Comics

Marvel’s All-New Ultimates Could Be So Much Better

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Oh, All-New Ultimates #1. You’ve got it all, you know? A fun, diverse team of teen superheroes. Slick cover art. A universe without the baggage 616 carries.

How I want to love you. I really, really do. But sometimes even shouting “let me love you!!” at something doesn’t make it happen.

Of course, any long-time comic book reader knows first issues can be deceptive, so I’m willing to stick it out for a while. But the series’s premiere, penned by Michel Fiffe, leaves a lot to be desired.

Spoilers Follow.

Where to start?

Most of the antagonists are 1980s-esque mutant street gangs, clad in neons and puffy vests. The only hint the leads are teenagers comes in shoehorned lines about Craigslist and texting (which frankly doesn’t make them teens so much as people who live in America sometime after the year 2003). And Amilcar Pinna’s art definitely leans toward muddled in action scenes.

They're talking about texting so they must be "hip teenz".

They’re talking about texting so they must be “hip teenz”.

Maybe most confusing is Jessica Drew’s new Black Widow costume, complete with frumpy haircut and pillow red coat. I can’t imagine why this was a design choice and how it reflects the character. I can’t even figure out why she’d take the title Black Widow after this universe’s history with the codename, but…okay. We’ll see where it goes.

Black Widow fashion circa a 1994 Land's End catalog.

Black Widow’s costume was probably ordered from a 1994 Land’s End catalog.

All-New Ultimates doesn’t have to be this way. This doesn’t have to be another boring team book relying on the occasional “Craigslist is cool, right?” quip. There’s a lot to play with here: teen heroes reeling from a major fall-out, a diverse cast led by the fascinating Jessica Drew (the female clone of Peter Parker in this universe), and a pretty solid anchor in Miles Morales’s popular Spider-Man character.

Even better: none of the characters are so established they can’t add even more diversity and inventiveness to the group. At least three of the characters are new enough that their backstories can be fleshed out, and the other three aren’t so entrenched in history they can’t be expanded on, too.

Now obviously you can’t expect — or want to! — hit on all of this in the first issue. But geeze, where’s the humor? The spunk? A threat that isn’t ridiculous for all the wrong reasons? Can we even get some hint that they’re teenagers?

All-New Ultimates could be fun, fresh, and witty. It could stand alongside a solid teen team book like its 616-counterpart Young Avengers. Most importantly, it could further cement Marvel’s recent push for diversity. And hopefully it will. There’s still time.

It’s just too bad that issue one doesn’t live up to its potential.

Writer, knitter, firebrand. Likes superheroes, cats, and changing the world.

1 Comment

  1. Rachel

    May 2, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Miles’ BFF being beaten up for his lunch money isn’t teenagery enough??

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