A Comic Book Entry – Another Entry on the Marvel Ulti-verse

So, this week’s rant is about how the latest issue of Ultimate Spider-man managed to touch on the two narrative choices of the Ulti-verse that irritate the hell out of me.  Enjoy!

1) Darkier and Edgier – Frankly, with as dark and edgy as everything keeps getting in the 616 universe with the soft retcons and questionable character choices, it must be hard for Ulti-verse writers to really darken and edgy-ify their universe.  And yet…  This USM issue features the darker and edgy-riffic origin story of Cloak and Dagger.  You may have last seen them in the X-men in 616, despite the fact they are NOT mutants (that, however, is an entirely different rant).  According to the Marvel RPG guide, they would be considered “altered humans” (like the FF); that is, they had a science origin.  Although to be fair to Marvel, Cloak and Dagger were retconned as mutants a long time ago (see “The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger”).

Cloak and Dagger were introduced in the 1980s as a “don’t do drugs” public service announcement.  Rich white girl Tandy Bowen ran away to New York City and was lucky enough to run into blue-collar black boy Tyrone Johnson, who decided against stealing her purse and then decided to protect her because she was pretty naïve (to the point of stupid).  They were kidnapped and used as human test subjects for synthetic heroin by an evil chemist.  Instead of dying, they gained superpowers and turned into vigilantes.  Both of them ended up with ability to manipulate quasi-mystical energy.  In Cloak’s case (Ty), it was Darkforce, and in Dagger’s case, it was Lightforce.  As a bonus, Cloak’s connection to Darkforce was a link to Nightmare’s realm, and because Marvel is not subtle when it comes to names, you can guess Nightmare is not a nice guy.  The duo have had their own comic here and there are often guest starred in other comics.  Mainly they have this “will they, won’t they” get together thing, and Dagger has one of the more egregious boob+ windows, especially considering she’s 16 years old when the comic starts (also, while the cover in the link is new, her costume has always looked liked that).

So, to recap, Ty and Tandy were runaways who were kidnapped by a criminal chemist to test out a new street drug and managed to not die and then turned into vigilantes.  How could this be made darkier and edgier-er?  Well, here’s how USM did it!

Ty and Tandy already live in New York City.  Both are student council presidents and clearly extremely driven and talented high school students.  They are actually dating and all is going well until they are in a car accident on prom night and end up in comas.  Roxxon Corporation arranges to have them declared dead and then use the cover story that the hospital accidentally cremated the bodies (do hospitals even do that?).  Basically, they’re two krazy kids with their whole lives ahead of them subjected to evil corporate experiments that give them powers (I’m not certain at this point if they have the same dangerous quasi-mystical component that their 616 originals have).  Although, there is an upside in that Dagger’s boob+ window has been filled in this new incarnation.  However, this leads to the second narrative choice…

2) Making good guys into bad guys for no reason – again, with the darkling and edgy-tastic nature of the Ulti-verse, sometimes there isn’t a lot of difference between good guys and bad guys anyway.  But I was annoyed with Agatha Harkness was turned into a bad guy (and a seven-part space alien at that) and she wasn’t the only one.

Let’s play a game we all learned on Sesame Street – one of these things is not like the others; one of these things doesn’t belong.  Can you pick out the one that doesn’t belong?

These are the four Roxxon scientists experimenting on Cloak and Dagger:
1) Nathaniel Essex
2) Samuel Sterns
3) Armin Zola III
4) Layla Miller

Okay, if you know anything about Marvel you don’t even need to follow the links to figure out which one of these is supposed to be a good guy.  But if you didn’t follow the links and don’t know Marvel, I’ll give you the answer – it’s Layla Miller, member of X-Force, wife of Multiple Man, and possessor of a meta-power.  Now, I know it might be boring for everyone in the Ulti-verse to be exactly the same as their 616 counterparts, but pretty much zero bad guys are shown to be good guys in the Ulti-verse, so it’s my opinion this is only done for some kind of shock value.  I’m not shocked; I’m just annoyed.  And given her company in this comic, Layla manages to come across as a creepy cultist.

But for all that, I am still enjoying reading USM.  However, the above reasons are why I generally don’t read the rest of the Ulti-verse comics.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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