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Ultimate War #4/Ultimate X-Men #28 and 29
writer: Mark Millar
artists: various

There's a part of me that really wants Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates to end after Ultimate War. Not because they suck; far from it. This whole war thing has got me completely riveted.

It's that Mark Millar has pulled off an extreme rarity for an ongoing superhero series. Anything can happen. No character is essential. For a few issues, it's completely believable that Wolverine let Cyclops die in the Savage Land.

Though the latest issue of Ultimate X-Men revealed that Scott survived, it isn't likely to be an incident brushed under the table, or forgiven for the sake of soap opera. Read that again: Wolverine tried to kill Cyclops so that he could have Jean Grey.

So many incidents like that have happened under Millar's hand. Magneto knee-capped Quicksilver as punishment for Pietro's allying himself with humans. (As for Wanda, she was forced to watch - any resemblance to actual dictators alive or dead is purely coincidental.)

In a development surely meant to parallel X-Men 2, the X-Men are currently on the run. Their fugitive status has caused Kitty to ponder if just maybe Magneto has the correct agenda. But of all people, Iceman shuts her down, pointing out that Lensherr's world has no place for even their human parents.

It's a complex issue, dealing with hatred. And Bobby Drake has suffered it most overtly, as his parents tried to turn him against Xavier. Through Bobby, Millar illustrates quite nicely just why we should consider the X-Men heroes. They're willing to do what's right, even though it would be much easier to just hide. Or worse, fight for their superiority.

On the other side, of course, we have The Ultimates. Mostly humans, but just a little bit better, the team has long had a secret mutant on it, other than Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch. In Ultimate War #4, Millar reveals why he recast The Wasp as a mutant, and it's a pretty clever reason that shows what a master tactician Nick Fury is. Suddenly the gap between the Weapon X project and S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't seem so wide.

The actual battle between the two teams is stunningly brutal. Seeing Colossus face down against Iron Man suddenly brought into focus that this Tony Stark really does have a time limit. For a couple of panels, I bought that he'd bought it.

Okay, so Millar does keep stopping short of actually killing his characters. But it's still possible that he will. He does plan to walk away from these series shortly.

Maybe marketing won't allow for the loss of any major characters. But we can hold out hope. Not because I want any to die, but because it would make Ultimate War much more real. And Millar has shown a commitment to trying to keep it as real as possible.

However, lest I gush too much, I'm not a big fan of the implication that the Hulk eats people. And while it does make sense for Captain America to remember having encountered Wolverine during World War II (which seems to have been sort of retconned in the Marvel Universe), his knowing Wolverine's real name, James Howlett, when Wolverine does not, smacks of a post-Origin smugness.

It's quibbling, perhaps, but annoying that even in the Marvel Universe, Wolverine has been known only as Logan for thirty years, but suddenly starts encountering people who know him as James, Jamie, or just plain Howlett.

Maybe Millar will kill the unkillable. And mutants will fly out of my butt.

At any rate, these books are going to stand as classics, storylines we'll be talking about years from now. I just hope that whoever follows Millar doesn't undo what he's accomplished.


Derek McCaw


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