Drowning in comics

Here in Manchester, with the September weather alternating between rain and shine there’s been plenty of reason to stay holed up inside, poring over comics both old and new. Of course, the enjoyment to be derived from such an activity varies depending on what you happen to be reading.

Take Robert Kirkman’s Ultimate X-Men, which started promisingly before getting bogged down in meandering storylines that were more interested in introducing slightly altered versions of classic characters than actual characterisation. By the end, you can tell his heart isn’t in it, and the Apocalypse arc that closes his stint on the title is particularly disastrous, featuring a villain aimlessly wandering around destroying things whilst the heroes fight him. It dragged on for four issues, the template never varied, and the end result was a mess.

Mind you, nothing in that run was anywhere near as bad as Ultimates 3 #1, Jeph Loeb’s painful attempt to mimic the tone Mark Millar established in the previous two volumes. With plot points revolving around a leaked sex tape, a suicidal team member, and an incestuous relationship, it smacks of an attempt to be edgy without any understanding of how to make it work. I’ve written before about how oversaturation damaged the Ultimates imprint more than anything else, but make no mistake, Ultimates 3 basically scorched the earth, sending the entire line on a downward spiral from which it has never recovered. Indeed, between Hunger and Cataclysm the Ultimate universe may soon be coming to an end, and at this point that would be no great loss (as long as Marvel can find a role for Miles Morales).

On a more positive note, rereading Batman & Robin #1 inspired me to order the three trade paperback collections of Grant Morrison’s work on the title. My purchase of the first issue upon release was immediately followed by one of my periodic comic-reading lapses, so the rest of the material will be new to me. Meanwhile, Invincible #47-59 offer a much better example of the kind of work Kirkman is capable of producing at his best, and no doubt I’ll soon be spending some time with the glut of Punisher MAX issues.

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