Ultimate Spider-Man 001 wrap around cover by David Lafuente
Everyone knows the origin of Spider-Man. Mild mannered Peter Parker, an orphaned science nerd living with his elderly relations, gains and abuses remarkable powers from a radioactive spider bite before losing his beloved uncle and learning that 'with great power comes great responsibility.' The X-Men were average teenagers until a genetic anomaly gave them amazing powers at puberty, and after being gathered and trained, they made it their job to protect a world that hates and fears them. Accidental gamma radiation poisoning turned Dr. Bruce Banner into the mighty Hulk. The Avengers were an odd collection of past and present heroes banding together against domestic, international and even cosmic threats. A freak storm in space changed the Fantastic Four into super powered explorers and heroes.
But in 2000, publisher Bill Jemas came to the realization that with (then) 40 years of history, the Marvel Universe was simply too daunting for the young reader. How did a ten year old just jump into a story without understanding what happened to make Spider-Man hate the Green Goblin, or why Dr. Doom considered Reed Richards his nemesis? So, in October of that year, Marvel launched the Ultimate line, with the release of its first title, Ultimate Spider-Man! The differences were apparent right from the get go. In Spidey's original appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, his origin was told in eleven pages. In USM, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley took seven issues! But the gambit worked, and this new version of the ole Webhead was soon joined by a grittier team of young X-Men, a Fantastic Four now young geniuses instead of adult scientists, an Incredible Hulk who loved booze, broads and barbecue, Avengers who were as dysfunctional as they were heroic.
For the next nine years, the Ultimate line did just what it said it would, drawing in new readers who liked the more modern feel of the characters, and winning over the old timers who can be (as we all know) a tough audience to crack.
But then, in 2008 in an interview on YouTube, Ultimate X-Men artist David Finch revealed that this version Ultimate Line was coming to an end in Jeph Loeb's Ultimatum, a five part series that changed the scope if the Ultimate-verse forever.
Now, as Marvel Comics relaunches the line, the first two reboots are flying off the shelf. Ultimate Avengers 001 (writer Mark Millar and artist Carlos Pacheco) and Ultimate Spider-Man 001 (writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David LaFuente) have both been scheduled for a second printing after selling out both initial orders and reorders one week after their release August 12th. Promising to serve as a gateway book to new stories never seen before with new takes on the heroes who survived the devastation of Ultimatum, and new characters who've never been seen before at all, the newly relaunched Ultimate line continues to bring in the readers young and old...
At least until the next world destroying event ten years down the line.