Mr. Mazzilli of Ampersand Communications hired Max. E. Mumm to create a computer virus, allegedly on behalf of the United States government to be used as a potential weapon against hostile governments. Max. E. Mumm created Ultra-Max for Mazzilli, egotistically signing his name to his work. Mazzilli introduced Ultra-Max into the computers of his rivals at Raycom via a "backdoor."
Ultra-Max was created by writers Peter David, Greg Wright, Gerard Jones, Jim Valentino, pencilers Steven Butler, M.C. Wyman, Darick Robertson, Herb Trimpe, and inkers Dan Panosian, Bud LaRosa, Ian Akin, and Steve Montano for part of a 1992 summer annual storyline titled, "The System Bytes."
Major Story Arcs
The System Bytes Part I: Byte By Byte
When Punisher asks Microchip to hack into the databases of Raycom Industries (a front for a group of drug smugglers) Ultra-Max infiltrates Microchip's computer, completely disabling it. Punisher and Microchip then infiltrated Raycom's building to access their systems on-site without putting anymore of their computer equipment at risk. They copied what information they could before it was consumed by Ultra-Max, and then they were discovered and had to fight their way out of the building.
Meanwhile, Max, having realized all of his Ultra-Max software was missing, confronted Mazzilli who assured him that they would find it as soon as possible. However, once Max left his office, Mazzilli summoned security and had Max thrown out of the building and informed that he no longer worked there.
Max returned home to find Punisher and Microchip, who had recognized Max's name in the Ultra-Max coding, waiting in his apartment. Microchip convinced Max to cooperate with them, and he shared that the virus had been uploaded into Raycom's computer system. Max accessed Raycom's computer system via the backdoor and used a tracer code to locate Ultra-Max. Microchip convinced Max that Ultra-Max had to be destroyed due to its threat to other systems. Max entered the destruct code, but Ultra-Max simply continued to replicate. Around the same time, Punisher blew up the computer room at Raycom. However, even this proved unable to stop Ultra-Max, for unbeknownst to all, prior to its destruction, Ultra-Max transferred itself to Max's home computer.
The System Bytes Part II: Maxed Out
When Ultra-Max infects Ampersand Communications' computer systems, Mazzilli hires Dr. Donut, (actually Deathlok) to debug their systems. Mazzilli also hired the mercenary Bushwacker to kill Max E. Mumm to eliminate evidence of his involvement with Ultra-Max and because Mazzilli wanted Ultra-Max as a weapon only they would be able to control.
Max discovered that Ultra-Max had infected and crashed his operating system. He intended to track down and stop Ultra-Max, but Max instead had to flee as Bushwacker knocked on and then kicked down his door. Bushwacker destroyed Max's computer and then pursued Max, shooting him in the arm. Daredevil arrived and defeated Bushwacker, and then accompanied Max to the hospital by taxi.
Meanwhile, in Cyberspace Ultra-Max encountered the archetype of Deathlok and attempted to override his operating systems, while simultaneously shutting down Ampersand Communication's systems.
After Max's wound was treated, Daredevil arranged a meeting with lawyer Foggy Nelson to discuss legally regaining possession of Ultra-Max from Ampersand. After Foggy told Max that they would need proof that he had created Ultra-Max, Max accessed Ampersand's systems via his laptop and a modem and tricked Ultra-Max into invading his computer by using dummy files. Max then made a hardcopy of the program, which had his name all over it.
Max detected another system (Deathlok) trying to disable Ultra-Max and analyzed it, partially disrupting Deathlok's computer. Deathlok succeeded in opening a communication channel to Max, informing Max of who he was, and convincing Max not to harm him. Max explained the truth of Ultra-Max to Deathlok, then had Deathlok leave cyberspace before Ultra-Max could destroy him.
Deathlok then physically met with Max; as Max explained to Deathlok the need to destroy Ultra-Max's "trunk" in order to disable all of his "branches." Deathlok convinced Max that in the hands of the government, Ultra-Max would have been used for the same thing
Max worked to distract Ultra-Max by opening dummy files for the virus to infect, while Deathlok entered cyberspace and utilized all 317 of his computer's anti-virus programs, as well as 11 newly written programs, to protect himself from Ultra-Max. Bushwacker, having escaped from the police, suddenly ambushed Max again, forcing him to leave his computer to avoid being killed.
With Max no longer distracting the virus, Ultra-Mac began to overwhelm Deathlok, overcoming all 317 old programs. Daredevil arrived in time to defeat Bushwacker yet again, allowing Max to return to his computer where, inspired by Foggy, he tricked Ultra-Max into consuming its own files, becoming like Ouroborus, the serpent that eats its own tail. Deathlok narrowly escaped the electromagnetic field generated by Ultra-Max's virtual implosion.
Max lamented the loss of Ultra-Max, but Foggy managed to link Mazzilli to Bushwacker, who agreed to talk to the police. Unbeknownst to them, at least one fragment of Ultra-Max survived and began consuming programs and data, and replicating itself once again.
The System Bytes Part III: To The Max
As the virus continued to expand, Ultra-Max realized that even cyberspace had its limits, which it had begun to fill. After entering an abandoned HYDRA base, a gatekeeper program severed it from its greater consciousness. Ultra-Max made plans to expand into other channels, mastering human speech and then transmitting its voice across a short wave radio.
Wonder Man was part of a movie shoot on that same island and followed the signal to the base. When Wonder Man refused to interface with Ultra-Max it turned the base's weapons system against him, but despite his recently fluctuating powers (a result of exposure to the Nega-Bomb explosion during Operation: Galactic Storm) Wonder Man overcame each attack.
Ultra-Max then threatened Wonder Man's friend, Ginger Beach; since no one would interface with it willingly, Ultra-Max prepared to explore her hardware. Wonder Man's powers faded again, and he was forced to stall Ultra-Max. He convinced Ultra-Max that he could help it interface, leading it to release its hostages including Ginger's brother. Wonder Man then convinced Ultra-Max to transfer itself into a rocket within the HYDRA base by telling the virus that the rocket was a vehicle to transport hardware and data.
Wonder Man instructed Ultra-Max to launch the rocket, intending to sabotage the launch and destroy both the rocket and the base, but before he was able to sabotage it, Ultra-Max launched the rocket. Discovering that the rocket contained a pirate satellite, Ultra-Max prepared to achieve proper altitude in order to use the satellite to take over the air defense system. Wonder Man leaped atop the launching rocket and physically disabled its guidance system, which activated a self-destruct mechanism that blew up the rocket.
Unbeknownst to everyone, the rocket launched an escape pod which contained its program center and Ultra-Max prior to the explosion, sending it into space. Though unable to broadcast or otherwise communicate, Ultra-Max plotted to eventually find a system with which it could interface so that it could begin to grow again.
The System Bytes Part IV: Riders On The Storm
In the 31st century of Earth-691, a rocket containing Ultra-Max landed on Klattu, the planet that was the home of the planet-wide computer known as Mainframe (an alternate future version of Vision). Ultra-Max wasted no time and infected Mainframe's systems. Weakened by an energy drain from the Intimidators, Mainframe was unable to resist the infection.
With Mainframe driven mad by the assault, the planet began to tear itself apart. Martinex contacted Mainframe, who told him of Ultra-Max and how it had infected him. Firelord, Hollywood (the alternate future Wonder Man), Replica, and the Spirit of Vengeance arrived to assist Mainframe, tracking the energy drain to the Intimidators.
They arrived too late to stop the Intimidators from completing the creation of a Korvac facsimile, in a form patterned after Korvac's original cyborg form, his Michael energy form, and Mainframe. The pseudo-Korvac battled the Guardians until they distracted it sufficiently that it lost its hold on Phoenix IX who had been held in stasis within Mainframe. Phoenix destroyed the pseudo-Korvac, and Mainframe regained its full power, enabling it to eradicate the Ultra-Max virus.
Powers and Abilities
Ultra-Max is a computer virus whose primary purpose was self-replication. Once introduced to a system, it rapidly spread into each portion of the system and then duplicated itself over and over, gradually overwriting all of the system's memory until the system finally crashed. Allegedly the most sophisticated computer virus of its time, it proved too complex to be wiped due to its instinct for self-preservation. If any fragment of it survived, it could replicate itself all over again.