Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Ultimatum #5

By Zak Edwards
August 12, 2009 - 12:24

I think I have finally figured out why deconstruction, specifically the theories of Roland Barthes, never really caught on in a general sense, why many people have rejected its ideas and processes, and I have this whole Ultimatum debacle to thank for it.  Finally, Jeph Loeb and David Finch’s awful excuse for a comic book has come in handy for something other than fuel for rants and campfires.  For those of you who do not know who Roland Barthes is and are still reading this article (congratulations, the attention deficit nature of the internet has not gotten to you yet), I will describe it simply in the next paragraph.  For those of you that do, skip the next paragraph to save yourself the pain of oversimplification.

Hey kids! If you put all the images of the covers together, they make one big picture! Yay!
Deconstruction, and more specifically the ideas of a man named Roland Barthes, stem from an essay by the aforementioned called “The Death of the Author.”  This article argued the author is nothing more than a word selector along horizontal and vertical axis of words which form sentences and paragraphs and books.  So really, what a reader gets out of a book and what they interpret the book as is all up to them.  The author doesn’t exist, their intentions, backgrounds, everything are all meaning nothing.  So of course this leads to an idea of a book becoming a series of internalized symbols as well as a complex machine invoking memories and interpretations from individuals on a fairly personal scale.  This also makes a book open to literally limitless interpretations, which is wonderful for English students everywhere.  If you can defend it, you’re right, but so is the next guy.

But the main problem with deconstruction, something the media and people in general absolutely love, is there is no room for a scapegoat, no responsibility for poor quality.  Ultimatum is an awful book because I interpreted it as such.  Countless agree with me, but if I decide to agree with Barthes’ theory, then this book has screwed me over.  I hate it because of me.  The final scenes didn’t flow because I wouldn’t let them.  The random deaths and resurrections, including the death of Cyclops, Wolverine and the resurrection of Quicksilver and a character who looks too much like the Scarlet Witch, whose deaths put this whole thing in motion; these are all my fault.  Then again, Cyclops finally stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done, that was a good thing I did there.  But Magneto’s whole memory lapse happened just before, as if amnesia is something to make him more redeemable, is another bad thing I’ve interpreted.  But what’s even worse, Jeph Loeb puts a list of even more scapegoats at the back with his little dedication to people like (Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief) Joe Quesada.  So really, we are left with a book which has taken the ‘lets kill characters to draw people’s attention’ and blown it way, way out of proportion.  But it did what it was supposed to do, make Marvel Comics money, and here we are to pick up the pieces of the mess I created.

So I guess maybe Loeb can’t be blamed.  Joe Quesada can’t either.  But I can, and you can (if you’ve read it).  And that’s why I don’t like Barthes, the bastard made me more responsible and I don’t like it one bit.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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