Cyclops. Magneto. Professor X. Wolverine. All pillars of the X-Men franchise, and, since "Ultimatum," all dead in the Ultimate Universe, along with many other mutants (and a handful of other heroes and villains to boot).
But seeing as how the Jeph Loeb/David Finch event drew some of its most potent moments and deaths from the cast of the "Ultimate X-Men," one of the biggest questions surrounding the future of Marvel's Ultimate Comics franchise is what exactly lies ahead for the mutant population. With the announcement at this week's Diamond Retailer Summit of a brand new series called "Ultimate X" by Jeph Loeb and Art Adams, planned for 2010, the publisher took a step towards answering that question. However, as Loeb explained to CBR, assuming an "X" in the title means a focus only on mutants would be a mistake.
"This isn't a book about mutants, superheroes or anything you're expecting. It's about life in the Ultimate U after a devastating event, and the hard choices we make for the greater good," the writer stated matter-of-factly. "I can't go into too many specifics without giving up the entire thing. What I can say is that, this is a difficult time in the UU, post 'Ultimatum.' Like with any great disaster in the real world, this is a time of healing and rebuilding. Mutants have been outlawed. Captain America is a fugitive. The Fantastic Four have gone their own ways. This might be the perfect time for 'evil' to seize the opportunity. 'Ultimate X' will address these issues."
While an exact cast and mission statement for the title remain under wraps, Loeb revealed that "Ultimate X" would utilize some of the story styles fans have seen him display in previous projects. From his many superhero mystery thrillers like "Batman: The Long Halloween" to super-powered social metaphors explored in his episodes of "Heroes," the story of many Ultimate characters uncovering the fate of the Ultimate U while searching for a new mystery character will create "very personal stories. People who've read the (top secret) scripts are surprised how different they are from my other work in the Ultimate Universe, harking back to things like 'Superman For All Seasons.' My hope is readers enjoy it as much as I've been."
Part of what Loeb would confirm of the series' plot involved picking up the pieces of the shift in society's view of mutants after the dual actions of Magneto murdering thousands of people and the unveiling of the fact that, unlike the regular Marvel U, the Ultimate mutants are not the next step in evolution, but the result of a deep governmental experiment. "It's dark. The law states that if you are a mutant, you are required to turn yourself in to the Federal Government or you will be shot on sight. This directive includes S.H.I.E.L.D.. Currently, Storm and Colossus are being held by the Government. Where and for what purpose hasn't been revealed."
And how will mutants see themselves, once they realize their true origins? Loeb explained that for "right now, it isn't so much about mutant identity as much as how the Government sees them. If mutants are the result of a lab experiment, can that experiment be repeated? Can it be reversed? Is this the key ingredient to the super soldier program?"
As with the other books of the Ultimate Comics rebranding, "Ultimate X" plans on combining long-seeded story points from the past decade of Ultimate stories along with new, fresh starting points. "I will say that, when #1 hits, it is very reader friendly. It's an entry point that's designed to get you hooked," Loeb noted, adding "There were many things we wanted to accomplish in 'Ultimatum,' and one of them was to have the afterward be as real as we could. The pain and suffering all these characters endured would be vastly cheapened by not holding to the loss of their loved ones."
When asked whether that process of mourning could be complicated by the resurrection of any dead characters, such as a certain survivor named James, Loeb said, "For the record, Wolverine is dead." Although despite the dire circumstances driving the mysterious story, the writer ensured CBR, "The book is about hope. That's the message."
One hope that has been brought out for fans to celebrate is the return of Adams to regular comics work. While the creators is best known for giant action and monstrous characters, like his brief stint with Loeb on Marvel's "Hulk" title, the writer assured readers that, "Arthur is the perfect match for ANY book! 'UX' is a combination of big stories and small, both of which Arthur can handle brilliantly. It's such a joy to see him back on a monthly title."