Ultimate X #1

Written by Jeph Loeb
Pencils by Arthur Adams
Inks by Mark Roslan
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

So many times, a "reset" for a line of comics feels less like something that was actually needed, and more like a chance for some new issue #1s to sell extra copies. That said, the conclusion and re-start of Marvel’s "Ultimate" line was something that I think was genuinely needed. What had started as a stripped-down, easy-to-jump-in line of titles had turned into a mish-mash of characters, continuity, and numerous deaths and resurrections. In other words, what had started as a new generation had become its parents. Ultimate X looks to be the first step towards the new "Ultimate" cleaned-decks approach, and I have to give them credit, it has potential for being just that.

Jeph Loeb uses this back-to-basics mandate to introduce a son of Wolverine, one who up until now has remained ignorant of his real heritage and mutant abilities. Loeb spools out the story in a classic manner, letting Jimmy discover his healing factor through an accident, then having a teacher appear to give him the rest of the information that up until now was kept a secret. The story itself feels a little slow-paced, but sketches out Jimmy Hudson in a well-enough manner to let readers get a grasp of this new, cocky character is like. There are hints that Loeb is trying to write a story that talks about nature versus nurture in how Jimmy becomes an adult, and I think there’s some merit in that approach. After all, the most iconic superhero of all is one who’s defined by being more a product of his adoptive parents from Kansas than being the last son of Krypton.

The one part of the writing for Ultimate X #1 that I was less than crazy about was James Hudson’s narration throughout the entire first issue. It feels like a slight cheat in some ways, unleashing a whole spool of back story and exposition to the reader. What’s interesting is that if you go through and read Ultimate X #1 without all of this additional narration, there’s absolutely nothing that you feel like you’ve missed. It’s a lot of information that fleshes out scenes and characters, but I think it works just as well without it.

For many people, I suspect the biggest attraction to Ultimate X #1 will be Arthur Adams’s pencils. Adams and Loeb collaborated recently on three issues of Hulk, where Loeb showed that he knew how to write to Adams’s strengths. This seems slightly more subdued, at least at first. Sure, Adams gets to draw a drag race going horribly wrong, completely with hundreds of pieces of metal and glass flying through the air as one of the cars tumbles out of control. But for now there aren’t any crazy looking monsters, gorillas, or the like for Adams to draw. The end result? Well, it’s nice to see Adams just get to focus on good old-fashioned storytelling and remind readers that while he’s associated with certain types of characters, he doesn’t need them to turn out a good and detailed drawing.

One of my favorite things with Adams’s art in Ultimate X #1 was how he draws Kitty Pryde, the sole link (for now) to the earlier "Ultimate" titles. Adams doesn’t lose sight that she’s supposed to be still a high school student. She’s able to look tough and determined as a former X-Man, but at the same time she still looks startled at just the right moments, and on more than one occasion you’re reminder that she’s a teenager and not the hardened-by-battle warrior that she tries to present herself as towards Jimmy. Watching her clench her fists as she nervously watches Jimmy stare at his claws is great; while artists like John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, and Alan Davis are probably the most associated with the character, I have to admit that I’d include Adams as an artist who draws a definitive Kitty Pryde.

Ultimate X #1 looks like a good start for the series. Hopefully the pace will pick up a bit now that the exposition is out of the way, but for now the book looks to hold real promise. It’s certainly gorgeous looking (hopefully Adams can keep up the pace for a monthly release) and it’s fun to read. Here’s hoping the rest of the Ultimate line at Marvel follows the same cues.

2 comments to Ultimate X #1

  • Arthur Adams shines in this one! (and I agree with your Kitty Pride observation, top notch). Great writeup Greg, can’t wait to get my claws into this series.

  • Jefferson Eng

    I’m a little bit annoyed by this series and I guess that’s probably through some fault of my own. When the first issue came out last year, it was completely sold out of every store in my local area. Since I couldn’t be bothered to care for a series in that manner, I thought now might be a perfect time to look for this in a trade of sorts. Guess what? Issue #4 (originally solicited for an August 2010 release) only just came out last week. You know, and this is why I cite things like this when it comes to my disdain towards mainstream comics. :-/