effects. It brought more awareness to the Avengers as an IP and partially paved the way for the MCU.
    It had its strengths and weaknesses. For example, all the years Busiek spent rehabilitating Hank Pym was thrown out the window because too many readers reacted as if what Ultimate Pym did to Janet was exactly what 616 Pym did, which was bad enough on its own. Millar took out all the nuance, and all the progress the character made to create a "meme" moment to make readers angry, and made Scarlet Witch and Quickilver into jokes over the implied incest angle. The parodying and extreme version had a bigger impact on comic pop culture which eclipsed the 616 to their detriment, and it took years for those characters to recover.

  8. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by PCN24454 View Post
    I find it funny how you consider comics like "The Ultimates" rare.

    Writers love to "deconstruct" the nature of superheroes to the point where the Heroic Age was highly celebrated when it was initially released. People were tired of having no one to root for in their stories.
    That's actually what I was talking about. What does it mean to "have someone to root for"? It means that you are not challenged by the narrative. It does not provoke you, nor it forces you to answer questions or decide something about an ambiguous point. The narrative already does that for you, serving the list of good and bad guys, and who are you supposed to root for, on a silver plate.

    As for "the people", I never said that the unchallenging style was not popular. It is, the MCU is the highest proof of that. But "more popular" does not mean "better", that's an argumentum ad populum.

    Quote Originally Posted by ed2962 View Post
    And keep in mind, they're still publishing stuff like Conan, Savage Avengers, and Punisher Max. Plus they just printed Miracle Man which helped start the whole superhero deconstruction trend.
    So? Do not confuse "violent" with "deconstruction". Violence is a tool that may be used for deconstruction, but not the only one; and it is not part of a deconstruction per se. Sometimes, as in Savage Avengers, violence is just violence. As for Conan and Punisher Max, those are not superhero comics to begin with. Conan is "Sword and sorcery" fantasy, Punisher Max is Neo-Noir.

  9. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Inquisitor View Post
    It had its strengths and weaknesses. For example, all the years Busiek spent rehabilitating Hank Pym was thrown out the window because too many readers reacted as if what Ultimate Pym did to Janet was exactly what 616 Pym did, which was bad enough on its own. Millar took out all the nuance, and all the progress the character made to create a "meme" moment to make readers angry, and made Scarlet Witch and Quickilver into jokes over the implied incest angle. The parodying and extreme version had a bigger impact on comic pop culture which eclipsed the 616 to their detriment, and it took years for those characters to recover.
    Pym has been associated to that storyline long before the Ultimates came into the scene, and still nowadays, years after Ultimate Marvel ceased to be published. You can't really "blame" Millar for it.

    What if the Ultimates had never been published? Would that have cemented Busiek's characterization? We are in the "what could have been" realm in there, but let me point that Dan Slott also tried to rehabilitate Pym in Mighty Avengers in 2009 (the same year when Ultimate Pym died in Ultimatum, ceasing to be an obstacle for such rehabilitation), but his attempts did not bear fruit either.

  10. #40
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    It's not bad to have morally grey stuff, and sometimes the point of a conflict is that there are no winners, but with the 616 universe starting to look like the Ultimate Universe in its "greyness", you can't really argue that it wasn't becoming redundant and a throwaway universe.

    You never want readers to feel like they wasted their time buying your book.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huntsman Spider View Post
    I can agree with that to some extent, at least in the sense that the idea that "superheroes would be dysfunctional, maladjusted screw-ups at best, and outright horrible excuses for human beings at worst, if there really were such a thing as superheroes" has long since ceased to be fresh or innovative.
    I totally agree, I feel like now with the popularity of the "aw shucks MCU" we are going to get a lot of navel gazing stories similar to "The Boys" and it is going to be insufferable.

    I enjoy altruistic heroism I don't need to see flawed heroes - we already have those in real life.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimate Captain America View Post
    Pym has been associated to that storyline long before the Ultimates came into the scene, and still nowadays, years after Ultimate Marvel ceased to be published. You can't really "blame" Millar for it.
    Pym was associated with it, but he had made progress Millar efforts completely rewrote the fans expectations that he was the same monster from the Ultimates. That's the problem, Millar overrode Busiek's impact in pop culture with the character. Heat like that took years to die down, but the heat wouldn't have risen to high without Millar's interpretation. Same with the Maximoff's.

    What if the Ultimates had never been published? Would that have cemented Busiek's characterization? We are in the "what could have been" realm in there, but let me point that Dan Slott also tried to rehabilitate Pym in Mighty Avengers in 2009 (the same year when Ultimate Pym died in Ultimatum, ceasing to be an obstacle for such rehabilitation), but his attempts did not bear fruit either.
    That's how it goes, storylines reshape how a character is viewed. Slott wouldn't had as much trouble with that before Millar, it would have bene much smoother just following Busiek. Millar turned that upside down. Because runs like Millar's reinforce things, just like with Scarlet Witch. Characters can't progress if they're constantly written badly, or do extreme things - what Pym originally di was awful and he deserved to be kicked off from the Avengers - over an artist misinterpretation of a scene. Millar excels at making characters do extreme things to get extreme reactions from the fans, and that extreme depiction had an impact on the character for years. It's not like Millar's Ultimates was obscure.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Inquisitor View Post
    Pym was associated with it, but he had made progress Millar efforts completely rewrote the fans expectations that he was the same monster from the Ultimates. That's the problem, Millar overrode Busiek's impact in pop culture with the character. Heat like that took years to die down, but the heat wouldn't have risen to high without Millar's interpretation. Same with the Maximoff's.



    That's how it goes, storylines reshape how a character is viewed. Slott wouldn't had as much trouble with that before Millar, it would have bene much smoother just following Busiek. Millar turned that upside down. Because runs like Millar's reinforce things, just like with Scarlet Witch. Characters can't progress if they're constantly written badly, or do extreme things - what Pym originally di was awful and he deserved to be kicked off from the Avengers - over an artist misinterpretation of a scene. Millar excels at making characters do extreme things to get extreme reactions from the fans, and that extreme depiction had an impact on the character for years. It's not like Millar's Ultimates was obscure.
    Well it's not like the 616 versions of Wanda and Piedro became an incestuous couple and writers didn't have stories dedicated to proving they weren't sleeping together. Bendis's House of M did way more damage to the Maximoffs than the Ultimates.

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimate Captain America View Post
    That's actually what I was talking about. What does it mean to "have someone to root for"? It means that you are not challenged by the narrative. It does not provoke you, nor it forces you to answer questions or decide something about an ambiguous point. The narrative already does that for you, serving the list of good and bad guys, and who are you supposed to root for, on a silver plate.

    As for "the people", I never said that the unchallenging style was not popular. It is, the MCU is the highest proof of that. But "more popular" does not mean "better", that's an argumentum ad populum.



    So? Do not confuse "violent" with "deconstruction". Violence is a tool that may be used for deconstruction, but not the only one; and it is not part of a deconstruction per se. Sometimes, as in Savage Avengers, violence is just violence. As for Conan and Punisher Max, those are not superhero comics to begin with. Conan is "Sword and sorcery" fantasy, Punisher Max is Neo-Noir.
    I know graphic violence isn't the same as deconstruction. I brought up those Conan and Punisher titles to contrast the idea that Marvel Comics are all sweetness and light now and they are afraid of offending anyone.

  15. #45
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    It doesn't make sense to me to blame Millar for Hank Pym. Blame Jim Shooter (although if you believe him, the slap wasn't intended to be as violent as the artwork made it out to be). Unfortunately, there are certain acts that, once a "hero" commits them, are almost impossible to walk back, and domestic violence is one of them. No matter how much 'progress' Hank Pym may make under one writer, there is a tendency for the next lazy writer to fall back on Hank Pym's default characterization of Hank Pym as a wife-beater. TBH i'm kinda surprised he is still even used in comics, rather than being shunted off to comics limbo like Starfox (Eros). Its not like there's a shortage of Ant-men or genius scientists that could take his place. I'm thankful that at least they didn't somehow work slapping Jan into the mcu depiction of Pym.

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