(There’s some slightly spoiler-filled preamble before we get to the list itself, so feel free to skip below if you’d rather just get some recommendations!)

Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line launches anew, with Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli’s Ultimate Universe #1 kicking off a whole new world of stories. Like the original line (which launched 23 years ago!), the point of the Ultimate Universe is to provide a clean jumping-on point for new readers, as well as provide a new avenue for fresh stories featuring some of Marvel’s most popular characters.

This new wave of books began back in June with Ultimate Invasion, a four-issue mini from Hickman and Bryan Hitch (who, incidentally, was one of the architects of the 2002 Ultimates series) that bridged the gap between the old universe (Earth 1610) and what’s to come (Earth 6160). The line will expand with a number of new ongoings in 2024, beginning with Ultimate Spider-Man by Hickman and Marco Checchetto, Ultimate Black Panther by Bryan Hill and Caselli, and Ultimate X-Men by Peach Momoko.

The relaunched Ultimate lineup

With the deluge of new books coming out, we here at the Beat figured it might be handy to have a guide as a way to help catch readers, new and old, up to speed on the Ultimate world and the years of storytelling that come with it. So, without further ado, here’s everything you need to read to understand the new launch:

And that’s it! You don’t need to go back and read anything else to understand this new world, as the Ultimate line is meant to be a way for new readers to jump in fresh. Let’s go one step further: wanna skip both of these and jump in clean with Ultimate Spider-Man #1 in January? You could probably do that, too! 

Again, these Ultimate comics are, ostensibly, for new readers, without decades of stories and potential baggage to catch up on. Half of the fun of comics is starting somewhere blind and learning as you go, and that’s a completely viable option! 


This is the definition of a longbox dive find…

That other side of comics – the convoluted, digging thru longboxes for that hyper-specific out-of-print back issue side – is also incredibly fun. The original Ultimate line was launched in 2000 to avoid this messier aspect, but after a few short years, it fell right into the same traps that good ol’ Earth-616 ran aground decades ago. 

Now, with all of this build-up, it may come as no shock to hear his new Ultimate Universe is built directly on the bones of the old one. Compounded with 23 years of history and crossovers, means that, for those willing to do their homework, there’s a lot more to this new Ultimate Universe than just Invasion and this one-shot.

So here’s the plan: we’re going to give ten straightforward recommendations for original Ultimate Comics to get you the basics of what the original line stood for, as well as some context for these new stories. If all you want is a quick introduction to this world, that’s what these stories are here for. 

But… if you wanna spend the day (or, more realistically, the next few months) catching up on everything Ultimate Comics, we’re also going to create a reading order of every single Ultimate Comic there is… it just needs a bit more time in the oven.

Now, for real, here are ten recommendations for Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line, be it good, bad, or just downright ugly (some of these comics are of their time and have some rather upsetting content – if you’re not interested in checking these out, there’s no pressure!):

Ultimate Comics

1. Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 – Power and Responsibility

Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley are at their a-game, with a heavily decompressed introduction to a teen Peter Parker in the year 2000. We’re introduced to Spidey mainstays like MJ, the Green Goblin, and more. The entire series is a blast and is 100% the best outing in the whole Ultimate Universe, so I wouldn’t fault you for reading it all.

2. Ultimate X-Men

The mutant world is completely reimagined by Mark Millar and Adam Kubert, as they form an X-Men team heavily informed by Silver Age sensibilities. Though the cast and storylines are pulled from all across X-history, the aggressive attitude of these stories feels much more like the early 60s’ good vs. evil battles with the backdrop of the early aughts. Ultimate X-Men goes through a crazy amount of changes throughout its run, but it starts with a firm identity.

3. The Ultimates

Millar and Bryan Hitch continue to usher in the modern age of comics with The Ultimates, quite possibly the single largest influence on the MCU. With a crass attitude and some questionable politics, this modernized version of the Avengers does whatever it can to protect America’s interests, no matter the cost to the rest of the globe. While the Ultimates will return periodically over the course of the line, no other iteration is as influential as the one seen here.

4. Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine 

Damon Lindelof (of TV shows like Lost, The Leftovers, and Watchmen) teams up with Leinil Francis Yu for a knockdown, drag-out fight between two of Marvel’s most iconic brawlers. There isn’t much to say here other than to mention that this is an incredibly violent slugfest, so viewer discretion is definitely advised. 

5. Ultimatum

I stand by the fact that reading bad comics can be a learning moment, and look no further than Ultimatum. Jeph Loeb and David Finch were brought in to shake up the Ultimate line, and, in the process, they broke it. Magneto, ever the megalomaniac, decides to destroy the Earth as revenge for the death of his twin-cestuous children (do NOT read Ultimates 3). What follows is a messy, grotesque comic with very little substance but fascinating consequences for the world to follow.

6. Ultimate Comics: Doomsday

In the aftermath of Ultimatum, Earth-1610 was at an impasse. The universe had become its own unwieldy mess to rival that of the main Marvel line, and there was no set path they had to follow. Thus, with Ultimate Comics: Doomsday, Bendis had the unenviable task of making the universe workable again. Featuring a long-gestating mystery, a devastating twist, and great art from Rafa Sandoval, this is one of the strongest entries in the Ultimate line. 

7. Death of Spider-Man

This is a great read, even knowing what’s to come. Bendis closes out his initial run alongside the returning Bagley before moving on to introduce the most influential Ultimate character into this world. In terms of watershed moments for Ultimate Comics, it doesn’t get bigger than this. Definitely stick around for Fallout right after this, as it contains some vital pieces to the next phase of the Ultimate world.

8. Ultimate Comics: Ultimates

Concurrent to his work on the 616 Fantastic FourJonathan Hickman continues his world-building exploits with The Ultimates, utilizing the path started in Doomsday and introducing readers to The Maker and his Children of Tomorrow. Esad Ribić draws most of this series and it is a dream with Hickman’s bold ideas. Keep an eye on this duo.

9. Divided We Fall/United We Stand

A modern civil war? Sentinels sweeping the US hunting mutants? An Ultimate becomes the President? So much happens in this story, and it completely reshapes the Ultimate landscape for the rest of its run. Cataclysm follows (and requires the excellent Gah Lak Tus trilogy to understand), but this is the prelude to the end of this world.

10. Secret Wars

While not in the Ultimate Universe per se, this marks the official ending to Earth 1610, as it collides with the main Marvel Universe… literally. Hickman reunites with  Ribić to bring his long-gestating multiversal saga to an end, smashing the two Earths together and bringing Miles Morales into the greater Marvel Universe. While you may be tempted to pair this with Ultimate End, this is not a bad comic that gives context – it’s just a bad comic.

After Secret Wars, there are periodic returns to characters and ideas first devised on Earth-1610, but for the large part, they exist as callbacks and cameos for those who remember the original line. 

But that’s pretty much it! If you want more, be on the lookout for our complete Ultimate Reading Order, on the way soon! 

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