Ultimate Comics Ultimates #1
I've lost count of the number of times this series has been restarted, too many that's for sure. Quick back story on the title's history:
We had Millar and Hitch's Ultimates 1 & 2 which I personally loved. It set itself as apart from traditional superhero comics by making the Ultimates (Ultimate Avengers) a government superpowered strike force rather than your typical superhero book. Hard to find a series this decade that impacted mainstream comics so much.
Then it was followed up by Loeb's Ultimates 3 that I dropped 2 issues in, hated it. I get writers wanting to add their own take on the formula but this was a classic case of "if it ain't broke don't fix it, but they did it anyway" as the book pretty much became an Ultimatized version of the 616 book with colorful superheroes and equally larger than life villains. Following the Ultimatum event that I've all but blocked out, this continued with Loeb's Ultimate Comic New Ultimates (hell of a mouthful, right?) book.
Millar returned and gave us Ultimate Avengers 1,2 and 3 which seemed like a total deviation from his original formula. This brought the government agents side of the book to the forefront once more but it became a more traditional superhero book in some ways thanks to the politics and military adversaries being replaced by Red Skulls, Ghost Riders, Vampires and crime lord Hulks in a more Hollywood style of storytelling as his recent work shows. It was nice, but it was clear that this was a totally different book. Mixed feelings overall.
And now Jonathan Hickman of the FF, Secret Warriors and SHIELD fame has stepped in with his own take. Being pretty pleased with his work on the above mentioned titles I thought why not take a shot at this?
First thoughts, this seems to be a back to basics approach to the Ultimates with the a world of politics and superpowered armies as the opening setting. Seems too simple and down to earth for a Hickman comic, doesn't it? Throw in Asgard now on Earth as the viking gods plunder and pillage breweries across the globe triggering a global incident that the EU's own super soldier program is sent in to quell. There's also political unrest in Asia which I assume is a thread for Hickman's Hawkeye series and a few other threads that may or may not gain prominence later.
But yeah, still seems relatively tame for a Hickman comic....I guess that explains the purpose of what can best be described as the Ultimate Future Foundation who have a giant dome as a base which popped up out of nowhere, killer robots and jet packed soldiers with a mission to save the world at all costs. Hickman's at least managed to make the book stick to its core premise while adding his personal storytelling touch to the mix.
The end result? It seems epic in scope that's for sure....there's a lot of stuff going on in this issue and it all looks like key pieces to a larger puzzle, and that may be my biggest fear going into this: that Hickman's ability to tell epic stories with countless threads interweaving will end up as a slow burn until the reader finally knows just whats going on and why.
Outside of the story, looking at the book as a jumping on point for a newcomer...it does what it's supposed to do: explain the premise quickly, kick off the stories that will fuel this book for however long Hickman plans to and uses established recognizable figures, who are on the verge of being used as Marvel's most ambitious big screen project to date: The Avengers and the cover even uses that fact with obvious likenesses to Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and the RDJ Iron Man armor design (though it seemed WAY too photo-referenced and shiny with its polish, almost ruined the feeling until I saw how different the interiors were, but more on the art later).
Being a reader of the Ultimates since the start, the new-reader-friendly format the book took dragged on a bit for me unfortunately..with various expository scenes of characters roles being described, a couple scenes here and there that seemed more eye candy to showcase the characters rather than forward the books story. Not that it dragged on too much in today's world of decompressed storytelling, but it felt like a rehash that could've been done in a recap page at the start to catch people up to speed or a page of Hickman's notes (which he has done in SHIELD and Secret Warriors a lot, great companions that explain things we're meant to pick up between the lines). So while I enjoyed the book and its pace for the most part, that aspect didn't help blow me away with any huge game changing moments.
Onto the art, Esad Ribic's art is beautiful here and the digital coloring really helps enhancing stuff like Fury's war room and Iron Man's armor. Facial expressions like in the silent scenes, especially the Jamie Braddock/Thor face-off were also brought to life nicely. It seems very versatile and capable of portraying lots of things if this issue is anything to go by. Very different to his work like the Loki miniseries or Silver Surfer Requiem...to best describe it, it seems like a mix of the dynamics of his 90's work combined with the refined artsy style of his painted work. Solid art all around.
Bottom line, solid recovery for the title after the Ultimate Loeb debacle but not quite at the heights the franchise was. Still room for improvement which this arc will either make or break this title in today's declining market.
Last edited by fieldy snuts
on Fri Aug 26, 2011 2:25 am, edited 1 time in total.