So…I just read All New, All Different Spider-Man #5 by Brian Michael Bendis. I enjoyed it. I have loved everything Bendis has written ever since I first picked up Ultimate Spider-Man. That is why I will be the first to admit that All New, All Different Spider-Man doesn’t feel right. Sure, Bendis’s dialogue is witty as ever, and Miles Morales is still a great young hero. However, (this is a little silly to say about a comic book) Miles’s new environment doesn’t feel authentic. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room in the Marvel Universe for a young Spider-Man, there is, but 616 in its current state is a bit of a mess.
Under different circumstances, I could see Miles easily fitting into the mainstream Marvel Universe, though right now, his addition is clumsy and ill-fitting, like most of the legacy characters currently headlining Marvel’s biggest titles. I’m not attacking the writers for this, I think they are all doing great jobs, but there are some definite problems in the editorial department. These are not new problems. The Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales’s original home, had suffered from this disease for years before it finally withered away. Too often important figures within companies take it upon themselves to make creative decisions forcing writers down paths that may damage the overall theme of the comics.
When it was created, the Ultimate Universe was a wonderful place where comic book readers could experience fresh and strange approaches to their favorite superheroes. Executive decisions tore it to shreds, leaving the writers to try and salvage what was left by stuffing the remains into the 616 universe. What we see now are some Ultimate characters and Ultimate-esque stories taking place in a universe that wasn’t made for them. It was a move that betrayed the foundation of both universes leaving fans with some okay stories that take place world that lacks the appeal fans had come to expect. I was there when the Ultimate universe got its start and I was there when Marvel decided to betray its readers.
In 2002 I was an awkward, nerdy kid who liked superheroes. I picked up a few comics here and there, I really liked Spider-Man, but I certainly wasn’t a hardcore comic reader. Like usual, I was browsing my local Borders (I miss the days when bookstores were everywhere) when I came across something that immediately captured my interest. A thick red tome bearing the title Ultimate Spider-Man Vol.1: Power and Responsibility. My curiosity drove me to pull the comic from the shelf and flip through a few pages. What I found inside shocked me. This comic starred a Peter Parker, who was just a few years older than me who was fighting some sort of monster I was completely unfamiliar with. After reading a few pages I learned that the monster was the Green Goblin, and the comic in my hand told the origin story of a completely new Spider-Man. It appealed to me on so many levels. The hero was a kid like I was and it was the very beginning of a new adventure. Marvel’s other comics were interesting, but I liked to experience stories from the beginning. 616 Spider-Man had 40 years of web swinging under his belt by 2002; that’s a hell of a lot of backstory to catch up on. With Ultimate Spider-Man I was able to say I was there at the beginning. Well, close to the beginning, because I looked at the shelf and saw that volumes 2 and 3 also available. Anyway, I bought volume one and read the entire thing on the way home. It was the most fun I had ever had reading a comic. From that moment on I was hooked. I needed volumes 2 and 3. A few days later they were added to what would eventually become a substantial collection. Every time a new trade was released I was there to snatch it up.
I would go on to buy nearly every Ultimate Comic released up until Ultimate End #5. During that time there were many ups and downs. What Marvel had created was special though. It was a series I was able to follow from glorious beginning to pitiful end. To this day I am still seeking some comics that can fill the void created by the absence of the Ultimate Universe. Marvel thought that they could take some popular elements from the Ultimate Universe and drop them into 616 in order to shuffle the ultimate readers over, but that’s not what the Ultimate Universe was about. Yes the characters and stories were fantastic, but for comic readers of the early 2000’s the Ultimate Universe was a universe all our own. It wasn’t crowded with decades of backstory. These were the world’s most popular heroes placed into a modern setting and made relatable (you know the same reason the movies are popular right now). For a young nerdy kid there was nothing better.
I’m a grown-up now, so chances are there won’t be another comic that can capture me like Ultimate Spider-Man did. Still, I wouldn’t mind reading something fresh, maybe a new Ultimate Universe made for the kids who are just now discovering comics. Marvel, and even DC, should provide each generation with their own version of these iconic heroes. From a business perspective, some of the Ultimate sales were weak, but superheroes are now bigger than ever and every kid wants to be there when his favorite superhero gets their start. Trust me, it’s pretty cool growing up alongside your favorite hero. To this day Eddie Brock’s speech to a young Peter Parker about relationships has stuck with me. The Ultimate Universe was a big part of my life and Marvel is doing a huge disservice to their younger fans by not providing them something like that. Rebranding books and slapping new “#1’s” on them isn’t good enough. Listen Marvel, give the kids the heroes they deserve and they will give you their parents’ money.