Ultimate X #1
“Chapter One: His Father’s Son”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Digital inks & colors: Aspen MLT
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US
I only made two issues into Jeph Loeb’s last foray into Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, Ultimatum, before the excesses of the plotting turned me off, and I dropped Hulk after a few months, though I did enjoy some of Loeb’s Red Hulk storylines over the course of its first year. So some might wonder why I’m back for another dose of Loeb after his other recent disappointments (albeit strong-selling ones). Well, artist Arthur Adams draws some pretty pictures at times, and I did like the prospect of a new character (rather than a retooled one) being featured in a new Ultimate title. The good news is that this is much better than Ultimatum, as it boasts a more character-driven tone. Furthermore, I like how Loeb and Marvel have taken the notion of mutants an analogy for racism in society to an extreme, albeit in a logical way given the events of Ultimatum. The bad news, though, is that the potential in the plot is overshadowed by the bombastic, ridiculously outdated quality of the opening scene and the central character’s impossibly easy acceptance of the weirdness that’s erupted in his life.
Jimmy Hudson is 16 years old, lives in a small town in Florida and lately gives his parents quite a few headaches. Jimmy’s a bit of a wild child, getting into trouble at school and elsewhere too. Lucky for him his father is James Hudson, the town’s sheriff and a Gulf War vet. What Jimmy doesn’t know is that he’s adopted, and his real father is a guy who helped his adopted dad get through some tight scrapes in Iraq back in 1991. After something incredible happens that makes Jimmy and others realize he’s not a normal kid, someone arrives with a message that will change his entire life.
Arthur Adams offers up some over-the-top and attractive visuals, but I don’t know that they actually serve the story all that well. While he handles the rural Florida setting well, his portrayal of the various characters can be distracting at times. While I can understand why he’d depict the main character as lithe and ripped, there’s nary a hint of him as the regular kid he would’ve been for most of his life. I think the character-driven storytelling would’ve been more effective if Jimmy looked a bit more average rather than as the impeccably and impossibly perfect, Adonis-like figure we see in these pages. Furthermore, the bimbo at his side in the opening scene is far too sexualized. She’s clearly intended as nothing more than a sexual object, and it just looks ridiculous rather than titillating.
Four covers… two regular covers, and a couple of more expensive, rarer variants. This book carries the names of two of the industry’s more popular creators and stars the son of Marvel’s most popular character (or at least one incarnation of him). Are all these covers really necessary to sell this comic book?
The reinvention of James Hudson and his wife Heather as regular folks is an interesting choice. He’s no longer a brainy super-scientist type, and she’s an odd but interesting mix of meekness and feistiness. Essentially, they’re brand-new characters, but Loeb has still maintained their connection to Wolverine in this alternate continuity. Still, I have to admit I was disappointed by some of the changes. As a Canadian and a fan of John Byrne’s original Alpha Flight series, I didn’t really appreciate the recasting of the Hudsons as Americans. It’s a minor gripe and a personal one, and it’s not really a criticism of the storytelling, per se. I just figured I should own up to the bias and the tinge of disappointment I felt at one point in the comic.
Loeb opts to open the series with a scene that unfortunately started my eyes rolling. I was honestly at a loss to figure out the time period in which the series was set, as the drag race (and the teen characters’ attire) looked more like something out of the 1950s. It seemed like Ultimate X was more likely going to have a connection to James Dean rather than to Wolverine. It’s a ludicrous scene that’s completely out of touch, not at all convincing.
I like the notion of a mutant child being adopted by a human couple. I like the idea of a ragtag band of emerging mutants being on the run from an entire country that’s terrified of them (which is a premise that one of those variant covers seems to promise). More importantly, I like the idea of a regular kid struggling to cope with inconceivable power and circumstances. Brian Michael Bendis pulled it off nicely a decade ago when he launched Ultimate Spider-Man, and Loeb has acknowledged that served as an inspiration for this new Marvel mutant title. But Loeb doesn’t succeed as Bendis did. Jimmy is far too accepting of what’s happening. He barely freaks out. Loeb tries to make up for it with a quiet father/son moment to close out the issue, but that alone isn’t enough to balance his reactions (or lack thereof) in the rest of the issue. 5/10
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