Review: The Ultimates 1

As I’ve stated throughout this website, I am a great fan of the Ultimates. I read all of Ultimates vol. 1 in a day, and from then on prayed every month that Mark Millar will finally get an issue done on time. Millar has since turned into a bad taste in my mouth, due to some questionable writing choices in his independent comics and his more or less apathy to his remaining Marvel comics.  This is no reflection the Ultimates, but boy, am I happy that someone who isn’t Jeph Loeb is finally getting their hands on this series.

To counter my dear love for original Ultimates series, I should also note my tepid reception of Jonathan Hickman. Despite owning most of his independent work, I have grown tired of him since discovering that he writes every single comic with the same unsubtle underlying themes.

With my own biases aside, I will now say that “The Ultimates” 1 (now finally an ongoing series) is an amazing first issue. The plot continues from Ultimate Fallout and Avengers vs. New Ultimates (though you don’t need to read those series to understand what’s going on here). Nick Fury is director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and organization which has expanded past the United States-mandate into an organization that spans the globe. The Ultimates, a team run by S.H.I.E.L.D., includes Thor, Hawkeye, Iron Man and, perhaps most significantly, not Captain America. Fury is shown to nearly have a personal empire as he commands some of the most powerful people on the planet. However, Fury fails to realize that in his expansion, he may have over-extended his reach.

Hickman writes most of the story from Fury’s perspective in the briefing room as the team flies around the world. This means there is a lot of exposition as each situation is explained to Fury. Despite this, Hickman provides some involved character moments. Tony Stark talking to his new butler and to Nick Fury are standouts, not to mention the end of this issue, which is especially powerful given Fury’s prior characterization. It has a couple funny moments, and manages to build tension, in spite of Hickman’s focus on Nick Fury.

Out of the writing, I think what I enjoyed the most were the brief shots of the Ultimate Future Foundation, who appear to be the villains of the arc. Just through the short intro narration the reader understands their perspective on the world, and what they’re attempting to build. Hickman is creating a version of Reed Richards who, unlike his mainstream incarnation, is devoted to solving everything, no matter the cost.

As for the art, the art is absolutely gorgeous. Thankfully, Hickman knows when to shut up and let Esad Ribic and Dean White tell the story. Their artwork repeatedly steals the show. Ribic’s lines are delicate, yet intricate whether it is drawing Thor’s face, the halls of Asgard or a futuristic vehicle. Ribic created machines in one panel, where just by looking at its design, the reader can understand how it works. That is a rare talent in this industry, where the focus is often on bigger, but not better.

White’s colours compliment Ribic’s pencils beautifully. The characters and scenes have a unified aesthetic and portray the fairy tale realm of Asgard and the Future Foundation’s dome with the same amount of vigour and intensity. Visually, the comic is easy to follow because of his colours as they transition between reds and blues. Colour helps distinguish whose story you’re following and where that character is. I cannot stress enough how Ribic and White are perhaps the best addition to this series.

The Ultimates 1 looks to be a fantastic start to a series that has been abused and neglected for a while now. The art is beautiful, and the simplest reason to recommend this book. As for the story, while I hope future issues narrow down the scope, this issue is an easy jump on point and introduces what could potentially be three or four arcs. Hickman is likely going to return to his traditional themes of progress despite human nature within the next two issues, but for now, the Ultimates feels fresh and a lot of fun.

Score: 4.5/5

Posted on August 30, 2011, in Comics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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