How Marvel’s Ultimate Revival May Influence the MCU

Eight years after Secret Wars, the MCU's Ultimate Marvel urtext is returning.

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Over 20 years ago, Marvel had an idea: bring together a remarkable group of comic book creators to remake the Marvel Universe with 21st-century sensibilities.

It was called Ultimate Marvel. For better and worse, it changed pop culture forever. Now, eight years after the 2015 crossover event Secret Wars ended it, Marvel is reviving the once prolific imprint with A-list writer Jonathan Hickman and original Ultimate Marvel artist Bryan Hitch.

Announced on Wednesday by Marvel through Entertainment Weekly, Marvel Comics will publish a new four-issue comic series titled Ultimate Invasion by Hickman and Hitch. The first issue, which is the first Ultimate Marvel project in years, is scheduled for June. Story details are still under wraps, but it will center on an evil Reed Richards, known as The Maker, and Miles Morales, arguably the most significant character from Ultimate Marvel.

Given the creative DNA shared between Ultimate Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s possible that whatever unfolds in Ultimate Invasion may happen in the MCU. It may not be today or tomorrow, but fans may eventually witness some version of Ultimate Invasion on the big screen.

Ultimate Invasion is a four-issue miniseries by Jonathan Hickman and Bryan Hitch that aims to revive the Ultimate Marvel universe.

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In a quote to Entertainment Weekly, Hickman said Ultimate Invasion isn’t about “replicating or revisiting” the old Ultimate Marvel. “We also thought the very idea of Ultimate Comics needed to be inverted from what the original universe was,” Hickman said. “We wanted this to be something that could really only exist in the comic space: a new way of thinking about, and enjoying, a new version of the Marvel Universe. I’m pretty happy to say that it feels like we’ve accomplished those things and we’re very excited for everyone to get to read it.”

Interestingly, Hickman credited Ultimate Marvel for inspiring the Marvel Cinematic Universe, calling it “the spine of the MCU.” Ultimate Marvel debuted in 2000, inspired by Marvel’s dwindling sales and cultural relevancy. Because of their many decades of complex continuity, Marvel’s comics were deemed impossible for modern readers to follow. To combat this, Ultimate Marvel hinged on the premise of the Marvel superheroes getting their starts in the modern day, with updated (and often grittier) origins and personalities.

Not all of Ultimate Marvel worked, and not all of it scans well 20 years on. For example, the Ultimate Marvel universe had a violently xenophobic Captain America, an incestuous Wanda and Pietro, and an even more narcissistic and womanizing Tony Stark, if you can believe that.

Story details are still scarce, but Ultimate Invasion will feature a villainous Reed Richards and Miles Morales.

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A press release implied Ultimate Invasion may lead to a revival of the imprint, which ended in 2015.

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But when Ultimate Marvel was good, it was great, which is why it’s no surprise the MCU mined heavily from Ultimate Marvel in its early years. This includes the casting of Samuel L. Jackson (whose likeness was used for Nick Fury in Ultimate Marvel), the Chitauri invasion, multiverse “Incursions,” Hawkeye and Black Widow’s origins, and even S.H.I.E.L.D.’s role in forming the Avengers, who were called the Ultimates.

In 2015, the Ultimate Marvel universe was folded into the original Earth-616 Marvel Universe in Secret Wars. In 2026, Marvel Studios is bringing Secret Wars to the big screen, with a merging of the multiverse making once-distant franchises like Fox’s X-Men part of the MCU. Though Ultimate Marvel hasn’t been around for almost a decade, its influence is still felt.

While Ultimate Invasion will be a comics-centric project — Hickman and Hitch tell EW the project is wholly designed as something that can only happen in comics — don’t be surprised when, at a future Comic-Con, Kevin Feige announces Avengers: Ultimate Invasion for Phase Nine.

The Inverse Analysis — Here’s a wild thought. Just as Marvel used the Ultimate Marvel imprint to modernize its most famous characters, is there a reality where Marvel Studios could do its own “Ultimate MCU” with yet more reboots of Iron Man and Captain America? With the growing acceptance that audiences are feeling Marvel fatigue, maybe this is unlikely; but then again, Hollywood loves nothing more than relying on what works.

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