Overview

The Ultimates 2 #2

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The Ultimates 2 #2

Credits

  • Words: Mark Millar
  • Art: Bryan Hitch
  • Inks: Paul Neary
  • Colors: Laura Martin
  • Story Title: Gods and Monsters, Part 2 - Dead Man Walking
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jan 12, 2005

The Avengers remake takes a break from its explosive hard-hitting action to explore some of the practical realities of being superheroes in the modern era. So far, so good – a promising beginning for volume two.

I never thought I’d be cheering for Thor. Seriously. I’m a jaded comic book reader, one who is often dubious when the hype says that one of the hipper mainstream comics on the stands prominently features some of Marvel’s older and decidedly campier heroes.

But it’s true. In the thirteen issues that make up Volume One of The Ultimates, Mark Millar has somehow managed to weave a story about the Hulk rampaging across New York, parlay that into “Avengers versus shape-shifting aliens,” and achieve the itself superhuman feat of transmuting old and campy into awesome. Like the other “Ultimate” titles, this is a restart of a classic Marvel story, dragging the Avengers into the present for a much-needed reality check. In the process, Millar has grounded the story in a reality that is basically our own. The heroes talk pop culture, know politics, and have to confront domestic violence with the same gravity as they do alien invasion. And it works.

In this issue, the second part of Ultimates 2, the world is not in any immediate danger. These new Avengers have to contend with the consequences of their actions and the political pitfalls that come along with them. During the Hulk’s rampage, 852 civilians were killed. Nick Fury and the government managed to keep Bruce Banner’s identity a secret in the ensuing cover-up, but someone has just leaked Banner’s secret to the press. After being elevated to the biggest celebrities in the world, the Ultimates are now in the middle of a PR nightmare.

The Ulimates works better than some of the other “Ultimate” books because it really makes the most of its restart. This issue is a prime example of that. Millar has taken the time to explore some of the relationships between his characters. Banner might get the death penalty, and there is a real poignancy to the moment when it becomes clear that the Ultimates may have to sacrifice him. Millar is also heavily playing up the consequences angle in this issue, something other superhero comics take for granted. He acknowledges there is devastation in the aftermath, both physical and political, and that it is not something even superbeings can sweep under the rug. The first volume of Ultimates glossed over this at times, but now there is nice level of maturity and accountability in Millar’s writing.

Of course, Millar has never been shy about putting a message in his books. At times, his own personal politics are even a little too front-and-center, but he seems to have calmed down and focused on story with this issue.

Bryan Hitch continues to deliver the top-quality pencils necessary to make the world of the Ultimates seem as much like our own as Millar intends. There is a lot of really nice background work, notably in the club when Cap ambushes a partying Thor. Even when they’re only appearing in a single panel, these are real people of all shapes and sizes, and they’re all unique. That’s class.

Laura Martin also does a nice job with the colors this issue, and she gets a couple of opportunities to do some impressive lighting work. The real stand-out, however, is her subtler work during Banner’s therapy session with Charles Xavier. The beach sunset and the warm glow on their faces helps to convey that despite his inner Hulk, Banner has a peaceful and remorseful side. Paul Neary deserves a mention, too, for the most effective use of hatching in a modern color comic in quite some time.

If there’s a complaint to be made about Ultimates 2 so far, it’s got to do with pacing. Much like the first volume, the price to be paid for dwelling on character and consequence is a somewhat sluggish start. In a monthly book that sometimes takes way more than a month for the next installment, a methodical pace seems plodding. There is a legitimate concern that some of today’s serial books are being written more for the inevitable trade compilation than for the month-to-month reader, and The Ultimates definitely seems guilty of this. That said, this is still an incredibly good comic and well worth your time this month.

- Jesse Vigil

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