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The Ultimates Saga Continues!

May 27th, 2009

Yesterday I wrote about three terrific series that told the story of The Ultimates, Marvel Comics’ reinvention of their super-hero team, the Avengers.  In addition to those three phenomenal series that I discussed (The Ultimates, The Ultimates 2, and the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy), there have been a number of subsequent mini-series that have carried forward the stories of many of the characters from those series.  

Some have been excellent.  Others, not so much.

Let’s take a look!

Ultimate Vision, by Mike Carey & Brandon Peterson — Basically an epilogue to Warren Ellis’ Ultimate Galactus storyline, we follow Sam Wilson and the Vision (two characters that Ellis introduced to the Ultimate universe in his series) as they discover that one Galactus module has survived.  If they don’t destroy it, bad things will happen!  The story is really carried by Brandon Peterson’s magnificently detailed art, which I could look at all day long.

Ultimate Wolverine/Hulk, by Damon Lindeloff and Leinil Francis Yu — The promise of a Wolverine/Hulk battle authored by Lindeloff (one of the masterminds behind Lost) was very tempting, and the first two issues were a lot of fun.  Then the series ceased publication.  Last month, after more than 3 years, the third issue was finally released (with the assurance that the remaining 3 issues will be coming out monthly).  The jury is still out on this one.

Ultimate Power, by Brian Michael Bendis, J. Michael Straczynski, Jeph Loeb, and Greg Lang — This 9 issue crossover started with an intriguing premise: Reed Richards, desperately searching for a cure for his friend Ben Grimm (who was transformed into the Thing in the accident that gave the FF their powers), sends probes into alternate universes.  One of them gets contaminated and apparently winds up wreaking incredible devastation upon the Supreme Power universe (from the series Supreme Power, Straczynski’s reinvention of Marvel’s classic Squadron Supreme characters).  What followed was an extended super-hero slugfest.  Land’s art is beautiful, but the story was extremely choppy.  Instead of Bendis, Straczynski, and Loeb collaborating on all nine issues, each one of them scripted three issues.  I enjoyed the Bendis and Straczynksi issues, but Loeb didn’t stick the landing.  Characters suddenly seemed completely out of character, and in the end it all turned out to be a pretty stupid super-villain plot.  Lame.

Ultimate Iron Man, by Orson Scott Card and a variety of artists — I got very excited when it was announced that famed sci-fi novelist Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) would be writing the origin story for Tony Stark, but sadly the execution left something to be desired.  Card’s story had a lot of layers, and it was filled with a ton of interesting sci-fi ideas, but the story was overly complicated and hard to follow.  (This was exacerbated by the long delays that plagued the series, and the constant rotation of artists.)  I also didn’t feel that the revelations about Tony Stark in this series jived with the depiction of Stark that Millar gave us in his Ultimates series.  (For example, that Tony didn’t seem like he could re-grown his limbs at will!!)

Ultimate Human, by Warren Ellis and Cary Nord — A welcome return to form for the Ultimate universe, as Tony Stark and Bruce Banner unite to try to solve Banner’s Hulk affliction.  Great Warren Ellis sci-fi ideas and snarky dialogue combined with Nord’s beautiful, lush art make this series a winner.  My only complaint: at only four issues, I wanted more!

The Ultimates 3, by Jeph Loeb and Joe Madueira — A complete disaster.  Loeb’s scripts lack all of the nuance of Millar’s, and his versions of the character seem totally different than the ones that Millar had established in his two Ultimates series.  Where Millar was… well, not subtle, but let’s say playful (for example, hinting at the incestuous relationship between Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch), Loeb comes out and makes dull, obvious jokes.  And the art — I have been a fan of Madueira since his work on the X-Men almost 15 years ago, but the digitally-painted look to his illustrations here is a total eye-sore.  Thank heaven this only lasted 5 issues.

Ultimate Origins, by Brian Michael Bendis and Butch Guice — Set mostly in the past, Bendis weaves together the back-stories of a variety of Ultimate universe characters (Captain America, Nick Fury, Wolverine, Professor X and Magneto) in a compelling story with several surprising revelations (such as the origin of all mutants) that sets the stage for the coming upheaval of the Ultimates universe: Ultimatum.  And I loved his version of the Ultimate Watcher!

Ultimatum, by Jeph Loeb and David Finch — Only three of the five issues have been released, but so far I am not loving this “universe-shattering” mini-series.  Jeph Loeb has written a lot of stuff that I have really enjoyed (Superman For All Seasons, Batman: The Long Halloween), but I am not at all digging his work in the Ultimate Universe.  This series is exhibiting the same problems as did Ultimates 3 and his final 3 issues of Ultimate Power — poor characterization, an over-wrought story, and a lot of dumb, on-the-nose dialogue.  The catastrophic events of Ultimatum are being felt in other Ultimate titles such as Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, which I’ve been reading — and I have been FAR preferring Bendis’ take to Loeb’s.  We’ll see if the next two issues pick things up.


That’s all for me for today!  See you back here tomorrow!

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