I can’t seem to figure out the specific appeal of Ultimatum, other than that it maybe appeals to folks who want to see all their favourite Marvel characters die awful, horrible deaths that would make the producers of the Saw films look away in disgust. Wasp eaten alive by the Blob for some reason? Check. Dr. Strange’s head popped like a grape by Dormammu? Check. Giant-Man blown to bits by suicide bomber Madroxes? Check. Also, with its rampant lateness (thanks again, Jeph Loeb), it is now responsible for making the usually clockwork-like Ultimate Spider-Man run several weeks behind due to its involvement. Worst of all, with the Ultimate line relaunching as Ultimate Comics or some such nonsense in a few months, I’m getting the feeling that all of the death and destruction will be magically undone by the end of it, rendering the entire series even more pointless.
However, despite Ultimatum’s best efforts to drag it down, the letter U is on a bit of a hot streak lately. There are a surprising number of quality titles beginning with the 21st letter of the alphabet lately. Vertigo’s Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, is off to a strong start, and may be well on its way to being the line’s next big hit. The $1 first issue helped, but the fact that it’s a well-executed series with a solid premise (a guy whose dad penned a Harry Potter-style fantasy series starring him may be, in reality, a fictional construct) certainly doesn’t hurt. There’s also The Unknown, from Boom! Studios, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Minck Oosterveer, a four-part mini about a terminally ill detective and her new hired muscle, which is also off to a great start. The second Umbrella Academy miniseries recently wrapped up, continuing to mine a terrific vein of superhero sci-fi weirdness that brings to mind Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol.
My favourite of all these, though, doesn’t actually begin with U, but it does feature prominently in the title—The Great Unknown is a five-part miniseries from Duncan Rouleau (the writer/artist behind the recent Metal Men mini from DC), published by Image. It stars a slacker doofus named Zach Feld who lives with his parents and gets drunk all the time, despite being a visionary genius inventor. The problem is, every time Zach has a great new idea, someone just barely beats him to the patent office with it. Is he perpetually too late, or is someone stealing the ideas right out of his head? The mystery unfolds further in flashbacks to an experiment from Zach’s college days, while he follows various clues and avoids the televised intervention his family is trying to stage with him for a reality TV show. Rouleau’s eccentric narrative and tripped-out art style may be off-putting at first, but it’s a pretty rewarding read, filled with oddball humour and conspiratorial mystery.
I am most certainly feeling the love for the letter U these days, even if it does make for a confusing Wednesday at the ol’ comic shop—these books, for whatever reason, often ship the same week! Good day to U and yours.