Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?

Is he strong? Listen bud, he’s got radioactive blood. Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead. Hey, there goes the Spider-Man! “Spider-Man” written by Bob Harris and Paul Francis Webster.

As is our want, my dear friend and editor Bob Harrison asked me if I had read this year’s version of Ultimate Spider-Man #1. I said I hadn’t, and I felt the last thing this particular Earth needs is still another Spider-Man book. Bob is a family man without sufficient time to debate me on this; he knows my position on this sort of thing because it’s his job to read my stuff here at Pop Culture Squad, so his simply said “Well, you should. It’s very good, and Jonathan Hickman wrote it.”

Bob’s never steered me wrong and, yes, I really like Hickman’s stuff. I haven’t read all that much of it lately as I haven’t followed the sundry X-Mens since they became, much like Russian nesting dolls, the first comic book franchise to spawn its own massively incestuous comic book franchise. That was around 1983. Had I been more observant, I might have had a similar reaction to The Killing Joke.

Like the word “unique,” the word “ultimate” is an absolute. One thing cannot be more ultimate than another. Ultimate is the top of the peak, and grammatically speaking there isn’t room up there for another. Yet we’ve had more Ultimate Spider-Man #1s in the past few years than we’ve had Doctor Strange #1s in the past few weeks. Is this new Ultimate even Ultimater?

I read the latest Ultimate Spider-Man #1 and, damn, Bob was right. It was one of the better superhero comics I’ve read in a while and I am curious to see where all this will go. Characters in the Peter Parker mythos have taken other paths and, in contrast, it’s interesting to see their trajectory. I texted Bob back, and asked if I should read the prequels, Ultimate Invasion and Ultimate Universe. I did, and I was similarly impressed.

Word-of-mouth always is the best kind of publicity a commercial property can receive. I trust Bob’s check from Marvel’s marketing department is in the mail.

I read the first Marvel Ultimate book when it came out two dozen years ago, and I enjoyed it a lot. Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Art Thibert and Bill Jemas did a fine job establishing a variant Marvel Universe and, in short order, expanding it into its own line. And, because gravity works, Marvel then expanded that expansion and came out with a bewildering number of spin-offs, mini-series and other fodder for the Great Marvel Marketing Maw.

Sure, it took them about a dozen full issues to do what Steve Ditko did in eleven pages, but things were different in the summer of 1962. That was before comics fans had developed patience and deep pockets.

So I also was concerned that this Ultimate Relaunch (no, that’s not an actual title — not yet, anyway) would lead to a similarly massive and ridiculous expansion. Indeed, I still am. Gravity works, and Mickey likes to get fed.

I’m also curious about how many Spiders we’re going to have in this latest Ultimate universe. Will there be another Ultimate Miles Morales? Ultimate Ben Reilly? Ultimate Spider-Gwen? I’d say an Ultimate Venom and/or Carnage will be much more likely than Donald Trump getting the Republican nomination, and I note that just about the only way Trump can lose that nomination is if Nikki Haley shoots the Orange Skull on Fifth Avenue in front of a sea of iPhones. But one of the Spider-Men will be in the background.

Wait a minute.

The Ultimate Donald Trump?

Oy vey iz mir! And we thought Mayor Wilson Fisk was scary.

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