Marvel’s new Ultimate Universe is ramping up for its full launch following its revival in this year’s Ultimate Invasion miniseries. Nearly twenty-five years after the original debut of Marvel’s Ultimate imprint, and almost a decade after the Universe was destroyed and all of its titles concluded, it has come back for a new contemporary audience.
Unlike its predecessor, which birthed a fresh, new Marvel Universe, this iteration of Ultimate Marvel comes with some backstory. Before the launch of the Ultimate Universe titles begins in early 2024, here are ten things that will help readers prepare to jump into these books and hit the ground running.
10 The Ultimate Universe Was Destroy And Recreated
This Ultimate Universe is a completely different reality from the old ultimate universe, Earth-1610, which was destroyed in 2015’s Secret Wars #1 – written by Jonathan Hickman, penciled and inked by Esad Ribić, colored by Ive Svorcina and lettered by Clayton Cowles. Instead, this universe is the newly introduced Earth-6160. While there are some obvious visual homages to the original Ultimate Universe, with certain character designs, this new version promises to be something entirely different from what’s come before. Like the original Ultimate Universe, readers are meeting Earth-6160 at a time when many of its superheroes are only beginning to emerge.
9 The Maker Recreated The Ultimate Universe Using Time Travel
The lack of superheroes on Earth-6160 up until now is the doing of the Maker, the evil Reed Richards from the original Ultimate Universe. As seen in the miniseries Ultimate Invasion – written by Jonathan Hickman, penciled by Bryan Hitch, inked by Andrew Currie, colored by Alex Sinclair and lettered by Joe Caramagna – the Maker used time travel to take secret control of the newly created world, and to prevent or modify the origins of Marvel characters, meaning most don’t have powers yet. In Ultimate Invasion #2, the Maker gives a rundown of what he’s changed, ranging from turning Hulk into a supervillain, to killing the Fantastic Four, except his alternate Reed Richards.
8 Most Characters Still Exist
While the Maker changed a lot of things, Earth-6160 is still a recognizable Marvel Universe. There’s a Tony Stark, a Captain America, and many other classic Marvel characters. Their origins are different, but they’re still a version of the heroes known and loved by longtime readers. In Ultimate Universe #2 the Maker lists off those he’s discovered – including this world’s Doctor Strange and Thor – and admits that no matter his meddling, some things are constants across universes. The Maker might have tried to prevent the rise of superheroes, but it seems that the universe has a way of falling into a familiar shape.
7 Supervillains Secretly Rule The World
The Maker’s control of Earth-6160 involves him secretly manipulating global geopolitics, via a council of supervillainous world leaders – the new Ultimate Universe’s version of the Illuminati. With one nation at a time acting as a fake global ‘enemy’, maintaining a relative peace based on the illusion of conflict allows these twisted versions of familiar characters to maintain supremacy over the world’s populace. These leaders include villainous versions of many Marvel heroes, ranging from the Hulk to Moon Knight, to Colossus and Magik. Now, with the Maker defeated at the end of Ultimate Invasion, it’s up to the newly emerging generation of superheroes to fight back against this unjust status quo and expose this world for what it is.
6 The Universe Will Tackle Contemporary Issues And Themes
In an interview, Jonathan Hickman, this new Ultimate Universe’s architect, explained how the core of this new iteration is that it tackles contemporary themes and worries. For example, in Ultimate Invasion #4, Howard Stark admits that he’s been willingly blind to the world’s problems because it was convenient, and it would have disrupted his relatively easy life to take action. This isn’t dissimilar from how many react to global issues today, with a steadfast refusal to acknowledge that things could be better, since it would require massive, and unfortunately painful change. Like the original Ultimate Universe, these stories reflect modern concerns, blown up to a superhero extreme.
5 Tony Stark Is Leading The New Generation Of Heroes
At the end of Ultimate Invasion, a younger-than-usual Tony Stark takes up the mantle of Iron Lad, inspired by his father Howard’s resolve. Joined by this world’s Reed Richards, Tony will be recruiting various heroes in the upcoming Ultimate Universe #1 one-shot, written by Jonathan Hickman and penciled by Stefano Caselli. This one-shot will likely set up this world’s version of the Ultimates, the Avengers analogue-team of the Ultimate Universe. The only remaining question is whether this team will get their own book, which has yet to be announced. It seems more than likely, since Tony’s story is only getting started.
4 The Maker Will Return
In Ultimate Invasion #4, Howard Stark locks The Maker, his army, and the forces of this world’s Kang the Conqueror away in “the City”, the Maker’s base, where time is dilated, with thousands of years passing inside the city for every one year outside it. As explained by the Maker’s evil council, the City will be locked for two years, but once it’s open the Maker and the hyper-evolved society trapped inside will emerge. This gives both the heroes and villains of the Universe a countdown, and an incentive to try to fix, or control, the world in the meantime.
3 There’s A New Ultimate Spider-Man Coming
One of the biggest changes seen in Ultimate Invasion is that the Maker prevents a young Peter Parker from being bitten by the radioactive Spider that gives him his powers. This is especially notable because the original Ultimate Spider-Man was the book that first introduced the original Ultimate Universe. Now, writer Jonathan Hickman and penciler Marco Checchetto are launching a new Ultimate Spider-Man as Earth-6160’s flagship ongoing book, with Hickman hinting that this new version of the character is “A bit of a Peter B. Parker situation”, referencing the middle-aged Spider-Man of the Spider-Verse films, suggesting that it won’t be the teenage Parker of the Ultimate Universe under the mask.
2 It’s Not Too Far Away From The Mainline Marvel Universe
In Ultimate Invasion #1, the Maker is able to jump from mainstream Earth-616 to the new Earth-6160 using tech stolen from the Illuminati, which proves that the two universes aren’t so far apart. The fact that the Illuminati don’t know that the Maker’s been defeated means they’re likely to try to chase after him. In Ultimate Invasion #1 the Maker also gives Miles Morales — one of the few other refugees from the original Ultimate Universe — a seemingly blank business card, which is apparently the key to contacting him, even across universes. This Chekov’s gun that almost guarantees that the two universes will be crossing over before too long.
1 There Are Even More Ultimate Titles Coming
Beyond Ultimate Universe #1 and Ultimate Spider-Man, there are more books coming in the following months. Writer Bryan Hill and penciler Stefano Caselli are creating a new Ultimate Black Panther, dealing with the emergence of the previously isolated Wakanda, pitted against the forces of the villainous Ultimate Moon Knight. Meanwhile, writer/artist Peach Momoko is creating a new version of Ultimate X-Men, with a focus on the character of Armor, promising to dive into myth and folklore. As this new Ultimate Universe expands, more books are sure to follow, and the sky’s the limit with which classic characters and teams could be coming next.
Ultimate Universe #1 releases 11/01/23, Ultimate Spider-Man #1 releases 01/10/24, Ultimate Black Panther #1 releases 02/07/24 and Ultimate X-Men #1 releases 03/06/24, all from Marvel Comics.
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