Hints about the nature and origin of superhumans (vague enough to mean anything, but still...) in the Ultimate Universe have been dropped here and there since the first "Ultimate Marvel Team Up" storyline and the audience, likely tired of obfuscation in programs such as "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica," is primed for an explanation. Writer Brian Michael Bendis' relationship with editors like Bill Rosemann and involvement with the line since its first title, "Ultimate Spider-Man," makes him a logical choice to tackle the task.
"Ultimate Origins" #1 feels like the first 20 minutes of a slightly interesting science-fiction film, for better and for worse. While the dialogue is snappy with only the occasional misstep - FDR speaking in staccato, repetitive sentences, for example - individual scenes feel a bit jagged and disconnected. There are also moments where embracing some of the medium's devices, such as captions, would have helped the storytelling no small amount. There's a comparison to be drawn between this and Morrison's work on "Final Crisis." With the latter, readers were given the impression that that they should ask questions while the former left me irritated.
For example, a different version of the Nick Fury that has occupied the Ultimate universe for the last eight years or so debuts in this comic after a few pages in which his identity is clumsily hidden. After the underwhelming reveal, we're given no reason to care who the Nick Fury in this comic is, nor what his relationship to the current incarnation of the character is. I'm sure the answers will be forthcoming, but will they be satisfying?
If I never see another origin sequence for Wolverine, I would die a happier, more-content man. Marvel began its systematic obliteration of one of the key factors that made the original version of the character so popular just a few years ago. I know that most of the pleasure I got out of Ultimate Wolverine was the revival of his mysterious past and the games readers and writers could play with it. Logan in a bacta tank aside, there is some very good (and fairly scientifically accurate) dialogue concerning the mutant genome and a nicely-done final line that, while not quite a cliffhanger, provided a nice punch.
Butch Guice's work with colorist Justin Ponsor, is very easy on the eyes, reminiscent of many other Ultimate titles while still maintaining a certain level of real-world grit. There are some odd page layouts (the next to last page features an interesting take on the slow-zoom-on-a-face that Bendis frequently employs) and a poorly-handled transition to a fight scene, but I'm not sure how much of that is Guice and how much is Bendis. From what I've seen of the writer's scripts, I suspect it's Guice trying to liven things up a bit.
As mentioned earlier, "Ultimate Origins" #1 feels like the first 20 minutes of a movie that's not quite compelling for me to keep watching. I'm sure that it'll read fine when collected, but as an individual piece of serial storytelling, there's little to recommend it to those who aren't supremely curious about things, and I'm getting more and more tired of this approach. Writers and editors need to stop assuming that I'll read the next issue of their comic and instead give me a reason to read the next issue.