I know I have ranted on at length about how much I hate the “One More Day” storyline. Further thought on how that all fell out leaves me more confused than ever as to why it was done. Executives on the Boardroom level at Marvel didn’t like Spider-man being married and wanted him to be young and single again. But the Ultimate universe (Ulti-verse) line already featured a re-booted and teenaged Peter Parker. Said Peter Parker was not only single, but acquired a harem of gorgeous young women including of course Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy, but also Kitty Pryde from the X-men. If drama was what the Boardroom wanted, well, teenaged love triangles (quadrangle?) are, to quote a teenaged action girl, “so the drama.” But for some reason USM wasn’t enough and Amazing Spider-man had to suffer those horrific retcons.
I general, I was not keen about the Ulti-verse. Every major storyline and/or team in the mainstream Marvel universe was not only re-started (which isn’t necessarily bad) but it got a heapin’ helpin’ of “darker and edgier.” Darker and edgier is a common trope in fiction (the website www.tvtropes.com is a wiki with an exhaustive list of fiction tropes and media they show up in) and usually done to attract a different type of readership. Often this is done at the behest of the Boardroom, and seldom does executive meddling make for good writing. This is not to say darker and edgier is always bad. Frank Miller got his hands on Batman in the 1970s and went to town with darker and edgier and re-defined Batman in the DC universe. Common opinion favors darker and edgier Batman versus the Silver Age campyness. However, campy Batman has its charms; I refer to the 1960s live action series and the more recent and quite clever animated “Batman: the Brave and the Bold” (it had Neil Patrick Harris as a singing villain and Bat-mite!). But campy Batman again succumbs to darker and edgier, as the “Brave and the Bold” was recently canceled for a new, darker animated Batman.
Anyway, in general, there are certain characters that better lend themselves to darker and edgier than others. Batman, yes, Ambush Bug, maybe not so much. Marvel, however, was not this discriminating in their Ulti-verse. Everyone and everything was darker and edgier and it was clear to me the goal was to attract new readers, not necessarily improve the writing in any way (I know, like I should have expected anything else). I didn’t even understand many of the changes. For example, why take a minor character like Agatha Harkness (I think she’s dead in the mainstream universe, but she was a witch) and make her into some weird compound entity alien thing the new Fantastic Four have to fight? Anyway, the effectiveness of darker and edgier is probably best illustrated by the fact Marvel almost literally nuked that universe and most of the titles and characters are dead and gone.
Likewise, when it started, I wasn’t too keen on Ultimate Spider-man. I thought the writer was trying to cram in forty-odd years of mainstream story-lines as quickly as possible to satisfy old readers before moving on to something new. But as I read, I realized this was not so. The old story-lines were in general updated well and new elements were introduced to keep it fresh. Most telling to me was that Aunt May was not a useless, doting old biddy who knew nothing of Peter’s secret identity. She found out, and was supportive and useful. She tried to gun down the Green Goblin! I heart that version of Aunt May. Not every issue was great, but darker and edgier seemed to work. However, it was jarring to me to read USM and Amazing Spider-man and see a 16 year old Peter Parker handle his relationships so much better than the late-20-something Peter Parker. By the end of it, I liked Ultimate Peter Parker much more than mainstream Peter Parker. I’m still sticking with the new USM, by the way.