Posts Tagged ‘Ultimates’

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The original architects of the Ultimate Marvel Universe return fifteen years after they started the whole thing to sing its swan song in Ultimate End #1.  Let’s find out just how well they do.

Before we get into this review too deeply, I just wanted to start off by saying that seeing this mini-series and its title is kind of sad for me.  Fifteen years ago, Marvel’s Ultimate line was the main reason that I became a serious comic collector, and over the years this imprint has greatly entertained me with some truly amazing stories.  I stuck with it through the nearly catastrophic Ultimatum storyline, as well as the much more recent Cataclysm event, so it does somewhat tug at my heart strings to see it coming to what seems to be a definite end.

*wipes away nerd tear*

Ok, back to business.  In this mini-series tie-in to Secret Wars, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley set out to tell what is shaping up to be the last story of Earth-1610, otherwise known as the Ultimate Marvel Universe.  The timeline of how this story fits into the larger back drop of the Secret Wars event is a little fuzzy, but due to certain occurrences, it definitely seems to be happening after the incursion event seen in Secret Wars #1.  We see a group of Earth-1610 heroes meeting with their Earth-616 counterparts to discuss how to “fix” the rift in space-time that has been created and allows them to be in the same room with their alternate universe selves.

Bendis writes this issue in his typical comedic fashion.  As the only person to write the character of Ultimate Spider-Man (be it Ultimate Peter Parker, or Miles Morales) for more than a decade, he has perfected the art of smartass dialogue, and the comedic wit is on display in this issue.  He certainly seems to be much more comfortable writing the Ultimate versions of the characters, as their dialogue is more loose and witty than that of the Regular Marvel U heroes here.  And while that (and another artistic aspect that I’ll get into in a moment) make it easier to distinguish which version of a character we’re reading, it doesn’t really keep this story from being a bit confusing.  A little more backstory would have been appreciated.  And as I mentioned in my review for Secret Wars: Battleworld #1, it’s clear that Battleworld is the new status quo, but does no one remember the way things were prior to this point?

Mark Bagley’s art is just as good as it’s always been.  I’m so used to seeing his style in the Ultimate Universe, which makes it a little awkward to see it applied to the Regular Marvel U characters.  Earth-616 Black Widow comes off looking sort of like a short haired version of Earth-1610 Mary Jane in a catsuit, which as fun a notion as that is to entertain, is also slightly distracting from the overall story.  But again, minor nit-picky issues in what was otherwise a solid outing for a near-legendary comic artist.

Now, to what I alluded to earlier, I really appreciate the decision to use a different lettering depending on which version of a character is speaking, otherwise this issue could have been INCREDIBLY confusing to read.  For instance, in this issue when Earth-616 characters are talking, they have the traditional blocky comic all caps lettering, while when Earth-1610 characters are speaking, they have a more modern lettering with upper and lower case letters that has been used in the Ultimate Marvel books for some time.  The difference makes it immediately apparent which version of a hero or villain is talking, and it’s one of the best decisions Marvel made with this event.

To be completely honest, I’m actually right on the fence with this issue.  Parts of it are really confusing, and so far the story is not terribly interesting, but my faith in the creators and the hope that they will give the Ultimate line the ending it deserves is causing me to lean more positive for this one.

The Verdict for Ultimate End #1:
I can dig it

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
East of West, Volume 3: There Is No Us TPB
Planet Hulk #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Old Man Logan #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Where Monsters Dwell #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Wytches #1-#6

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Marvel’s biggest comic event in recent memory is finally here.  It’s supposed to give us Earth shattering storylines where no part of the Marvel multiverse is guaranteed to be safe.  That’s a pretty bold statement to live up to.  Does this book manage to pull it off?

Secret Wars #1 is the culmination of Jonathan Hickman’s runs on the Avengers and New Avengers series, and it shows what happens when the Regular Marvel Universe (Earth 616, in Marvelese) and the Ultimate Marvel Universe (Earth 1610) collide.  Both universes realize that the only way for their side to survive is the complete destruction of the other, and in this issue, the Ultimate Universe quickly learns that they are vastly outnumbered on the super-human front.  The issue wastes little time with pretense and backstory, and jumps straight into the action right at the critical incursion point.  If what I’ve read so far is any indication, this is going to be one hell of a ride.  It also seems like Marvel wasn’t kidding about some parts of the universes not making it through the event, as there appear to be some pretty serious implications to some of the things that happen here… and we’re only in the first issue!

As previously mentioned, Hickman jumps right into the action, which initially threw me for a loop because I actually have not read either of his Avengers, or New Avengers runs, which is also part of the reason that I picked up the Secret Wars: Prelude TPB that Marvel was so gracious to release in order to hopefully grasp a better understanding of what’s going on before the story starts.  The action is frantic, jumping from place to place, and hero to hero, but I don’t feel like I was ever completely lost with regard to what was happening.  Were some scenes a little confusing?  Of course, but it didn’t take too much time for me to figure out which characters were working together and to continue on with the story from there.  I give Hickman a lot of credit because there are so many characters and there’s so much going on in so many different places, that I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to keep everything straight, but he does an admirable job of it.  It’s also very clear that this is something he’s had planned for quite some time, as there are references to events and storylines from his run on The Ultimates in 2011.

On to the artwork.  What can I really say about Esad Ribic?  The guy is hands down one of my favorite artists in the business right now.  This issue is beautifully illustrated from cover to cover, and I feel like the art matches perfectly with the epic scope of the story.  Each panel is like its own little mini painting.  There’s so much detail that it makes me wonder just how long it took to put this book together.  I’m genuinely excited that he’s working on this event, if all else fails, at least it will be great to look at.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and even found myself looking at the pages genuinely shocked by some of the events.  I honestly cannot wait to see how the rest of this story plays out.

The Verdict for Secret Wars #1:
Must have Moar!!!

Upcoming reviews:
The October Faction #1-#6
East of West, Volume 3: There Is No Us TPB
Secret Wars #2
Ultimate End #1
Wytches #1-#6
Mad Max: Fury Road

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

So far, it seems like what Hickman misses in the Ultimate Hawkeye mini-series, he makes up for with this storyline in the Ultimates.

Issue #2 starts off with more detail regarding the threat that Thor and the E.U.S.S. team Excalibur discovered in the last issue.  Apparently they are a race of human-like beings that have made their home in a dome in Northern Germany.  From what I gather, time and generations are super accelerated inside this dome because they speak as though they’ve been there for several centuries, yet the creation of the dome was depicted in issue #1.  Once Thor and Excalibur break through the dome, they are immediately attacked by its inhabitants, who are referred to as “the Children.”  These Children have some wickedly advanced technology that they use to figure out that most of the intruders are merely augmented humans, who can in turn be killed, that is until they come across Thor.   Instantly they realize there is something different about him, so they send an image to their elders, one of whom recognizes the god of thunder.  This discovery causes the Children to shift their focus to Thor’s home, the realm of Asgard, where all hell breaks loose when they attack.  The rest of the issue centers on Thor and his efforts to protect his home and family.

I’m loving the absolute epic scope of Jonathan Hickman’s story in this series.  It almost feels like reading the original Ultimates title by Mark Millar where you literally had no idea what was coming next.  The writing in this series is so intense that you really do get the impression this new villain is a serious threat to the Ultimates and the world in general.  To add to that seriousness, it’s someone who knows all of the characters in the Ultimate Marvel Universe on a personal level, making this villain all the more dangerous.  It makes me wonder how long they’ve been brewing this storyline because this is a character that has been around for quite some time in the universe.

Something else that I’m really enjoying about this series, and this issue in particular, is the way Thor is portrayed.  In a lot of previous Ultimates stories he has a tendency to come off as very unlikable.  However, so far in this series, he really feels like a character I could get behind and begin to care for because we are seeing what he cares for, and we’re seeing how devastated he feels when his home is under attack.  We also see just what he would do to protect everything that he loves, even to the point of smacking death in the face… literally.

Ribic’s artwork in this issue is once again right on par with the story.  You feel the sense of motion in the action scenes.  It also meshes very well with the epic scope of the story.  There are regular size comic panels that display huge battles stretching way off into the distance.  I’m really hoping we get to see a full page splash of an epic battle in future issues.  I have no doubt it would be amazing.

Overall, this is a great issue, in a great series, which is part of a great Universe of continuity.  I highly recommend this series because it seems like it is starting fresh, and there is really the sense that anything could happen at any moment.  I’m very pleased to say that it’s like reading the old Ultimate universe again because it actually seems like the writers are willing to do things with these characters and put them in situations that would never happen in regular Marvel Universe continuity, and that was the original goal of the Ultimate Marvel line in the first place.

It’s been a while, I know.  I’m a little behind again.  I try to limit my visits to the comic book store since it’s a bit of hike to get there… That and frankly, I’ve been kind of lazy lately, but here we go.

The second issue in the Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye mini-series gives more backstory on the title character that we haven’t gotten in ten years of the Ultimate Marvel Universe yet, but does little to move the current story forward.

The situation in the S.E.A.R. as it was left at the end of issue #1 is rapidly deteriorating from bad to worse.  Hawkeye leads a small band of S.H.I.E.L.D. troops through the war ravaged streets of Bangkok in an effort to get to the city’s capital building.  They encounter some resistance along the way and see something very strange, which causes Hawkeye to reflect upon his past and how he became involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury in the first place.  Following the flashback and what he finds at the capital, Hawkeye determines that they need to get in contact with General Fury, so the group heads to the nearest place where contact can be established.  I won’t go any further into the summary of this issue, because some potentially very interesting plot points are revealed after this part of the story, as well as some familiar characters.

Hickman continues the story well enough here, but, as I mentioned before, doesn’t seem to move the situation along a whole lot further.  I feel like the main part of this story that the author wants the readers to focus on is the interesting little bit that we get of Hawkeye’s backstory.  I also get the impression that this backstory is going to be expanded upon in issues three and four (why else give Hawkeye, a character that they’ve never really given much of a history to, his own mini-series?).  Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the current narrative thread, as most of the issue seems like a goose chase from one place in Bangkok to the next, until we get to the end and see what’s coming in the next issue, which I have to say, I’m very excited for.

Rafa Sandoval’s art is still good in this issue, and I won’t deny that he can draw some pretty awesome action and motion shots.  That being said, he seems to insert some of them at some pretty awkward moments in the story.  Take for example, in the middle of the issue, one character calls Hawkeye outside to look at something going on, the next panel shows him running at a full sprint with the background completely blurred behind him like he’s leading and invisible army headlong into battle.  It’s a great action shot of the title character, but it just seems a little out of place within the scope of the story.

Overall, this isn’t a bad issue.  It just doesn’t seem to push the story along all that much.  By the end of the issue we’re not much further than where we started, but we do know just a little bit more about our protagonist.  Also, given what is revealed on the last page, I look for the action to get a lot more intense in the final two issues of this mini-series, and hopefully we learn a lot more about Hawkeye in the process.