The Ultimates 2 #10


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The Ultimates 2 #10


  • Words: Mark Millar
  • Art: Bryan Hitch
  • Inks: Paul Neary & Bryan Hitch
  • Colors: Laura Martin
  • Story Title: The Axis of Evil
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Mar 1, 2006

America has been highjacked by metahumans from countries who’ve felt Uncle Sam’s boot on their necks for too long. But if The Ultimates have anything to say about it, that boot’s gonna end up somewhere else.

What’s true in physics is just as true in geo-politics—for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. The Ultimates may have saved the world from invading aliens and the man-made menace known as The Hulk, but now that they’ve become the tip of America’s global spear, some see them as just as much of a menace. Slowly, methodically, opposing forces plotted and schemed, and once the best of America’s best line of defense were taken off the board, these Axis of Evil super-soldiers, aided by the traitorous Black Widow, pulled off "Grand Theft America" with precision and on a scale that makes them the most worthy adversaries The Ultimates have yet to face. But have they overplayed their hand? These villains may call themselves The Libertaors, but they don’t call our heroes The Ultimates because it looks cool on a t-shirt.

What distinguishes Mark Millar as the best horse in Marvel’s stable of writers is that the stories he’s written over the past 18 months actually live up to the hype. Before The Ultimates 2 hit the stands the buzz was that it would be an extravaganza setting the bar for the superhero comics in the 21st century while also reminding us why we loved them in the first place. Thus far his writing has delivered like FedEx, and even before the much-anticipated Civil War, it’s not a stretch at all to say that he’s at the top of his game. His secret? In The Ultimates 2 #10, in addition to dynamic characterization, crackling dialogue, stinging humor, and cutting political commentary, there’s that thing that makes drama dramatic, distilled down to its ultimate essence, then executed with as much panache as craftsmanship. I’m speaking here about action and reaction, cause and effect, that immutable law of nature and the lifeblood of storytelling. Through issue #8 The Ultimates certainly made their own bed, and were forced by The Liberators to lie in it in issue #9. But watching them beginning to wake up in issue #10—Tony Stark pulling a brilliant fast one on The Black Widow, Hawkeye viciously gettin’ his freak on, Captain America making the personal political, even the throwaway line about Thor deep in prayer—gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing with every turn of the page. Nothing makes heroes rising to the occasion so exciting as watching them fall so low beforehand, and though we know what will happen when the cavalry finally arrives, in this issue Millar knows and delivers on the thrill of hearing those hooves coming over the hill.

I can name a handful of artists who come close, but no one illustrates superhero comics better than Bryan Hitch. Every issue of The Ultimates 2 has been an artistic treat, but what grabs us by the collar and doesn’t let go in issue #10 is Hitch’s preternatural ability to tell a story with images. Read it by the images only. Though Millar puts some mighty fine words on the page, Hitch’s artwork really didn’t need them in terms of carrying the weight of getting the story across. The things that make Hitch Hitch are there as well—the startling realism, the balance of bold strokes and elegant linework, the breathtaking splash pages, as well as the intimate close-ups that—with the help of the incomparable Laura Martin on colors—seem more human than human. But more than anything else, storytelling is the first and most fundamental job a comics artist has, and anyone—writers and artists alike—who wants to know how it’s done will learn much in this issue while also being highly entertained.

The only bad rap I hear about The Ultimates is that it’s always late. Please. A superhero comic of this caliber simply can’t be produced on a monthly basis. If it came out quarterly we would still wait, and most of us would still be grateful.

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