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Top Five Ultimate Trade Paperbacks

Top Five Month continues (check here to see an archive of all the top five lists featured so far) with a look at the top five Ultimate tradepaperbacks (only counting the single ones, not the combined ones).


5. Ultimates Vol. 1

The first Ultimates trade opens up extremely well, with a depiction of Captain America during World War II, and the formation of the group in future issues is handled well, too. Bryan Hitch is given a lot of neat stuff to draw, and he does an amazing job with it.

The only drawback between this and later issues is that it is a bit high on the setup end of things.

4. Ultimate X-Men Vol. 1

Adam Kubert (and to a lesser extent, Andy Kubert) really help Mark Millar out on this story, especially how well Adam depicts the X-Men early on.

In any event, this is an action-packed introduction to the X-Men and Magneto that also manages to give readers a decent introduction to the characters depicted in the series.

And the Cyclops reveal at the end of issue #5 (or is it #4?)? That was sooo cool.

3. Ultimates Vol. 2

This volume has a lot of the greatness of the first volume (including awesome Hitch artwork), but a tighter plot overall, which really helps the readability of the series.

2. Ultimate X-Men Vol. 6

Mark Millar’s final storyline on the title was mesmerizing with the amount of story he was able to pack in here, while all the while showing that he had a real thematic purpose with his run on the book, and it had a direction that later runs really were unable to come close to matching.

Ultimate X-Men could be the best monthly work Millar has ever done.

1. Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 2

The first volume just barely misses the list, mostly due to the relative silliness of the Green Goblin. This second volume, however, is a lot more down to Earth and is a well-plotted and well-dialogued series, particularly as it allows Bendis to do crime work, which really seems to be a passion of his.

This trade also includes Ultimate Spider-Man #13, which we have already established (when it made the Top 50 Countdown) was a remarkable issue.

It is weird to see so little Bendis on my list – I think Millar’s work, while less frequent that Bendis’, tend to stick out a bit more.

Well, that’s the list!

Agree? Disagree? Let me know!


Tom Fitzpatrick

July 16, 2008 at 5:22 am

Considering that there’s only 4 ongoing Utlimate books, it’s probably not hard to agree with your list.

Tho’, I might have included Ellis’ Ultimate Nightmare.

USM#10 is one of the greatest Spider-man comics ever written.

I would offer ULTIMATE SIX as an honorable mention (makes it, heh, sixth place?). Bendis came up with an excellent reason for the Sinister Six to form, and the back half is basically just an Ultimates fight with Spidey caught in the middle. Loved it.

hmmm okay here’s what i think: good call on ult x-men vol 1 and ultimates vol 1. however, i think ultimates vol 2 is not worthy, and i also think that millar’s final ult x-men run with return of the king was actually his worst on the title. i would venture to say that ult x-men vol 2 would be a good choice for the list, as well as the volume with bkv’s take on longshot. in fact, i think bkv’s final ult x-men arc would be a decent choice as well, considering how masterfully he wove his dangling plot threads together. oh, and i think you have to have to put ult war on there (which, i think, is sold as ult x-men vol 5) if only for bachalo’s brilliant art (the best of his career thus far, in my opinion).

Would Marvel Zombies count as an Ultimate title? I mean, it originated with Ultimate FF… The FIRST Marvel Zombies was really, really cool (better than XMen Vol 1 IMHO…more accessible to casual fans). Then it devolved into ridiculousness.

I always meant to read Ultimate DD/Elektra because it was Mike Carey’s first Marvel work (or maybe second, but close up there).

Is it any good?

I’d give the top four slots to the four volumes of The Ultimates and then the fifth slot to Ultimate X-Men vol 1

Langhorne Fats

July 16, 2008 at 9:39 am

One of my favorite comic moments ever was in Ultimates Vol. 1 #7. It’s the introduction of the Black Ops team and they’re fighting the Chitauri in the twin towers (or somewhere similar.) Hawkeye is pinned down in one building, and Black Widow is in the other building. She asks the command dispatch what floor Hawkeye is on, and then tells her air support to drop a gun out of the helicopter on her mark; proceeds to JUMP out of her building, catch the huge machine gun in mid-air and lands in the other building, opening fire, and saving Hawkeye. Imaginative fight sequence, and perfectly, jaw-droppingly, realized by Hitch.

If we’re looking for more Bendis, I would give an honorable mention to the Carnage arc in USM. Peter and MJ’s reaction to Gwen’s death (or “death”) is absolutely touching.

It’s funny, I never really read Ult. FF, and it doesn’t seem like I’m missing out on much. I understand their status quo well enough from the crossovers, but their Ultimate series doesn’t really seem to do it for me.

MattD: Ult. DD/Elektra is okay, a bit ham-fisted with a by-the-numbers rape storyline (I feel like a creep writing that, rape is a horrible thing, but it’s just an antagonist that we’ve seen before) and I feel that it’s one of the main reasons DD and Elektra aren’t more prominent in the Ultimate universe.

It’s a little bit weird that all my favorite Marvel Bendis stories (USM 13, USM Annual 1, Ultimate X-Men with Wolverine and the kid in the Cave, the New Avengers issues with Cap talking to Spider-Woman and with JJJ, maybe an issue of the Pulse) are all done-in-one stories when he’s basically the father of the six issue arc.

I will always be partial to UXM Vol. 10: Cry Wolf. Brian K. Vaughan wrote the best Gambit in a LONG time when this came out (at least until Mike Carey got his hands on him recently).

I think Brian Vaughn’s run on Ultimate X-Men was very good – I particularly would have recommended Magnetic North or The Tempest. I think his run was greatly superior to Millars.

I am also a fan of most of the Ultimate Fantastic Four books; I particularly liked N-Zone or Inhumans.

Both Bendis and BKV wrote Ultimate X-Men comics on par with or superior to Millar’s (which I liked, mostly). Bendis & BKV were able to give the characters more personality, expand the Ult. X-Men universe without cluttering it, and craft enjoyable stories with crisp dialogue. Millar’s cynicism, tendency to make his characters crueler than necessary, and lack of character development hindered his run. I do like how most of the characters got their own “cool moments,” and how he did not shy away from making Wolverine a jerk.

I was always partial to the 3rd (I think) USM trade. The convergence of the reality show Kraven, a solid Doc Ock, dealing early on with the media and some laugh out loud zingers from Pete really sold me on the series and Ultimate concept. Of course that didn’t last very long (I checked out after the Carnage stuff and was never really invested in any other Ultimate book), but that’s my favorite Ultimate Universe trade.

I thought that the opening Ult.FF trade co-written by Bendis & Millar might have been worth a mention. Maybe Ellis’ Doom story too. That book seems to suffer from the same problems as the 616 title in some respects. It’s still pretty solid in my opinion.

I quite liked Ultimate Iron Man too, it was a very unusual origin but was a good read and had lovely art. Can’t disagree with both Ultimates. As mentioned previous Ult. X-Men really went through a golden patch with Millar, Bendis & BKV. It’s sad to see what became of it.

While not saying anyone is making this point exactly, I just wish to note that this list isn’t meant to be, like, “These five are good everything else is crap.”

I just think these are the five best. There’s been a lot of good books out there from the Ultimate titles.


July 16, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I would’ve put Ellis’ Doom arc in there (the 2nd FF trade).
I think it was one of the best at updating the characters and powers – it was still the same frame work as the original Marvel stories, but he really made it work – explanations of powers, slight twists on elements (Doom in particular) and it was a nice tight story, unlike the first arc by Bendis and Millar, which gave the worst of both their styles, and Ellis’ next arc which felt like he was phoning it in.
And the Stuart Immomen art is, as always, quite tasty.


July 16, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Bendis & BKV were able to give the characters more personality, expand the Ult. X-Men universe without cluttering it, and craft enjoyable stories with crisp dialogue.

I thought Bendis’ opening arc was good fun, but his second just felt dismal to me – he wrapped up a huge conspiracy threat he created in his first arc, but it never felt like a threat as it was dealt with so quickly, and he killed off the Beast for no apparent reason.
There was also the problem of Benids introducing a whole bunch of new characters which Vaughn then wrote out of the book as quickly as he could.

I thought Millar’s run on Ultimate X-Men was great (barring a slow patch in the middle). Bendis’s short run was fine, but Vaughan’s never grabbed me at all.

Ultimates Volume 1 had two of my favorite lines of any medium ever. Both are spoken by Cap.

The first when he’s fighting the evil Nazi-Alien (my memory fails me on the name) and he’s like “Why don’t you just surrender, herr captain?” or some such. Cap flips him onto his back and starts clubbing him with his shield.
“Surrender? Surrender?! You think this A on my head stands for France?!”

And the greatest line in all media ever, after he whups Hank Pym:
“How big do you feel now, scumbag? How big do you feel now?”

[…] Review: Brian Cronin, CBR on his Top Five Ultimate Trade Paperbacks […]

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