Marvel Comics’ groundbreaking Ultimate Universe made its grand entrance in September 2000 with Ultimate Spider-Man #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. Soon after, in December 2000, Ultimate X-Men #1 joined the ranks, produced by Mark Millar and Andy Kubert.
This universe, eventually labelled as Earth-1610, compared to the main Earth-616, gave Marvel Comics the golden opportunity to reinvent their beloved library of characters for the new millennium. It ushered Peter Parker back to his humble origins in high school, while weaving the X-Men and Ultimates (the Ultimate Universe’s answer to the Avengers) into a post-9/11 America rife with tension and uncertainty. Earth-1610 also gave rise to noteworthy and popular characters like Miles Morales and the Samuel L. Jackson-inspired version of Nick Fury that in turn prompted the casting of the actor as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, the Ultimate Universe met its dramatic end during the epic Secret Wars storyline in 2015, as part of an expansive reboot of the All-New, All-Different Marvel multiverse. In the aftermath of this event, certain iconic characters from the Ultimate Universe — like Miles Morales — made the leap into the mainstream Earth-616 universe, marking a significant turning point in the comic book world.
But as they say in comic books, no one really dies, especially not an entire universe,
As part of this year’s Ultimate Invasion miniseries by Jonathan Hickman and Bryan Hitch, Marvel Comics is ramping up for the launch of a new Ultimate Universe. Here’s what you need to know about the next big chapter of Marvel Comics storytelling.
1) A completely different Ultimate Universe than before
A critical point of distinction is that the new Ultimate Universe is different from the one before it. Notably, the new Ultimate Universe is designated Earth-6160, instead of Earth-1610, which means that readers can expect to see different characters and a completely different setting than what they’ve been familiar with before.
2) It’s all the Maker’s fault
The creation of the new Ultimate Universe is all thanks to the criminal, Maker, who’s actually Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic from the original Ultimate Universe. After suffering mental and emotional trauma, the rejection from his love, Sue Storm, and the disbandment of the Fantastic Four, this version of Reed grew to become a sinister supervillain.
Like Miles Morales, Maker survived Secret Wars and made his way to Earth-616. Whilst maintaining his supervillain ways, he escaped captivity and stole technology from members of the Illuminati to build a portal to the new Ultimate Universe, where he would manipulate events to shape this new world according to his whims.
3) The Ultimate Universe will reflect modern themes
Like the original Ultimate Universe, Earth-6160 is meant to reflect real-world issues and concerns — whether it’s corrupt leaders, fake news, global inaction, or more. According to Hickman, “What made the Ultimate Universe originally really interesting was that it was a reflection of the world outside your window, in the moment that you were living in. What does it look like in the world we’re living in now? It’s kind of shocking how much the world has changed in that period of time. The idea of what it would be like to see the genesis of Super Heroes in a brand new world is a really fascinating exercise.”
4) A world ruled by supervillains
Maker’s manipulation of Earth-6160 permeates even global geopolitics, orchestrated through a council of supervillain world leaders. Each nation takes its turn playing the role of a fabricated global “enemy,” preserving an illusion of conflict that, in reality, ensures their dominion over the world’s inhabitants. This shadowy cabal consists of villainous incarnations of numerous Marvel heroes, including the likes of Hulk, Moon Knight, Colossus, and Magik.
5) The Maker is trapped for 2 years
In issue #4 of Ultimate Invasion, Howard Stark, the Iron Man of this world, seals the Maker, his formidable army, and the forces of Kang the Conqueror within “the City” — the Maker’s imposing stronghold. Inside, time is dilated, causing thousands of years to pass within the City for every year outside.
The Maker’s evil council concludes that the City will be sealed for two years. With their leader out of the equation, the villainous factions of the council war to seize control of the world, while the heroes hope to mend the status quo.
6) Miles Morales holds the key to contacting Maker
Before crossing over to Earth-6160, the Maker visits Miles Morales in his home in Earth-616. He hints at their shared history from Earth-1610 as he attempts to persuade Miles to accompany him back “home”. However, Miles remains sceptical, and Maker leaves him with an offer, assuring him that the option remains open if he has a change of heart. As Maker vanishes, he leaves Miles with a mysterious blank card and this Chekov’s gun may be what allows characters from Earth-616 to traverse to Earth-6160, or it could be the key to help Maker escape the City.
7) Iron Lad will lead a new generation of heroes
In the thrilling conclusion of Ultimate Invasion, a young Tony Stark steps into the role of Iron Lad, drawing inspiration from his determined father Howard Stark. Teaming up with the brilliant Reed Richards from this alternate world, Tony embarks on a mission to assemble a team of heroes. He recruits Thor along with a reluctant Sif in the Ultimate Universe #1 one-shot, as they aim to restore a frozen Captain America. This will no doubt lead to the formation of the Ultimates, aka the Avengers of the Ultimate Universe. Like the one before. Same same, but Ultimately different.
8) Spider-Man is a dad
One of the most significant twists in Ultimate Invasion is that the Maker intervenes to prevent a young Peter Parker from receiving the life-altering spider bite that grants him his extraordinary abilities.
Under the creative guidance of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Marco Checchetto, a new iteration of Ultimate Spider-Man will emerge as the flagship ongoing title for this new Ultimate Universe. Hickman hints that this version of the character is “A bit of a Peter B. Parker situation,” referencing the middle-aged Spider-Man of the Spider-Verse films. This eventually led to the reveal that the Ultimate Universe will feature an older, wiser web-slinger who balances his superhero duties with his responsibilities as a husband and a father.
“When we decided that we were going to do a book about an older Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man, we really wanted to lean into him starting his super hero life from a very different place than what’s traditionally expected,” Hickman explained. “Peter and MJ being married is one of many decisions we made that underline this being quite a ‘different’ kind of Spider-Man story.”
Ultimate Spider-Man #1 releases 10 January 2024.
9) Black Panther will wage war against Moon Knight
Following the events of Ultimate Invasion, the powerful entities Khonshu and Ra, collectively known as Moon Knight, are on a quest to extend their ruthless dominion over Africa. In response, the steadfast nation of Wakanda sends its champion and king, the legendary Black Panther, as the last line of defence.
Writer Bryan Hill said, “I was invigorated by this opportunity because in addition to my immense respect for Jonathan Hickman’s detailed storytelling, the idea of shepherding this bold new take on Black Panther in this event gives me a platform to do the kind of broad, epic, storytelling I’ve always wanted to do in comics. My influences range from the history of Black Panther comics to Ryan Coogler’s incredible work with the recent films, to Frank Herbert’s worldbuilding capacity of Dune.”
Ultimate Black Panther #1 releases 7 February 2024.
10) Mutants will be connected to folklore, legend, and magic
Inspired by Japanese manga and culture, creator Peach Momoko will write and draw the new Ultimate X-Men. The series will focus on a new version of the young X-Man Armor, and a Storm-inspired character named Maystorm. In this reinvention, Japan’s “urban legends have sprung to life and brought some unusual new powers with them”, thus connecting the mutants of the Ultimate Universe to folklore, legend, and magic. What’s more, a sneak peek at the first issue of the series reveals that it might also be incorporating a dash of body horror for good measure.
Ultimate X-Men #1 releases 6 March 2024.
Alongside Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate Black Panther, Ultimate X-Men rounds out the three new series launching in 2024 as part of Marvel’s new Ultimate line.