Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #9
By Zak Edwards
April 27, 2012 - 10:31
Publisher(s): Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Jonathan Hickman
Penciller(s): Esad Ribic
Colourist(s): Dean White
Cover Artist(s): Kaare Andrews
One of my primary complaints about Superman is I feel his stories become too large, too difficult to manage, just to simply find something that is dangerous enough to challenge him. The villain becomes bigger than the hero and the narratives tend to collapse in on themselves, making Superman comics more of an exercise of spectacle than interesting story. After all, if your hero can literally lift an entire continent made of his one weakness out of the ocean and throw it into the sun anyways, how do you convince the reader some singular bad guy is going to do anything?
Ultimate Comics: Ultimates has the same problem except the heroes aren’t so overpowered. The heroes aren’t the issue like in Superman, the villains are. UC: Ultimates has become so convoluted, so much larger than the heroes, that the entire thing has simply ceased making sense. This is all unfortunate considering Hickman’s truly wonderful set-up. Playing off his own Marvel books in the main universe, FF and Fantastic Four, Hickman looked at his own ideas through a different lens, an actually clever sort of crossover between these universes (rather than the upcoming “Spider-Men” that is a silly crossover between these universes). The danger of Reed Richards was something Hickman had previously explored but couldn’t take very far with the main titles. However, here in the Ultimate Universe, he has let some of the pretty terrifying prospects of his earlier work play out to a further extent. Unfortunately, the book has gotten to big and readers are left with spectacle that doesn’t actually accomplish anything more than grandiose spread pages conveying nothing of character, clever plot, or even really any decent action. On top of this, the characters are strangely unfamiliar, Thor and Tony Stark don’t appear to be themselves, and the Hulk’s “Hulk Smash America” line made me both cringe and laugh, like an audience reaction to an obvious mistake at a concert. The book is not falling apart at this point, it has already done so.
Probably something worse than a bad comic is a bad comic that was once good, not even so long ago. The politics have been replaced by absurd people launching the entire United States nuclear arsenal with no impact. The implications are a quiet room after feeble justification, a senator argues the government must “find some way to live with what has happened today,” and I feel the series itself will end in a similar way. The dust will settle, the characters will stand about, looking at the wreckage, and hand the readers some sort of self-righteous explanation. The readers, in turn, will stand there silent and wonder what the hell just happened.
By contrast, this is probably the prettiest mess I have seen in a while. Not as flashy as the artists covering Marvel’s big Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, and certainly less ridiculous, artist Esad Ribic and colourist Dean White make a book that looks incredible. From the first pages, with its lush colouring, crisp work, and wonderful panelling, the book simply looks better than it reads. Ribic is handling it all, the black hole near the end is legitimately terrifying, using obvious digital techniques to contrast the rest of the page’s drawing. Truly a moment of wishing the words didn’t cover things up, I’m glad Marvel decided to keep its truly great artists on some books that could benefit from the talent. Hickman is usually nothing less than brilliant and capable at this sort of big story, but it seems he let this one get away from him.
Grade: D I hope the creators “find some way to live with what has happened today.”
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