Overview

The Ultimates 2 #13

Review

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The Ultimates 2 #13

Credits

  • Words: Mark Millar
  • Art: Bryan Hitch
  • Inks: Paul Neary
  • Colors: Laura Martin
  • Story Title: Independence Day
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: May 16, 2007

Millar and Hitch conclude their award-winning run with an oversized issue containing coffee-table art and a largely uninspired story. Let’s take a look-see….

Ultimates 2 has been a wild ride, though one as worrisome in its use of political themes as Millar’s Civil War. The highlight of the series was hands-down the story of Thor, a possible psychopathic born-again Asgardian with an incredibly powerful technological power-belt and hammer in his hands. His alone was the one story ambiguous enough to keep readers coming back for more, and even beyond the ambiguity lay the story of a man whose sole purpose was to create a better world. Ultimately, he was the sole hero of the series, though the one most likely to be everything he said he wasn’t (which may, though, have made him more the hero, being a mere man willing to take a stand against the things he did). The rest of the cast, even throughout two volumes, never managed to become more than Authority-esque spin-offs on established Marvel icons, interesting and fun at times, but hardly men and women to cheer for – except for the fact that they were ours, America’s, and therein lay the giant-sized criticism of the book.

This final chapter – named "Independence Day" for a reason that nearly redeems the story from being the bizarrely mindless, patriotic thing it’s been – has Loki and Thor duke it out in a final free-for-all that brings Asgard, Frost Giants, a Midgard Serpent, a multitude of Garms, and much, much more, down upon NYC, and to compliment this there’s even a sextuple-gatefold centerpiece (eight splashes combined!) to fit all of these characters into a single, magnificent visual. It’s as pretty as pretty gets, though the sudden deluge of everything Norse-supernatural comes across as sudden, a little too straight-forward (they arrive, they fight, they leave), and an overall anticlimax to the big build-up of Thor’s isn’t-he/is-he debate. When the battle is over, the aftermath begins, and while Millar manages a few deft twists to give the series a point and purpose beyond smashing up cities whole, generally the story was over as of last issue – this here is just going through the motions, summation, and allowing for a relaxed pace to the final page.

The aforementioned criticism, though, is where the message of the book rests, as regardless that Ultimates 2 is a comic book and one within the spandex genre, the book tackled heady, pertinent issues to today’s world political climate. The question of modern-day Manifest Destiny and white man’s burden, of national expansionist practice, is raised and raised repeatedly, though it is hardly explored. Fury’s behavior is never understood beyond the fact that he’s an "old war horse," and neither is Captain America, who executes Abdul al-Rahman when the man was already beaten and yet somehow equally sees the need for change in the aftermath. He is a patriot who does every dirty deed he blames others for and yet uses violence and unrepentantly condemns said others while he himself is allowed to rethink and restart in the end. The "villains," then, while juvenilely labeled "The Axis of Evil," are seen acting by and large as The Ultimates themselves had in foreign countries, and while Loki was a character that could be reviled regardless, the series gives little in the way of satisfaction as to the line between "our" heroes and "their" heroes, allowing "theirs" to be executed and imprisoned but "ours" a new freedom to become a world-wide peace-keeping task force, because…uh…they’ve shown such good judgment up until now. What?

Morality, ethics, and political subjectivity are not Millar’s strengths, and yet the man seems attached at the super-hero hip with them. Perhaps he holds the stance of the less said the better, let the characters’ actions say it all, and yet what the actions within the series say is either ill-defined or abhorrent. Either Millar doesn’t care or he’s naïve enough to believe that because his stories are fun, crazy, and thrilling, they therefore shouldn’t be bogged down by more, and that being fun wild stories somehow absolves them of being layered in mind-altering propaganda-laden topics. In either case, Ultimates 2 is a vastly weaker series than it could have been for its lack of sincerity and complete dependency on forced dramatics. The more affecting issues are pushed aside in favor of numerous sequences wherein a hero shouts out: "Idiot, do you think…" before laying out their big twist, somehow timing it so exquisitely that the thing that will prove the villain’s downfall – while not yet present – manages to materialize/appear/gain their feet a split second after such pronouncement.

So it was fun, it was big, it was beautiful, it wasn’t very affecting beyond the shallowest levels of enjoyment, it was cliché-ridden, an absolute trope-filled monolith, and while the series was never meant to be a sociological study printed on multi-hued high-quality stock, it sorely called for a more rounded consideration of its many parts – not just its widescreen presentation. I will forever remember this book fondly, at least overall, as it was quite a blast at the time it originally debuted, and it was enough of an evolution from The Authority that it did indeed seem timely, a critical deconstruction of many WWII and immediate post-war inspired heroes. But due to the lengthy, extended publishing schedule, it does seem a bit past its prime, a thing of the past, a thing no longer applicable as an honest commentary but only as a frivolous, frenzied exercise in choreographed violence, much as Frank Miller’s DK2 seemed so long after the original.

A recommended series, and a decent enough wrap, but one you may want to give a word of warning about before you lend it to anyone who doesn’t dress themselves in the American flag.

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