Ultimate Thor from the Ultimate Universe wields his mighty hammer.

Ultimate Universe #1 Review

Written by: Jonathan Hickman

Art by: Stefano Caselli

Coloring by: David Curiel

Lettering by: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Editing by: Michelle Marchese, Wil Moss

It can be said that the best way to write a chapter in a story is to ask new questions as you answer old ones. This issue does that well but also makes me think that this strategy is not enough to capture and hold my unabashed interest.

Quick warning, much like DC’s Knight Terrors, this is not actually the first issue of the series. Despite marketing trailers and the #1 on the issue’s cover, you will not get everything you should out of this story without reading Ultimate Invasion first. I didn’t, and I have to say I was very confused. I’m going to go back and read it, but my thoughts in this review of Ultimate Universe are those of someone led to believe he could start here.

Potentially major spoilers moving forward, you have been warned.

Spoilers Ahead

This Ultimate Universe is incredibly different from the mainline 616 universe. It seems to have more in common with Battleworld from Secret Wars, an event by the same writer as Ultimate Universe. The world has been separated into multiple parts, with reimagined heroes and villains serving as kings or wardens of their section. There is a threat that feels exciting and something that we couldn’t have in the original Marvel Universe.

It just… it feels a bit flat. It could be the art style, but much of the action and drama feels low energy. The story and things happening are important, and the characters feel serious, but the art just doesn’t feel dynamic. I think it has a lot to do with how much this issue utilizes close-up shots of everyone grimacing. It’s almost as if that’s all anyone can do, grimace or look neutral. Maybe it’s because these versions of the main cast – Iron Man, Dr. Doom, Thor, and Sif – are all less bombastic than their 616 counterparts. It ultimately makes them feel like they’re going through the motions. There are important things around them, and it feels like they’re just playing a part.

This could be intentional. I haven’t read Ultimate Invasion so I’m sure there is a lot of context that I’m missing. I strongly suggest that you do not start with this issue, Ultimate Invasion is the one to start with, but I do wonder if previous chapters can make another early chapter hit more. The issues I have with Ultimate Universe feel more mechanical, and that doesn’t feel like something context can fix.

Check Out Marvel’s New Ultimate Universe

While I don’t think Ultimate Universe is as strong as Hickman’s other Marvel project that came out this year, G.O.D.S., I do think it is worth picking up at the comic book store. If no other reason, than to get some context for Ultimate Spider-Man, X-Men, and Black Panther coming next year. I seriously can’t wait for the reinvention of these characters.

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