J.'s Reviews > Ultimate X-Men: Ultimate Vol. 9

Ultimate X-Men by Robert Kirkman
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Feb 05, 14

bookshelves: books-i-own
Read in February, 2014

** spoiler alert ** After a single issue about the Shadow King which is totally average, this book starts out strong--we finally get Ultimate Apocalypse, and he is sinister. (Pun intended.) He's physically threatening, very cool-looking, and the reader's hopes are solidly built up, thanks to the preceding 15-20 (I forget) issues by Kirkman. It's all looking really epic.

But then, the ending: terrible. In a nutshell, Phoenix shows up and just saves the day AND immediately fixes all the horrible things that happened previously. All the cool characters are resurrected, et cetera. I really want to think that Kirkman had some bigger, better plans for this finale, but the upcoming Ultimatum forced him to wrap things up in a very haphazard way. But, unfortunately, it's not all that uncommon for Kirkman to totally phone things in occasionally, so maybe I'm being too nice.

Anyway, that half of the book would be solid if the ending were better. 3/5.

The second half, though, is where things really get weird. Alright, at it's heart, this storyline certainly has promise--it's the introduction of MGH into the Ultimate Universe, and the introduction of Alpha Flight, so there's definitely something to work with. But it just reads like a particularly bad after-school special. I think I'll have to go through my reactions step-by-step:

1. Alpha Flight shows up to abduct Northstar from the X-Men. Alpha Flight attacking the X-mansion over some perceived problem is pretty standard X-fare, so this is fair enough. The characters look cool enough, and I have no particular complaints about the fight. For some reason, Jubilee and Sunfire are members of AF, but alright: it's the ultimate version, so OK. Things are looking solid.

2. After AF flees, the X-Men discover that AF is using the power-enhancing drug "Banshee," which is a really annoying name for MGH, but OK, whatever. And here's where things get really interesting: apparently Colossus is, and always has been, using this stuff. This is intriguing. Our culture is so obsessed with excellence that many of our most famous athletes are using all kinds of natural and unnatural chemicals to give themselves an edge, so maybe this comic will explore the complicated morality of this issue.

3. Any hope of subtlety is immediately shattered when Jean and Scott take an immediate, knee-jerk, no-drugs policy. Despite the fact that Colossus has been on this stuff for years with no ill side-effects. They keep insisting he's "killing himself," although there seems to be no evidence that this is the case--every person we've seen on this drug appears to be in perfect health. But drugs are bad, right? (See the after-school-special part?)

4. Colossus decides he'd rather leave the X-Men and go save Northstar than have to live by their totally arbitrary rules. (This makes sense.) A few other X-Men immediately jump on the drug bandwagon and get all extra-super-fied. Now I'm really confused--is this stuff dangerous or not? Why did these other characters all go for this? Why doesn't Jean just use her totally-omnipotent Phoenix powers to save Northstar, instead of letting all her friends get hooked on this drug? Why does Angel have a bird head? I'm so confused!

5. The team of newly-drugged-up X-Men manage to attack and defeat the state-sponsored, well-established Alpha Flight (OK.) During this, it is revealed that Vindicator is....somebody. Somebody significant? A big reveal? I'm anxiously anticipating...but that plotline is dropped, so I guess we'll never know. (Maybe it will be revealed later? I doubt it.) Unfortunately, Northstar has apparently overdosed on Banshee, despite the fact that he's only been with AF for a few days or so. But at least we finally have some proof that this stuff is dangerous. Or, it's dangerous if you're kidnapped and injected with too much of it against your will. Unfortunately, this is true of both Meth and Cough Syrup, so I'm no closer to making any sense of Jean's position.

5. At this point--three issues into the new plotline--the writer apparently realizes that he's been using Jean even though she clearly left at the end of the previous writer's arc. This was the ONLY change of the status quo at the end of Kirkman's run (because, remember, Jean fixed everything else.) Oops. A quick three-page summary should clear that up. Later, Jean's dad makes a guest appearance Live! From the afterlife! I think some important character development should be going on, instead of...

6. Most of this issue is spent with the Pro-Drug X-men fighting the Anti-Drug X-Men. I'm not super sure what's going on at this point, and I don't really care who wins. It's abundantly clear that, at the end of the day, lessons will be learned. I'm turning off.

7. Meanwhile, it's revealed that Wolverine is the original source of the drug. Alright--this could be compelling. He's angry--he feels used. He's particularly mad at Colossus for some reason (?) I guess Colossus did get everyone else hooked, but it really seems like Wolverine is taking his anger out on the wrong person. Then, Wolverine CUTS OUT COLOSSUS'S HEART! Boom! Then Colossus RIPS OFF WOLVERINE'S LEG! At this point, even the least-attentive of readers will remember that Wolverine got his arm ripped off in the previous arc, but that Jean fixed it, and will get a sinking feeling. Sure enough, Jean fixes everyone. Hurray! No consequences! Of course, this only exacerbates the confusion over Jean's position--she can fix everyone, right? Why does it matter if they use these drugs or not? On the upside, after Jean fixes them, we do get some funny dialog between these two about the fight.

8. Northstar, having survived his ordeal, shows up in the middle of the big Boss Fight. He gives a speech that I'm pretty sure was *literally* stolen from an anti-drug commercial ("It was the drug...don't let it ruin you. Your friends are trying to help you...") and the Pro-Drug X-men immediately give up. Because nothing will make Pro-Drug advocates give up their position like a loved one NOT dying from using the drug. Of course.

9. Finally, who made the drug? Well, in a set of reveals that's WAY too big for the last six pages of the last issue, it's revealed that Xavier and Magneto made it years before, and Moira Mactaggart has been making it and selling it to fund her research. This is like some intentional nod to Breaking Bad, but without any of the moral subtlety or character development. Also: Moira has screaming powers, so maybe that's why it's called Banshee. Oh, and the drug is extremely explosive, for some reason. (I mean, I know the reason: it's because Wolverine has to end this and there's only two pages left, so, yeah.)

Well, there you go. Somebody had some great ideas that could have been handled very subtly, and we could have addressed the obsession our culture has with excellence and the complicated drug issues that go with it. But instead, we get a simple message, a lot of action, and no repercussions. Aaaaah...comic books.
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