Marvel’s latest volume of the Ultimate Universe in the form of Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #1 (confusing title, I know) starts off with a bang.  Literally.  Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic waste no time diving straight into the action to start off the first story arc in this series titled “The Republic is Burning”.

Right off the bat, we’re plunged directly into what appears to be a typical day for S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Nick Fury.  He has his morning coffee, receives a status report on more than twenty security issue situations all around the globe and prioritizes them according to which need the most immediate attention.  The three situations that this story chooses to focus on are a conflict in South America between Uruguay and Argentina that has just about reached its boiling point, with each side mobilizing troops and warships; a report of major unrest in the fictional country called the Southeast Asian Republic (referred to as S.E.A.R. for short); and Thor causing chaos in the bars of Europe with his fellow Asgardian gods.  Fury dispatches Iron Man to deal with the conflict in South America, and at the start of this issue, Hawkeye is already en route to the S.E.A.R. to handle that situation.  The European Union Super Soldier program (E.U.S.S., as it is referred to in the book) is dealing with Thor and his comrades on their own, which is pretty comical until, amidst their fighting, they stumble upon something very unusual in Germany.  Meanwhile, Fury discovers that Tony Stark is not actually in South America, but at a charity benefit in Japan.  Needless to say, he’s not happy to hear that.  To top it all off, as soon as Hawkeye touches down in the S.E.A.R. and is giving his report to General Fury, there is an apparent attack on the building Hawkeye is currently in, causing a communication blackout.  Fortunately, this is where the Hawkeye mini-series begins and ties right into this moment (review for that to come later).

So as you can see, this issue sets up for a tremendous amount of action from the series in the coming months as this story arc plays itself out.  I would imagine that the main focus in this first arc will be on the conflict in South America and the object Thor and the E.U.S.S. found in Germany, and that the S.E.A.R. situation will be dealt with almost exclusively in the Hawkeye series.  Hickman (the writer for this series and the Ultimate Hawkeye series) does a great job keeping the continuity in order with both series, and connecting them back to the Ultimate Fallout story, where each of the three situations in this comic were originally introduced in one way or another.  I haven’t read the new Ultimate Spider-Man or Ultimate X-Men yet, but so far, the continuity in this volume of the Ultimate Marvel Universe is very tight, which is something that was lacking in these stories since the Ultimatum story arc from early 2009.

Esad Ribic’s pencils in this issue are very clean and crisp, with a nice flow of motion from one panel to the next.  Even though there is so much action going on in this one issue, it’s very easy to keep track of what is happening at any given point in the story.  I really enjoyed the way the facial expressions were drawn in this issue.  I felt as though they very accurately portrayed the emotions being felt by the characters, particularly in the scene which shows the E.U.S.S. visit to Thor’s home of Asgard.  Ribic’s art becomes the strength and focal point of this scene since an “audio malfunction” allows only the visuals to be seen by General Fury back at the home base.  We see what Fury sees, and from that you can tell exactly what’s going on.  I’m really impressed in situations like that when the artist can move the story along on his own with no dialogue, that takes skill.

All in all I really enjoyed this issue.  As the first book in the new Ultimate Comics line, it is the tone setter for the rest of the universe to follow in its wake, and as it stands, it appears to be setting a pretty wide wake for the rest of the Ultimate Marvel Universe to fall into.

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