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.
History of the Ultimate Universe
In a sentence, Ultimatum is the superhero comic that will make you hate superhero comics and will have you reading nothing but Harvey Pekar, R. Crumb, and Daniel Clowes for the rest of your comics reading career. (My apologies to Fantagraphics.) Jeph Loeb really should have apologized to Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis for destroying their carefully crafted, simultaneously optimistic and nihilistic universe with all the skill of a child knocking over sand castles and then pulling its pants down to take a piss on the wretched ruins.
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.
Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #1 introduces a more traditional version of Wolverine to the Ultimate Marvel Universe. He is gruff and violent, but actually wants to co-exist with humans and leave his dark past behind. In a later filler arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis would explore the comic potential of a Wolverine/Spider-Man team up, but he looks at the more serious implications of being a mutant in the Ultimate Universe while also making Spidey kind of geek out around him. Even if Sabretooth is a fur coat wearing punching bag and some of jokes don’t land, it is a rare privilege to see comics legend Matt Wagner put Spider-Man through his acrobatic paces and use the full comics page (or two) to its storytelling potential.
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.)