There are some seriously talented people that worked very hard to put these issues together. Yet despite their efforts and my reading with an open mind, Ultimate End left me feeling frustrated, confused, and disappointed.
To start with the positive, Bagley, Hanna, and Ponsor had an overwhelming number of characters to portray, and often all at the same time. Issue #5’s panels are practically bursting with incredible design, and every cast member (and there are a LOT) shines with distinct and well-realized facial expressions. Every page is confidently executed and not a single panel looks rushed.
I admit to being initially annoyed at seeing the same two page spread repeated several times for dramatic effect, but that’s offset a little bit when considering the insane amount of work required for the rest of the issue. Factor in the poster-like spreads of Doom and the 616/1610 casts, and the book almost earns its price in art alone.
Unfortunately, I needed more than a bunch of cool looking characters clustered together – especially after the previous four issues.
I was frustrated because this issue continued the series’ pattern of gearing up for epic fights and then immediately abandoning them to break for another conversation. Miles was positioned as essential to the story’s resolution, but his role ended up as exposition. That said, I found his words (and the cast’s reaction) to be poignant as commentary to the line’s real-life fate. It seemed to be a sad acknowledgment that the line had been dead for some time before Secret Wars, and that perhaps very few still cared enough to say goodbye.
I was confused regarding the sudden resolution of the central predicament. Ultimate End #1 opened with The Punisher ready to annihilate the entire cast. The payoff to that moment finally arrives in this issue, and to say it was anticlimactic would sadly be overselling it. I don’t know if it was meant to be shocking (pun not intended), but my response was a shrug of the shoulders. Same with the final assault. The buildup echoed the closing moments of Cataclysm, but then ended “off panel”! It underscored the feeling of the previous four issues as time fillers before the true main event.
That event being the final revelation of Miles’ fate. This was the part I was waiting for, and it managed to be both promising and disappointing. I’m glad that Miles’ supporting cast has finally been expanded. I love Ganke (who doesn’t?) but Miles needs more points of view to help develop as a character. It wasn’t clear to me if the girl is meant to be Katie, Kitty, or Lana, but we’ll find out soon enough. As for the surprise character, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s undoing a key moment in this Spider-Man’s story so that it can repeat it later for new readers within the new continuity. That’s a disappointing prospect, but I can appreciate the writer taking full advantage of a reset button and am very excited to see how he takes advantage of the new cast dynamic. More cast equals more storytelling potential. All of this will be reestablished in Spider-Man #1 next year, which makes the final scene a curiosity at best. It could have easily been tacked on to the final Secret Wars issue instead of having it wrap up a scattered five issue miniseries.
As someone that was enjoying the previous run of Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, I’d grudgingly accepted its ending as a business necessity. The Ultimate Universe has had a long and strange history (this 2015 Vulture article is a must-read) and in terms of sales, had died a slow and painful death and needed to be put out of its misery.
Unfortunately, Secret Wars suffered from unexpected delays and the new line being launched before the door was fully closed on the old one. Ultimate End seemed like it should have been the second most important book of the event, but sadly ended up feeling like an obligation to read. It seemed disconnected, confusing, and a wasted opportunity. I know that these talented creators are capable of incredible work (and I can’t wait to see what’s next), but unfortunately I can’t see wanting to re-read this, nor can I recommend it as worth the time or money.
Rest in Peace, Ultimate Universe.
And good luck, Miles Morales. We’re rooting for you!
A depressing ending acknowledges that the Ultimate Universe died for readers long before Secret Wars. Phenomenal art, yet repeated spread pages feel like filler. More pointless chaos, and a reset that ends on an optimistic note while also undoing precious little character development for Miles.