I don’t think the Ultimate Universe really needed an origin story based on a few lines of dialogue that Brian Michael Bendis cooked up for Bruce Banner back in the third issue of “Ultimate Marvel Team-Up.” Yet here we are anyway. At first, it’s pretty boring as we’re shown the initial test of the super-soldier serum with Nick Fury and the creation of the mutant genome with James “Wolverine” Howlett. There are some changes and tweaks to each character’s origin, but I can’t say that moving things more toward “realistic” actually makes them any more interesting.
However, as things go along and Fury is brought back into the fold, things actually start picking up steam and Bendis begins to make good on the fact that “everything” is connected. We see the rebirth of the “Super Soldier” project with several prominent Marvel scientists, the origin of the Hulk, and finally find out why Fury has such an interest in young Peter Parker. It’s a moment predictably but undeniably tragic and the high point of the collection. Even though the Magneto/Xavier thread feels underdeveloped -- I’d still like to know how Xavier made it out of the Savage Land with that metal lance in his back -- there’s a great bit of dramatic irony in Magneto’s final cry now that we know the origin of the mutant genome.
As I understand it, this story was designed to set up “Ultimatum” with the present-day segments having the Fantastic Four investigate mysterious alien “watcher” devices and being foretold of a great calamity. Despite it’s significance to the line, I never picked up that event story because it was universally reviled in pretty much every review I read of it. Sure, I could buy it anyway and make up my own mind, but the word-of-mouth was so unified in its bilious outrage that I don’t see any point to do so. This is also how I avoided seeing such films as “Batman & Robin,” “Speed Racer,” and “Jonah Hex,” so I think it’s working out pretty well for me thus far.
While there is some setup for that event going on here, this reads more like an introduction to Bendis’ “Ultimate Doomsday” thanks to the “watchers” and the surprise introduction of the character on the last page. His efforts here actually had the effect of making me want to go and re-read that story again, and on that level this book has to be considered a success. This may not have been a necessary, story but it was ultimately (pun not intended) one worth reading.