Ultimates 3 has got to be one of the most anticipated comic books to come out this year. With the majority of the Ultimate line not receiving very positive criticism over the past year or so coupled with the focus on Marvel Comics mainstream continuity with events like Civil War and Messiah Complex; the entire line is in need of some revival. Ultimates 3 was poised to be this revival (but Ultimate Spider-Man is doing this right now). Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s series finished earlier this year and Marvel was quick to note that The Ultimates were not finished. A team consisting superstar writer Jeph Loeb and artist Joe Madureira was announced and people got excited. But does the first issue of The Ultimates 3 live up to its predecessor? In a word: no. The series maintains tiny pieces of its former intelligence and adult feel, but for the most part, it disappoints.
Funny thing is, a few of these characters aren't even in this comic book!
Loeb’s starts out very good, with the team dealing with a very unique problem before the writer brings in Venom almost immediately for the new Ultimates team to punch around. This gives Loeb the chance to reintroduce old characters and showcase new ones and almost everyone gets some screen time, but this causes some problems right away. Loeb’s characterization of the old characters feels wrong, they just seem too different and forced in Loeb’s hands. Wasp comes across now as a den mother more than anything else, baby-sitting rather than leading. Hawkeye is angry and irrational, which is fine, he’s grieving the loss of his family, except Loeb lays everything out and bludgeons his audience with the obvious. He gives his readers a scene between the Wasp and her ex-husband Hank Pym where she explains everything that’s going on, going through each of the major characters like they are on a checklist to bring the audience up to date. This scene only proves that Loeb cannot actually show what is happening and decides to simply put it in a monologue, and also displays that he has little confidence that his audience will figure things out on their own. This is done again in another scene that plainly tells the audience about the relationship between Wanda and Pietro Maximoff and Captain America’s wrestlings with modern day values. Where Millar simply hinted at these things or referred to them indirectly, allowing his audience to figure things out and draw their own conclusions, Loeb feels the need to define everything and leave nothing to the imagination. Loeb’s Ultimates must be laid out for the whole world to see. Another thing that made the original Ultimates title good is missing as well: how politically and socially aware it was. The Ultimates world commented on our own, Millar has done this repeatedly in his work. Frequent use of real life characters and comments on the relentless paparazzi served to create a more adult and intelligent read. Loeb addresses this in the opening page, but it quickly gives way to a fight scene and the idea is gone. There are glimpses of good amongst these scenes. The opening page and the end of the scene with Hank Pym enjoy a certain Millar, more adult, feel to them, but much of this issue feels like a rather simple super-hero story. The progression of a plot is done through over dramatic events like the ending as well. It seems that violence is the only thing keeping this story moving. Like I said earlier, Millar’s subtlety is gone, as are his socially and politically aware stories.
And almost none of these guys are present either!
Joe Madureira is a very talented artist. His pencils are, quite simply put, beautiful, and I cannot complain about his work. It is very different from Bryan Hitch’s rougher pencils that gave The Ultimates their look for over twenty five issues, but it works well nevertheless. His panels can become difficult to differentiate between, causing some confusion and everything can run together. The issue is chalked full of spreads to display his art and these two-page panels are very well done. My complaint is with the other members of the art team, mainly colourist Christian Lichtner and letterer Richard Starkings. Colours can shift dramatically in this issue, confusing with just who is doing what. Hawkeye in the opening fight scene may have his costume change from a black/navy outfit to a red one, or that may be Hank Pym joining in the fight. It causes a lot of confusion as to who is who. The lettering is just fine for most of the issue except for one panel where a speech balloon belonging to Valkyrie is surrounded by little pink hearts. This juvenile type of lettering should have no place in this series. The Ultimates was for an older audience and this gives a feeling of reading something meant for children. Overall, the art is very beautiful, with the characters looking very cool in some new costumes, but the colouring and lettering brings the whole art package down.
4/10 This series is a far cry from what it used to be, dumbing down Millar’s work.