Ultimate Comics X-Men: Reborn


By Nick Spencer, Paco Medina & Juan Vlasco (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-506-2

Marvel’s Ultimates imprint launched in 2000 with major characters and concepts re-imagined to bring them into line with the presumed different tastes of modern readers.

Eventually the alternate, darkly nihilistic universe became as continuity-constricted as its predecessor, and in 2008 the cleansing event “Ultimatum” culminated in a reign of terror which apparently (this is still comics, after all) killed dozens of super-humans and millions of lesser mortals.

The era-ending event was a colossal tsunami triggered by Magneto which inundated the superhero-heavy island of Manhattan and utterly devastated the world’s mutant population. The X-Men as well as many other superhuman heroes and villains died and in the aftermath anybody classed as ‘”Homo Superior” had to surrender to the authorities or be shot on sight. Understandably most survivors as well any newly emergent X-people kept themselves well hidden…

Mutants had always been feared and despised: as the indisputable inheritors of Earth, the often lethally-empowered and wildly uncontrollable creatures were seen by many as an alien, inimical species; a new race destined to take the world from humanity the way we took it from the Neanderthals…

This compilation continues to describe the gradual return of mutants to the post-deluge public gaze which began in Ultimate X: Origins by collecting Ultimate Comics: X-Men #1-6 and pertinent portions of Ultimate Comics: Fallout #4 (published in comicbook form from September 2011 to March 2012) which provided a game-changing new reality and status quo for the latest relaunch of the constantly-changing, grim and gritty alternate universe.

In a stunning story-arc by writer Nick Spencer, artists Paco Medina & Juan Vlasco and colourist Marte Gracia, the slow descent into uncontrolled chaos begins when Presidential Special Advisor on Superhuman and Mutant Affairs Valerie Cooper is forced to admit to the entire world that – rather than a result of inexorable evolution and natural selection – Mutants are the result of a fifty year old American covert program of genetic manipulation which got 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 across the nation and around the planet…

Former X-Man Karen Grant (nee Jean Grey) has been continuing Charles Xavier’s dream of fostering Human/Mutant co-existence but the news not only rips the rug out from under her; it also proves intolerable for her young charge Jimmy Hudson, who hears on National 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…

Meanwhile hunted “Mutant Terrorist” Kitty Pryde is holed-up with fellow fugitives Iceman and the Human Torch, all on the run since their friend and fellow teen Peter Parker was murdered in his Spider-Man guise.

With the entire world in crisis (see Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye and The Ultimates: The Republic is Burning), 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…

Soon after the deluge hit, fundamentalist preacher Reverend William Stryker seized Sentinel technology and attacked the Xavier School, murdering many of the mutants Magneto’s flood had missed. Now he has returned, intent on capitalising on the troubled times and expediting his genocidal crusade.

Acting as a new X-team and against Pryde’s best judgment Iceman and the Torch rescue Rogue, but are horrified to discover that the fugitive powerhouse has literally “seen God”.

However, as they all hide in subterranean tunnels beneath New York, picking up stray mutant children as they flee, the young misfits have no idea just how far their former comrade has fallen or what lengths Rogue will go to in order to fulfil her divinely ordained mission…

With the nation in chaos Stryker plans a massive event in Times Square, offering a cure for mutantcy and a final solution to the crisis, but his true plan is to ambush the gathered deviants and end their blasphemous existence forever…

In the White House Quicksilver has his own scheme: he knows the secret Stryker is concealing and intends to use it for his own ends, but when the Reverend takes control of the entire Sentinel program and sends every killer robot in America’s arsenal to hunt down all the remaining mutants still in hiding, the cataclysmic battles leads to a stunning series of revelations and a breathtaking cliffhanger…

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, but with so much backstory to absorb Reborn 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 and any casual readers who are more familiar with the company’s movies than the comic-books.

A British edition licensed and published by Panini UK, Ltd. ™ & © 2012 Marvel Entertainment LLC and its subsidiaries. Licensed from Marvel Characters B.V. All Rights Reserved.