On sale now in comics shops everywhere is Ultimate Comics X-Men #1, beginning a brand new long form saga devised by writer Nick Spencer and illustrated by Paco Medina & Juan Vlasco with colors by Marte Garcia. As part of Marvel's Ultimate Comics Reborn initiative, Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 is designed to help reestablish the Ultimate line as a streamlined, self-contained and new-reader-friendly narrative distinct from that of the ever expanding and infinitely intricate Marvel Universe. As a virtually virginal X-Men and Ultimate Comics reader, I can tell you this inaugural issue of Ultimate Comics X-Men was entirely successful in that regard, although some fans may be disappointed by the lack of major action sequences. You can read more non-spoilery thoughts and check out a preview of Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 after the cut.Launched in 2000 as a sort of batsh*t crazy version of the existing Marvel Universe, the original Ultimate line included such bestsellers and trendsetters as The Ultimates (a distinctly Hollywood-like reinterpretation of Captain America and the Avengers that introduced Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury), Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man (which returned Peter Parker to his teenage incarnation). In the years hence, Peter Parker died, the X-Men learned their powers weren't the result of human evolution but rather failed experiments conducted by the United States government, and the villain Magneto murders millions of people -- among them, Professor X and Wolverine. In the chaos that was Ultimatum, Cyclops executed Magneto for his crimes before being killed by Magneto's son, Quicksilver. Subsequently, the U.S. Congress passed a law requiring mutants to surrender themselves to the authorities or be shot.

With Professor X and Magneto's respective dreams of peace and dominance both decidedly crushed, the stage is set for Nick Spencer's Ultimate Comics X-Men, which the writer said back in May was "less about saving the world and more about a group of kids deciding to stick together and save each other." The heroes' complete failure is an intriguing place from which to launch a new superhero series, especially to someone who's largely unfamiliar with and/or consistently repelled by the characters and their endlessly deep mythologies. One thing that always seemed incongruous were the characters' protestations of prejudice and victimhood in the X-Men comics and films, where they appeared to be just as beautiful and altruistic as any other Marvel superheroes. The Ultimate Comics line plugs that hole by establishing a universe in which some high profile mutants are demonstrably dangerous and occasionally genocidal, making life genuinely difficult for those who wish to live in peace with normal humans or just be left alone -- like the heroes of Spencer's story.

Without giving anything away, the thrust of Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 is the choices that surviving mutants -- specifically Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine's son Jim, Iceman and the Human Torch (why he's here or what happened to the rest of the Fantastic Four, I do not know, but it's chill) -- will have to make about how they wish to proceed in this grim new world in which mutants live in camps and are treated like the toxic waste of a science experiment gone wrong. Those choices are made in this issue, and they make me want to read the next.

While short on the over-the-top action scenes typically associated with the Ultimate line, issue #1 of Ultimate Comics X-Men made this new reader feel completely at home in the world of the story. Most of the background information above was gleaned from just this single issue, which may be too heavy on exposition for some but was just enough to make me completely capable of comprehending the mythology of an incoming X-Men saga. That alone is an astonishing turn of events in my life, and a feeling I've not had since Grant Morrison's New X-Men began ten years ago.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #1 is on sale now in comics shops everywhere.

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