Well, here it is. Finally, the series that is going to “change the Ultimate universe as you know it” shipped its first issue. And here’s the scary bit: it doesn’t suck. Yes, that’s right, a recent Jeph Loeb Marvel comic book that one can’t completely can. Not to say this book is incredible, but that things are on track so far to be good, and maybe even fulfill its promise. While I wouldn’t recommend this book for younger readers just because of the amount of reliance on previous stories, there is nothing in terms on content which could be considered highly offensive or sensitive. But before anything else, I would like to congratulate Marvel Comics on a terrible decision. The ruining of the conclusion to the current Ultimate Spider-Man arc by including a normal looking Gwen Stacey hanging out with Mary-Jane Watson, Peter Parker, and a couple of other supporting cast members. So, with this grievance aside, I want to look further into this surprisingly decent issue.
The first issue of Ultimatum is not heavy on the plot lines, more of a conception of a launching pad from which this series can take off. It could be argued that this is unnecessary, that the series has been led up to by numerous mini-series and plenty of “March on Ultimatum” banners atop comic books, but the series still needs a foundation within itself, and this is it. The issue basically chronicles four groups react to a flood that wipes out New York, which is a pretty intense opening scene. The Fantastic Four, Peter Parker and his high school friends, The X-Men, and The Ultimates all react in surprisingly expected ways. As Loeb’s Ultimates 3 was panned for its terrible characterization, this issue displays a general handle on these characters, which is a central reason for the relief I felt reading this issue. The main criticism I have of this issue, however, is the final speech Xavier speaks. The speech is very cut and paste and unoriginal. But besides this, Loeb’s display of being able to rely on characterization while a catastrophic event takes place brings confidence to a series which had very little.
Of course, David Finch’s pencils are fantastic. He can handle everything, from general, everyday interactions to something like the Thing keeping a whale out of the Baxter Building. Everything is top quality, that’s the best way to put it. Some of the better panels within the comic book are the extreme close-up of Professor X, which embodies both a weariness and desperation simultaneously, and the large panels of the New York cityscape, which are done with an intense amount of detail. There are no shortcuts in the art, every window is drawn, every line and crevice given attention and I think this took an already artistic work to another level. My only complaint may seem strange, but the characters are just too good looking. They all have a stunning beauty to them which is strange and creates a very shallow aspect to the art. Someone like Peter Parker is supposed to be an every man, but he is almost a rock star in this. Besides this, Finch is a very talented artist.