Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #2

By Zak Edwards
September 28, 2011 - 21:44

Jonathan Hickman’s two titles in Marvel’s Ultimate universe can be summed up as follows: Nick Fury has a lot of stuff to do.  A lot.  S.H.I.E.L.D’s continual expansion, while indicative of the world around us and the rapid shrinking of the world through globalization, is offering some really cool potential stories and hopefully Hickman can continue to explore them for a while to come.  Marvel’s recent reinvestment into their Ultimate line has been overwhelmingly good quality, to the point where the critical mainstay, Ultimate Spider-Man, is the book I am now least interested in.  The excitement and energy, combined with the bottle universe where things can happen simply because it's young enough to do it, has returned with a quiet fervor.  Ultimate Comics: Ultimates is no exception and is crafting a story that is both large concept and feels like it actually matters.

On Nick Fury’s to-do list for this issue, outside of Hawkeye’s mission in South Asia (which I reviewed and can be found in the related articles section), is the end of Asgard by a group called The Children of Tomorrow.  Vaguely reminiscent of both Hickman’s Future Foundation comic, that also came out this week, and a group encountered by the mainstream X-Men in the early part of Mike Carey’s run on the title, the Children of Tomorrow are an artificially manipulated group that seem to surpass the regular Ultimate superhumans in terms of powers and intelligence.  At first, the sheer extremity of these antagonists is disconcerting and uncomfortable, but compared to the former threats to the Ultimates, from invading Nazi Skrulls to basically inverted forms of themselves led by Loki; who can turn into a dragon and be defeated by rainbows, they do seem fitting.  The Ultimates’ antagonists have always worked on metaphorical and political levels: the Hulk as a perversion of Captain America. the American Dream, and masculinity, the Liberators were symbolic of the Ultimates themselves; and the Tomorrow Children work on multiple levels as well, but in a differing capacity.  Like the Authority did a decade ago, the Children of Tomorrow have killed god(s), or at least de-powered them.  Scientific versus religious discourse seem to be the basic metaphors at work here and, while I disagree with the statement that the current war on terror or action in the Middle-East is a religious war (although I think it is part of an answer), having the antagonists become the voice of an extreme scientific atheism and the Ultimates as the theistic voice is thought-provoking in a legitimate sense.  Coupled with the character designs that do look like the Future Foundation, which is very much embroiled in this sort of attitude, you could argue the Ultimates are fighting against the mainstream universe, their own inheritance.  In that sense, the Ultimates’ original association with Millar’s work on The Authority comes back here, recalling the Authority’s fight against thinly-veiled Silver, Bronze and Nineties superheroes.  The Ultimates have fought against their own genre’s history before, and it seems they continue here.  I look forward to seeing where Hickman takes the Ultimates now, considering such a status change has occurred.

Esad Ribic's art is, and this is probably the best way to put it, really pretty.  Every panel looks like a labour in itself, a moment to be considered.  Unfortunately, with such still art, the book doesn’t move very well.  Additionally, Ribic has a strange way of depicting eyes, which seems to be as much the fault of Dean White, who makes most characters look like they’re experiencing a serious hangover (and for Tony Stark this may be true), as Ribic.  Other than these two minor details, Ribic’s art is captivating.  The characters are all brought to life on the page, with characteristics, like Captain Britain’s smugness, are conveyed visually rather than relying on dialogue, and Thor’s seriousness is disconcerting.  Almost silent the entire issue, abandoning his usual position as team conscience, the threat of the Children of Tomorrow require only the grave looks of Thor.  It sounds strange, but Ribic clearly conveys what Thor is thinking through a series of small panels showing only his face.  Beautiful and engaging, Ribic’s art is a far cry from the grittier photorealism of Bryan Hitch, but this is in no way a bad thing.

Grade: A    Demands a few readings, Hickman’s Ultimates is beautiful and intelligent.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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