Ultimate X-Men #7-9 goes for a more political look at the well-worn “mutant as a metaphor for oppressed minorities” story by making the formerly shady Weapon X folks completely aligned with the US government even if members of the government and military want to shut them down.
With a dose of political satire, some soaring team-up action grounded in character moments (Storm struggling with her power; Quicksilver’s daddy issues; Wolverine the reformed assassin), and a robust arc for Cyclops, Ultimate X-Men #4-6 is definitely an improvement over the preceding three issues. The “death” of Beast is a cheap storytelling ploy, and I am still skeezed out from Wolverine’s sexual liaison with Jean Grey, but Millar and the Kuberts end this first arc on a triumphant, if dark note albeit with some skeletons in the closet waiting to be brought out for the following “Return to Weapon X” storyline.
Mark Millar and Adam Kubert’s work on Ultimate X-Men #1-3 really is the blockbuster action take on the X-Men, but there is enough flashes of characterization, pretty layouts (Not so much those ugly leather costumes.), and clever twists like Wolverine being a bona fide villain and Colossus’ old crime boss supplying Magneto with a nuke. It’s not a particularly deep comic and scratches the surface of the idea of “post-humanism”, but Ultimate X-Men #1-3 is adequate popcorn entertainment, which led to it selling like hotcakes. (Ultimate X-Men #1 was the number one book in December 2000 with 117,085 copies, and issues 2 and 3 stayed in the top 3 with numbers around the 90,000 range.)
Dan Slott is back, delivering a tale of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s struggle to maintain their family in the face of Secret Wars. However, references to Hickman’s massive event are non-existent. Instead, Dan Slott creates a dystopian world, reminiscent of the worlds of Orwell and Huxley, where supervillains hunt superheroes in the name of a despotic overlord. Despite the departure from the Manhattan that Spidey traditionally swings through, Dan Slott proves that he’s still more than capable of telling a story that puts the wall-crawler’s heart and determination on full display.
For nearly every massively popular superhero, chances are there’s an equally popular love interest behind that hero. Iron Man loves Pepper Potts, Superman loves Lois Lane, and Spider-Man loves…okay, he’s loved a couple people over the years. Gwen Stacy, Peter’s first love, cared for Peter but hated Spider-Man, a dynamic that would have inevitably doomed the relationship, even if the Green Goblin hadn’t sent her to an early grave. Black Cat represent the dangerous, thrill-seeking side of Spider-Man’s life. She was the opposite of Gwen: Black Cat loved the Spider but had no interest in his Peter Parker persona, a fact that Peter himself couldn’t reconcile. Mary Jane Watson, however, was what many readers consider to be Peter’s ultimate love interest, who loved both sides of Peter’s identity, and ultimately married him.