Review by Win Wiacek
Ultimate X-Men launches a new X-Men team for Marvel’s Ultimates imprint after most of the previous team were wiped out in Ultimatum. Ultimate X: Origins showed the psychically gifted “Karen Grant” (Jean Gray) meeting Jimmy Hudson, who’d just learned why it was claws popped from his hands. Here we have the gradual return of mutants to the public gaze which began in the latest relaunch of the constantly-changing, grim and gritty alternate universe.
In a stunning turn of events story arc by writer Nick Spencer and artist Paco Medina, the slow descent into uncontrolled chaos begins when Presidential Special Advisor on Superhuman and Mutant Affairs Valerie Cooper is forced to admit a secret to the entire world. Rather than being a result of inexorable evolution and natural selection, mutants are the result of a fifty year old American covert program of genetic manipulation that ran out of control.
In a world where Homo Superior are registered like guns, kept in internment camps and where good, God-fearing folk would rather execute their children than have them grow up afflicted with the sin of “mutant-ness”, the news instantly causes uproar and riot around the planet.
Karen Grant continues Charles Xavier’s dream of fostering human/mutant co-existence. but the news not only rips the rug out from under that, it also proves intolerable for her young charge Jimmy. He hears on TV that his dead father Wolverine was the US Military’s ‘Mutant Zero’ and from his initial escape five decades ago has stemmed all the pain and horror and super-powered proliferation.
With a downtrodden, oppressed emergent species suddenly reduced to a virus or failed science experiment, global tensions are explosively high, and when renegade X-survivor Rogue very publicly battles American Nimrod Sentinels, the US President is faced with a civil crisis like no other. The President consults S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, but is also approached by the deceased Magneto’s son Pietro Lensherr who has since inherited control of the terrorist group known as the Brotherhood of Mutants. The super-swift master manipulator has an arcane Faustian Bargain for the severely embattled Leader of the Free World.
This welcome return to the bleak and cynical Ultimate fare, with the trademark post-modernity, sharp abrasive humour and darkly brutal action, still delivers the grim ‘n’ gritty punch fans crave. However, it’s accompanied with so much backstory to absorb this might not be the best book for anybody thinking on jumping on to decidedly different world of wonder. Nevertheless the striking drama and returning cast-favourites will certainly please those older readers who love this trenchant iteration of superhero sagas.
A cliffhanger ending leads into Vol. 2 or His Will Be Done in the UK editions, where this was issued as Ultimate X-Men: Reborn.