Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Comics From a Random Pile of Back Issues Strewn Around My Room Should Be Good: Ultimate Marvel Team-Up no. 9

Looking for a superhero comic that doesn't take itself seriously and tells a complete story in one issue? Do you enjoy seeing the art of an indie cartoonist in a mainstream superhero comic? Do you not mind a jaunt through the back issue long boxes to find a comic that has these qualities? Do you like in jokes? Are all these questions at the beginning of a blog post really aggravating, or just slightly annoying? If you answered yes to the first four questions and are still reading after the fourth, then I wholeheartedly reccomend Ultimate Marvel Team-Up 9, drawn by the aforementioned indie cartoonist Jim Mahfood, and written by Brian Michael Bendis.

I gave you the paragraph break there to account for the pause that it surely took for some of you to come to grips with the fact that Bendis has written single issues stories. Unlike Ultimate Spider-Man 13, another noteworthy single issue Bendis story, this isn't an issue devoted to conversation between two characters. It's a plot driven story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Unlike Avengers Disassembled, this is a plot driven Bendis comic that isn't a thinly veiled excuse for blowing up the existing status quo to get the set up he wants in order. It's a thinly veiled excuse to let Jim Mahfood go nuts drawing Kirbytech (including an "ultimate" cofee pot), Skrulls, and as many sight gags as possible. Bendis keeps the plot moving and the gags coming, and uses his prominent focus on dialogue to produce some good quips and further the tongue and cheek mood by pointing out the use of plot devices. With the inclusion of Joe Quesda, Bill Jemas, and other Marvel staff members, this almost feels like one of those back up strips in the Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man annuals lampooning the Stan Lee and the rest of the Bullpen.

This is kind of an odd entry in the Ultimate pantheon, because of the fact that it's played so obviously for laughs, and beyond that, is filled with in jokes. While the accesibility of the Ultimate comics isn't at the level it was advertized as being when the line started, if for no other reason because they've been running for almost five years now, I can't remember many stories that solely traded on references that only regular comics readers would get. There's also the fact that it's played for laughs in general. While Ultimate Spider-Man had more than its fair share of humor when I was reading it regularly, and Mark Millar fit the odd gag in Ultimate X-Men and Ultimates (even if it feels like he's laughing at the characters at times there), I've never read an Ultimate comic played solely for laughs. I haven't read that storyline where Spider-Man and Wolverine switch bodies, though, which looked to at least be in a humorous vein (whether it was actually funny is another matter).

Another interesting aspect of the issue in retrospect is that Bendis spends the first few pages detailing the origin of the FF, complete with the requisite Ultimate Universe tweaks on the original formula, none of which would stick. From Sue being an astrophysicist and having a Nobel Prize to match Reed Richards's to the team gaining their powers by discovering the Negative Zone, Bendis creates a suitably different and workable new backstory for the Ultimate Universe incarnation of the FF. All of it would be jettisoned in favor of the teen-FF setup when the ongoing finally debuted, with Bendis as co-writer, which worked a lot better than I expected, at least from what I've read. Giving the character a new origin was probably a pre-requisite in these stories whether they were meant to stick or not, and I'm not one to get riled up by changes in continuity, especially when the story is this fun of a romp. But I do find it interesting that the FF's first Ultimate Universe appearence is a tongue and cheek story that would be completely ignored when it was time to give the characters their own series.

In any event, the bottom lines is that if you want a rollicking, self containded Spider-Man story, tangentally featuring the Fantastic Four, that features Tom Brevoort as a punchline, drawn by Jim Mahfood, your story has come! Well, came. Four years ago. Go pick it up if any of this sounds the slightest bit appealing. Even if it doesn't, I'd still reccomend giving it a shot if you're one of the seemingly many people who are sick of the current superhero output of DC and Marvel and just want a good, lighthearted done in one story, with some jokes about Ralph Macchio and Bill Jemas on the side.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, Brad. This is and was one of my favorite comics that year. In fact, I liked it so much, I forgot Bendis wrote it!

The main gag that sticks out in my mind (for whatever bizarre reason) was a burrito in the backgorund of one scene, with a caption above it proclaiming "burrito".

God, I love Jim Mahfood.


8/25/2005 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Yeah, I love this issue. I don't remember why I picked it up, as I wasn't a Mahfood fan at the time (this is how I discovered him), and I've never read the Ultimate books. Perhaps I read a good review somewhere.

My favourite bit is Reed Richard's blaster rifle which goes "MNIGHTSHYAMALANDINGDONG!" when he fires it. I think.

Oddly enough, Bendis has said that this will fit in with Ultimate Fantastic Four, but he hasn't said how as yet.

8/25/2005 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I must find this!!!

8/25/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul A. said...

FWIW, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up has been collected, both as a single hardcover collection and as a series of trade paperbacks (this issue is in volume 2).

Finding either is probably still a case of searching the back-issue racks (or whatever it is they have for collections), though.

8/26/2005 10:23:00 AM  

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