By Marc Strom
Who will fall next?
Magneto's assault on the Ultimate Universe has reached a fever pitch, claiming the lives of Professor X, Daredevil, the Wasp and more. ULTIMATUM #3, in stores today, reveals Magneto's next steps towards conquering the Ultimate U courtesy of writer Jeph Loeb and artist David Finch!
Before that, though, Loeb spoke with Marvel.com about the decisions that went into the shaping of the story in ULTIMATUM, as well as handicapping the chances of the still-living heroes' continuing survival.
Back in the planning stages of ULTIMATUM, Loeb reveals that each character's death came about very organically as a group of some of the hottest writers in Marvel and beyond broke down the story.
"There wasn't a list [of characters that would die]," Loeb explains. "We had some very heavy hitters working with me to tell the best story we could. I mean, when you have [Brian] Bendis, [Mark] Millar, [Joe] Quesada, Dan Buckley, Allan Heinberg and Damon Lindelof, that's the team you want!
"So as the story unfolded, the heroes each played a role. The deaths are not for deaths' sake. I take that stuff very seriously, both personally and professionally. When the entire story, and the aftermath, is told, it'll be clearer as to why each thing happened."
While some deaths have shocked fans, Loeb wanted to achieve that effect and, in so doing, bring the Ultimate Universe back to its original tone.
"I know it has been shocking and in some cases even disturbing," Loeb says of the events in Ultimatum. "But that's what the Ultimate Universe was at one time: totally unpredictable. I mean, Hank Pym going after his wife Jan with bug spray? I think the way that Bendis handled Daredevil's death in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN was so real and emotional."
As for who will make it out of the series in one piece, Loeb reveals that when he and the other writers involved crafted this story, no character proved untouchable.
"There were no boundaries," the writer confirms. "You'll see how far we go when the story ends. There were long conversations with the higher ups, but Buckley and Joe Q were with us from the start so they gave us incredible support. There is one
character who we all
agreed would blow peoples' minds that hasn't happened yet. The ironic part about it was this character was the first one we talked about, and how important that person would be for the end of the story."
Loeb felt it necessary to clear the Ultimate Universe's decks in this series for one major reason: To bring it back to its basic unpredictability.
"I've talked about this elsewhere, but simply put, the Ultimate U was once a place where the unexpected was the norm," remembers Loeb. "When you start with Peter Parker as a 16 year old in high school, you just know things are going to be different from the Marvel U.
"But, after [close to 10] years-and I have such enormous respect for all the writers who worked in that Universe, particularly now that so much of it has come to me-the line between the Ultimate and Marvel Universes was getting very thin; often times blurred. So I was extremely lucky to be able to go back to the original architects, Bendis and Millar, and reshape it so there could be a new beginning out of a horrific end."
Now, with the end fast approaching, Loeb teases the "ultimate" fates of some of Ultimatum's biggest players.
The young Peter Parker helped launch the Ultimate Universe in 2000, but will he survive the conclusion to his current series?
"What [ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN writer] Brian [Bendis] has in mind is nothing short of astonishing," teases Loeb.
As seen at the end of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #131, the Master of the Mystic Arts' home in Greenwich Village lies in ruins with other-dimensional menaces pouring from it. But where's Strange in all this? Readers will soon find out.
"He comes more front and center in ULTIMATUM #4," promises Loeb. "The story is a crossover from ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN into ULTIMATUM #4 and finishes in ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR. We wanted to do right by him."
Logan's the best there is at what he does, but as the regular Marvel Universe's Wolverine knows, that might not count for much against a Master of Magnetism.
"Well, Magneto has killed about 90% of the mutant population," Loeb points out. "My guess is Wolverine's going to have a big say about how this all ends..."
The Fantastic Four
With the Invisible Woman already in and out of critical condition and Mr. Fantastic on a dangerous mission to rescue Nick Fury, Loeb won't even promise there will be a Fantastic Four when Ultimatum ends.
"My pal Joe Pokaski has been wrapping [ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR] up with nothing but love," Loeb commends. "He wanted to continue those adventures, but we had to tell him we're not so sure there will even be a Fantastic Four when this is over.
"While I'm at it, Aron Coleite has been telling some of the best X-Men stories in either the regular Marvel Universe or the Ultimate U over in ULTIMATE X-MEN, and the way he finishes that book, including ULTIMATE X-MEN: REQUIEM, is just heartbreaking."
Ultimate Shellhead has his work cut out for him if he hopes to save the lives of his remaining teammates in the Ultimates and stop Magneto once and for all.
"Tony will be facing some terrible choices," warns Loeb. "The Ultimates were his dream and, in many ways, his responsibility. He's lost his home and most of his personal belongings. There's no telling when this is over what his personal fortune will be worth given the collapse of the world economy. And we're talking about comics!"
Victor Van Damme bows to no man, no matter how much power he might wield. Even if he makes it back from the search for Nick Fury, could he survive a confrontation with Magneto?
"We know from the end of ULTIMATES 3 that his role in what's happened is very much his fault-or his plan," Loeb reminds. "Some of that will be revealed in ULTIMATUM #4. He clearly has an agenda to get to Nick Fury."
And finally, the man who started it all. If Magneto doesn't win in the end, will our heroes allow him to live for all the atrocities he's performed against the Ultimate Universe?
"I guess the question is, [once ULTIMATUM ends] do we find ourselves in a world of 'One Nation Under Magneto,' or do the heroes triumph?" poses Loeb. "Whatever happens, as we promised, the Ultimate Universe will never be the same."
Survey the chaos in ULTIMATUM #3, on sale now! And to read Jeph Loeb's ULTIMATES 3, visit Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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