Ultimate Catch Up is an offshoot of 52 Catch Up and is devoted to looking at issues from the newest volume of comics set in the Marvel Ultimate universe, examining what makes them worth reading (or not) and which places we hope they will go in time.
The world has become a dangerous place for mutants. Groups such as the X-Men have been disbanded and the U.S. Government has begun to actively hunt mutants down and place them in concentration camps, but a single revelation is about to change everything…
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Previously on Ultimate Comics: X-Men: Covering Issues #1-#9
Mutants are not natural but were created by the U.S. Government. Mutants begin to riot following this announcement, creating the need for the government to send Sentinels to keep the peace. One of the instigators of these riots is Rogue, who at one time was a member of the X-Men.
Kitty Pryde, Johnny Storm, and Bobby Drake have been hiding in the Morlock Tunnels following the death of their friend, Peter Parker. The three hear the government’s announcement and are appalled, though Johnny is intrigued by the possibilities and starts to self-identify as a mutant. Bobby sees a Daily Bugle article identifying Rogue as a rioter and convinces Kitty and Johnny to go with him to rescue her. After pulling her from Sentinel hands, Kitty asks Rogue what compelled her to start rioting and her response is, “Because God told me to.” When they return to the Morlock Tunnels, they find other mutants have started to gather there, including Jimmy Hudson, the son of Wolverine.
Meanwhile, Reverend William Stryker is “healing” mutants of their powers as part of God’s plan. Stryker lost his wife and son to Magneto’s attack on New York months before and has been conducting his crusade ever since. Stryker travels to Times Square where he orders his men to open fire, taking out any cops and soldiers alike to give him first crack at the rebelling mutants. He then takes captured mutants, removes their powers, and murders them on live television. Kitty and the others see this and head out to stop Stryker along with Jimmy Hudson. During the fight, Kitty phases through Stryker’s armor, shorting it out and mortally wounding Stryker.
Pietro Lensherr, Quicksilver, arrives at the White House and convinces the president to accept his help. Pietro possesses an upgraded version of Cerebro and intends to use it to program the Sentinels with the location of every mutant in the United States as a means to end the riots. As the coordinates are uploaded and Sentinels are dispatched to New York, Stryker, with his dying breath, takes control of them using his mutant power, the ability to talk to machines. He reprograms the Sentinels to start targeting and exterminating every mutant. Pietro panics and flees, but even he isn’t fast enough to save anyone, arriving just in time to witness their deaths. Pietro then goes to confront his sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, as she was the one to give him the plan, but she informs him she is working for a higher power. She sends Pietro to Egypt where “God” waits. When he arrives, he finds his father Erik Lensherr, Magneto, returned from the dead.
“God’s” plan all along according to Rogue was to have her use the others to get close to Stryker, then steal his power to prevent exactly the sort of thing that happened. Kitty and company manage to save every mutant they can, retreating back to the Morlock Tunnels. Before they can figure out their next move, a floating image of a being calling itself the Oracle of Change appears, inviting mutants to the recently forged kingdom of Tian. Kitty confronts Rogue about “God,” and Rogue comes clean that she was given her orders by Professor Xavier, who has also returned from the dead.
Jean Grey is serving as a double agent of S.H.I.E.L.D in the nation of Tian along with Firestar and Derek as a group known as the Runaways. The Runaways are charged with saving mutants from slavers and enemy governments and bringing them back to Tian. According to Nick Fury, Jean Grey is not physically in Tian but is projecting a psychic image of herself to every person on the planet, effectively being in two places at once, but it’s suggested that the real Jean may actually be in Tian and the psychic duplicate is the one with S.H.I.E.L.D.
At one of the many mutant detention centers, Colossus is being tortured. Storm is cooperating with the government agents and is trying to keep the peace from those who would rather see human blood, such as Stacy X. When it’s announced over the television that mutants are a creation of the U.S. Government, tension begins to build in the camp. Furious at the betrayal, Storm shaves her head and initiates the fight, destroying Sentinels and the walls holding her people in.
Artificial Mutation: This simple fact changes everything and separates mutants in the Ultimate universe from their 616 counterparts. It’s fact enough to give science-based heroes, like Johnny Storm, a feeling of kinship with mutants, even going as far as to join the X-Men. This fact also leads to the scary realization that if mutants are made, then more can be made, and with meltdowns like at the SEAR, should they?
Kitty’s Narration: I picked up Issue #1 on a whim, and what kept me reading was Kitty Pryde’s narration in the final pages. I’m not going to spoil it here; it’s awesome enough that it should be preserved in its context, but its promises are what made me have to keep reading.
Powerful Moments: Ultimate Comics: X-Men has been at its strongest when showing really difficult situations. The opening scene in Issue #1 is upsetting and powerful. The same goes for Storm making her decision to lead her concentration camp in rebellion and Quicksilver going from the confident and powerful mutant to destroyer of his people.
So Many Stories, So Little Time: Ultimate Comics: X-Men takes the time to focus on many of the characters from the original run of comics. While Kitty, Johnny, and Bobby are the main characters so to speak, their story isn’t guaranteed to be the focus. Everyone from Storm and Colossus to Jean Grey in Tian, to Quicksilver, to backstories for Stryker and James are told. While it’s been great to get these different pieces of the larger picture, the story has progressed slower than might otherwise be desired.
Ultimate Betrayal: Ultimate universe, I am disappointed in you! I just got through bragging about how the Ultimate universe doesn’t use the crappy trick of killing off a hero as a business decision, only to bring him back a year later, and now you freaking did it! Granted, nothing has been fully resolved about Xavier and Magneto’s return, but after nearly two years of them being dead, I was content with them being gone for good and thought their absence along with the likes of Wolverine and Cyclops was going to make Ultimate Comics: X-Men different and fun. And, what’s up with the whole Xavier and Magneto as gods thing? I don’t even know what to say to that.
Tian: Xorn and Zorn rule Tian, twin cities that float in the air. I only read the first issue of Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye so I didn’t get the complete story, but there are a lot of gaps that need to be filled in for readers who didn’t read the miniseries. Why are the cities suspended? Who is in charge and what’s to stop S.H.I.E.L.D. from launching an attack if the mutants of Tian prove hostile? Better yet, why is China okay with its sudden appearance? For now the best source is to check out Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye.
Jean Grey: Where is she? Enterprising fans want to know. Jean Grey is a telepathic powerhouse in Ultimate Comics: X-Men, able to maintain at least a single psychic image of herself at all times if not more than one to every mind in the world, while being able to affect change in that image’s immediate area. Is she an agent of Fury’s against Tian? Is she playing Fury for the benefit of the world’s first mutant nation? Is there a third side in all this? Better yet, given her power is anyone capable of stopping her if she allies herself with a side?
Magneto & Xavier: While I’m still not happy about their return, Magneto and Xavier’s rebirth has yet to be explained, nor has their perceived deity status by the locals. Having these two iconic characters back could lead to the recreation of the Brotherhood of Mutants and the X-Men, which would dramatically shift both the tone of Ultimate Comics: X-Men and the future of the characters it follows.
Kitty Pryde, Terrorist: Kitty is still getting her feet as leader of the X-Men and is trying to decide the team’s next move. Given her opening narration in Issue #1, it sounds like she and at least some of the team are going to remain in the United States and do something to make her the most wanted terrorist in history. I am dying to know what the once junior member of the X-Men is going to do to earn this title.
Everything Else: Since events have been unfolding slowly, there are a lot of questions still being raised, and a new faction in this mutant vs. humanity war pops up in every issue. One thing is clear: when the stage is set, it is going to be epic.