Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #1


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Ultimate Comics: Ultimates #1


  • Words: Jonathan Hickman
  • Art: Esad Ribic
  • Colors: Dean White
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Aug 24, 2011

Hickman delivers an intriguing story worthy of succeeding Millar’s epic run on The Ultimates.

Jonathan Hickman has the rare talent to make a single issue succeed all by itself while also laying down immense groundwork for future stories. Secondary characters, short scenes, subplots, and even single lines of dialogue from the start of his Fantastic Four run have proven to have great significance later down the line, even into his current FF issues. So to try and judge Ultimate Comics: Ultimates – which already has a healthy dose of different characters, plots, subplots, catastrophic events, and devious mysteries – after only the first issue is difficult, to say the least.

Let’s look at what we do know: Fury is back in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. and attempts to monitor world events from a war room that looks like the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise on constant red alert. Tony Stark attends a gala halfway across the world and decides to remote in to control his new Iron Man suit, which has never looked more like the 616 mainstream Marvel Universe version. Thor – also wielding a 616 version of his weapon - is getting drunk with his fellow Asgardians and a bear (yes, a bear) when some European super-folk come looking for a fight. And while he makes only a brief appearance, everyone seems to be asking about Hawkeye (probably to promote Hickman’s upcoming Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye book). Apparently, I’m the only one asking the question “Where is Captain America (you know, the most prominent figure on the cover)?” As the heroes go about their heroics, the Future Foundation is plotting something seemingly sinister in the desert. All of the moving parts are there, making this issue seem like the first tick of a giant clock.

A big problem I had with Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates (someone please do something about these titles!) was how it had the illusion of being drawn with a sense of realism, but would then offer up visuals such as War Machine’s armor decorated with an obscene amount of weapons, disrupting the visual consistency it had tried to create. Here, Ribic and White tone everything down with a dark, gritty edge, and that’s a good thing. Iron Man looks as much a fiery demon as he does a robot when he rockets into battle; Thor’s full beard drips with beer as he stares down an opponent; and the inside of the Future Foundation’s mushroom cloud-shaped base is as mesmerizing as when Alice tumbled down the rabbit hole. But Hickman and his art team are not without a sense of humor: Hawkeye makes a dirty joke, Thor provides a laugh-out-loud moment without the aid of dialogue, and can I please mention the drunken bear again?

Is this the best iteration of The Ultimates to date? It’s too soon to tell, but it certainly has a similar tone to the start of Mark Millar and Brian Hitch’s epic run that went on to be one of the best Marvel stories ever told, a tough feat to accomplish. Hickman has said in interviews that he is looking forward to doing things he could not do in the regular Marvel Universe, but this first issue failed to show any hint of that thinking. Is that a bad thing? With the first issue being a darker twist on the Ultimates with perfect characterization, stunning art, and an intriguing plot, it is hard to say yes. Perhaps the events that will set this story apart from the regular Marvel U are yet to come; perhaps that’s Steve Rogers getting drunk in a bear suit.

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