photo of david finch, brian michael bendis and jeph loeb
My Saturday morning began with the Ultimate universe panel featuring architects Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb and artist David Finch, with their fearless leader Joe Quesada serving as moderator.

Beginning shortly after the scheduled start time, partially due to Quesada's tardiness, Loeb quipped, "we thought it was appropriate that the Ultimate panel start late." For those who may not get the joke, Loeb later remarked that "one of the things about the Ultimate universe is that it's as famous for its quality as it is for its lateness."

Jeph Loeb will be taking over Ultimate Power following J. Michael Straczynski's turn as writer. Promising a "wow finish," Loeb said that "the end of issue nine will change everything in the Ultilmate universe and the Squadron Supreme universe ... from this day forward."

Joe Madureira artwork from Ultimates 3
What you're looking at above is a portion of the first look at Ultimates 3 that Comic-Con fans were treated to in the panel. Ultimates 3 is brought to you by Loeb and Joe Madureira, who is returning to comics for the first time since he "retired" from the industry at the very height of his fame some ten years ago. Loeb says the first issue is due in December, and that the series is now "part of a much larger scheme, which is why we pushed the book back." In response to this promise of a December release, Bendis chimed in with, "December, 2007 ... soooooo, April."

Bendis spoke of Ultimate Origins, a six, "maybe seven" issue mini-series by himself with Butch Guice (who, it was also announced, has signed exclusive to Marvel) and covers by Simone Bianchi. Bendis explained that the series will answer the questions, "what makes the Ultimate universe the Ultimate universe? What makes it unique? What makes it special? We are revealing it all to you."

The biggest announcement of the panel pertained to the "much larger scheme" Loeb referred to early on. Serving as a bookend to Ultimate Origins, Loeb says that "at the end of Ultimates 3 you'll see why everything has to end ... and we're calling that end 'Ultimatum.'" A six-part story, written by Loeb and with artwork by Finch, "Ultimatum" will begin in Ultimate Fantastic Four, continue in Ultimate X-Men, and bounce back and forth for three issues of each title. Referring to the fact that "in the Ultimate universe, you really can expect the unexpected," Loeb cryptically stated that "the deaths can stick."

All of the artwork shown for these three stories, by Madureira, Guice and Finch looked gorgeous. In addition to the high quality of the writing talent involved in the books, the Ultimate universe really is redefining the way superhero books (should) look in the modern era, with their fantastical elements grounded in a gritty, believable realism. For my money, it's the coolest universe in superhero comics, wiping the floor with all comers. If you've yet to sample the line, Loeb promises that in addition to being "really cool," Bendis' Ultimate Origins will be a great jumping-on point for new readers, and that the series is intentionally being constructed so that folks with no prior knowledge of the Ultimate universe will be able to jump right on board.

More From ComicsAlliance