Wednesday, 27 June 2012

'Ultimatum: Requiem' - Various (Marvel)

Just a quick review really as 'Requiem' only collects a few issues of the 'Requiem' issues. Or maybe it collects all of them, I don't know, I am a complete newcomer to Marvel's 'Ultimate' setting as I generally stay away from anything even vaguely hinting at at alternate universe (apart from the original 'Age of Apocalypse' plot which was excellent). The concept just seems like a bit of a cop out to me, a handy way of getting the writer out of tricky situations or (even worse) a cynical way of getting you to part with your cash.

Thinking about it though, maybe alternate universes aren't such a bad thing after all; not if they are a way of re-examining how characters might turn out if things were even slightly different. That's what prompted me to pick up 'Requiem', well... that and the fact that it was on offer (can you see a pattern emerging with the Marvel collections being reviewed here?) It turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag but there were some real moments of magic on the way.

I pretty much know nothing about the 'Ultimate' universe but a couple of pages into 'Requiem' it becomes clear that, at some point, Magneto unleashed an immense tidal wave on Manhattan and various superheroes have been left to pick up the pieces. It's a time for regrouping and it's also a time for re-evaluation of how others have been portrayed...

'Requiem' looks at how the X-Men and the Fantastic Four cope in the aftermath of the Ultimatum wave as well as other recent events (for the X-Men). Spiderman's character is also re-examined while his fate remains unknown.

It's the story of Spiderman that is the most powerful as his fiercest critic is forced to not only confront Spiderman's heroism but write a piece where he faces up to his own hostile attitude. It's really sobering stuff, especially when set against the wreckage of a Manhattan that Spiderman fought to save, and the flashbacks make for good insight into Spiderman's character (in the Ultimate universe). The ending killed it a little bit for me, I wonder if Brian Bendis would have done better staying away from a predictable ending and going with what was proving to be an incredibly powerful plot. The journey getting there nade it all worthwhile though. Best story in the book.

I wish I could say the same about the 'Fantastic Four' story. The fracture of the group dynamic draws you in but the moments with Reed Richards were just dull to be honest. I know the guy is meant to be singleminded here but his obsession just looked pointless in the face of the wider picture. Maybe this was the intent but, for me, the story came across as two halves fighting against each other instead of moving forward together. I wasn't impressed at all by the end result.

The 'X-Men' piece went some way towards redressing the balance with moments of introspection and grief that the 'X-Men' books seem to do so well. It just felt so slow though, like it was deliberately slowing things down in preparation for a crescendo that never happened (not in this book anyway). A halfhearted confrontation with their enemies sparked a little bit of interest but not a lot.

'Requiem' hints at good things from the preceding story and maybe I'll pick up more of these books. Maybe.
Despite some very good moments though, the rest of it didn't quite grab my attention in the way I was hoping for. The Spiderman story was great but I suspect that the rest of it won't stick around in my head for too long...

Seven and a Half out of Ten


Unknown said...

Hmm. I quite like alternate universe stories (I was a huge fan of Marvel's "What If" series in the 80s), but I'm so disconnected from the Marvel Universe today that I doubt I'd recognize alternate from canon.

Still, sounds like it might be an interesting read.

Spaz said...

Glad to see you mention the original Age of Apocalypse! It was great, one of my favorite things done in the Marvel universe ever. Sadly, I pretty much stopped reading comics after that event, for a couple of reasons, one of which was the (in my eyes) extremely poor art that followed. Very subjective, I know, but I hated it. I still don't like the art I see now and then when I glance at a book.