Ultimate Marvel Team-Up

by Brian Michael Bendis, et al.

Cover image

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Publisher: Marvel
Copyright: August 2002
ISBN: 0-7851-0870-X
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 448

Buy at Powell's Books

This is another collection of comics from Marvel's reboot (retelling from the beginning) of their universe. For more information on the whole Ultimate concept, see my Ultimate Spider-Man Collection review. You may also want to read at least the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man before reading Ultimate Marvel Team-Up anyway, since the latter stars Spider-Man and ties in some with the former.

When I was reading and collecting comics regularly, I had a fond spot in my heart for Marvel Team-Up. The basic idea was to take Spider-Man, a very popular and well-known character, and throw him into usually one-issue stories with some other character from the Marvel Universe. Sometimes, the other character was well-known; sometimes, they were extremely obscure. I remember finding out about several interesting characters through Marvel Team-Up, which was, of course, the whole point.

The idea works best with a broad universe of characters to draw on, though, so I was wondering how it was going to work with the newly begun and still mostly empty Ultimate universe. The answer ended up being that Ultimate Marvel Team-Up was used to introduce a few characters who had yet to have official Ultimate versions, or at least didn't have their own books. Those stories turned out to work better than the ones featuring more established Ultimate characters.

The first few stories (Wolverine with art by Matt Wagner, Hulk with art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, and Iron Man with art by Mike Allred) suffered quite a bit from pointlessness. These stories felt like they were there just to provide some excuse for Spider-Man to meet the other characters. They had a basically meaningless encounter, and then they parted company again. Yawn. The Man-Thing (John Totleben and Ron Randall) and Black Widow (Terry Moore and Walden Wong) later on had similar difficulties, but at least there was the introduction of a character to serve some sort of purpose.

Much better were the X-Men (Chynna Clugston-Major) and Shang-Chi (Rick Mays, Jason Martin) stories. The X-Men story was a nice teenage encounter between all of the characters out of costume, not particularly deep but fun. The Shang-Chi story would have been meaningless except for the beautiful interweaving of a Chinese folk tale illustrated with Andy Lee brush art that really caught my attention.

I expect most people will identify the Punisher/Daredevil story illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz as the highlight of this collection. It's certainly a powerful story, but it's marred for me by two things: first, I must admit to not being a fan of Sienkiewicz's art style; and second, it's not at all clear why Spider-Man is involved. This is an almost pure Daredevil story being told in a Spider-Man book because, well, because. I could have also done without the over-the-top restraints used on the Punisher (when the characters are complaining about the props, something's wrong), and did they really have to make the Punisher even darker than he was in the mainstream Marvel Universe? Despite all that, though, good story.

The Fantastic Four story is a great comedic fourth-wall-breaking story marred by some truly hideous art by Jim Mahfood. I know it's stylistic rather than simply poor, but Peter doesn't look even vaguely like Peter and an art style that involves inability to draw straight lines just doesn't work for me. I have a similar complaint about the Dr. Strange story illustrated by Ted McKeever. It's good to see Dr. Strange in the Ultimate universe (and the trick used to match his age with the other heroes works for me), but really, that was a bit of a mess.

Finally, the collection I read threw in Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special #1, which while featuring a tiny bit of story is mostly an excuse to have a variety of artists (unfortunately including Mahfood again) do bits of story and a few nice pin-up shots of various Ultimate heroes. It's filler, but it's pretty filler in places.

Overall, there's some enjoyable stuff here, but nothing that will really blow you away (except maybe the Punisher story, if you like really dark, morally ambiguous stories and Sienkiewicz art). The collection taken as a whole is hampered by some pointless stories that I wouldn't have bothered to buy as individual issues.

The version I read included all sixteen issues of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up that were ever produced. I see there are also three trade paperback editions that collect the series; I don't know about the fate of Super Special #1 in the paperback collections, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it either. The good bits are spread out through the whole series, so I wouldn't recommend any of the paperbacks over the others.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-02-27

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21