I have to say, Marvel’s creation of the Ultimate universe was one of the main factors for bringing me back into the fold as a comic reader. As a kid, I enjoyed reading about all the backstory and the drama and such, but then it became a chore to remember all that noise 60 plus years of comics could bring. Then came the Ultimate U, and it was fun again to spot little things and see how the writers would twist the old stories and characters and make then new.
Some of the Ultimate books were good, some were bad and some just were. One of the better was the Ultimates series, a dumb name for the Avengers that really kicked ass (think the movie Avengers but with more awesome. Well worth a read.). As the continuity of the universe grew, I slacked off on reading them because, well, I got busy and tired of slogging through again. Then they killed everybody. And now they are cleaning house again with Ultimate Comics and I am back in. So here we go with the equally dumb name: Ultimate Comics The Ultimates.
#1-4, Republic Is Burning
A giant dome shows up, future people bust out and kill a bunch of Europe, the European superheroes, much of SHIELD, and all of Asgard. Thor is powerless, SHIELD is crippled and Reed Richards, head of the evil guys called the Children of Tomorrow, claims they just want to be left alone.
What the eff did I just read? Sure, I have seen some tough stuff in comics, but them Norse folks just got murdered and Thor got himself beaten down and then up and then down again.
This is what happens when we piss off the really smart good guys people. Things go bad on a big scale.
Although I am having a hard time remembering why Reed Richards went all murder happy... I’m sure it had something to do with Sue or lack thereof, but this was just murder on a conveyor belt. I wonder where this goes as its pretty hard to start out with a story where the good guys not only lose, but just get straight taken out and left staring at hell. We shall see, I guess.
#5-6, The World
The Ultimates are regrouping, pulling together all their resources to find a way to beat Reed Richards and the Children. This mostly has Falcon go all sneaky and get caught and trying to talk Captain America into coming back. We also learn the world powers include some mutants with glowing skulls for faces.
These two issues are setups for what is to come more than anything. They focus on character and put pieces into play. Very little to no action happens while people stand around tables and camp fires and such. With stakes as high as “technological superpower holds the world hostage,” you would think more could be done but we slide into more of an espionage rather than the full on assault that failed.
The result is mixed. Some pieces, like Spider-woman’s (girls?), spin off into other books and are really just an excuse to waste a few pages and explain what could be said in a sentence and a foot note. And that boils down these two issues: a bunch of character moments that for the most part were well written, but could have been streamlined.
#7-12, Two Cities, Two Worlds
Nick Fury appeals to The People With Flames for Head for help against Reed “Crazy Pants” Richards while at the same time dropping the Hulk into the Children of Tomorrow’s dome because when you are out of options at least he eats people. Reed calms down the Hulk because Reed is Robert Downey Jr in this world with Speechcraft at +9, just in time for the Ultimates to be arrested and the President to send the USA’s entire nuclear arsenal against Reed, which everyone figures that’s something the smartest supervillain ever would not think of. Reed stops the missiles because that’s totally something he thought of and launches an attack on both The People and America, destroying the home bases of Tian and Washington, D. C. at the same time Tony Stark and Thor escape from SHIELD custody. Nick Fury and the Ultimates then escape SHIELD too cause they are cool, while Tony visits Sue Storm where he finds out he has a tumor and she finds out Reed’s behind the attacks and that she cannot believe it is not butter. Black Widow and the Other Ultimates get caught at a secret base looking for Nick Fury while Tony Stark gets handed over to Reed after having a convo with the President. At the same time, some smarmy dude is walking around giving away gold to people. Reed plays Operation with Stark as the board until Stark’s brain tumor hacks Reed’s City and turns the population against Reed with a big ass War Machine robot. Reed responds by giving Giant Man formula to the Hulk to fight the War Machine Robot and the monsters fight. Reed is defeated when Sue sweeps in and stops him and the end.
As you can see from above, a LOT happened in these six issues, some of it pretty cool. I mean, Giant War Machine VS Giant Hulk. That idea is awesome, but like the rest of this the story is strange and disjointed. The problem with a team book is that there are a ton of characters and the balance of this book is just not there. It spends a lot of time throwing wild scenarios like the giant fight and blowing away Washington D. C., but the characters never feel any growth. Sure, Iron Man has a strange arch with a tumor, but that amounts to “I feel bad, maybe crazy, oh its just a sentient tumor.”
Bottom line, this book is fun and a spectacle, but too busy trying to include everyone without telling a team story. Everything that happens is reactionary, not proaction beyond the last issue which tied everything up. Rather than an arch for a story, we got a steady slope downward with a lackluster rise at the end meant to shock or at the very least twist the story but felt pulled out of their asses. Also, a regular Hulk nearly cracked the Earth in two in the regular U, a giant size should at least cause some orbital wobble.