Ultimates

Ultimate Six 7 (June 2004)

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Once again, Bendis tries to humanize Ultimate Cap. He gets to close out Ultimate Six with the observation he’s basically a fascist pawn. Bendis doesn’t go so far as to call the United States fascist, but there’s the implication.

Sadly, it’s the only interesting thing Bendis comes up with. Oh, he comes up with some amusing stuff this issue. There’s a good scary moment with Otto, there’s a great moment with Aunt May yelling at SHIELD agents (it’s another of those “where’s Bagley when we need him” moments). But there’s nothing with Peter and the Ultimates, nothing substantial with Peter and Norman Osborn.

I guess Hairsine and Miki do a better job for the finale than they did on the previous five issues. None of the art is jaw-dropping ugly like it had been.

Six feels a little like Bendis testing his writing muscles.

He comes up really short.

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Ultimate Six 6 (March 2004)

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More double-paged action crap from Hairsine, though Bendis does eventually come up with a great sequence for the Wasp. It’s in single pages though.

I’m still a little confused how Kraven gets taken out. Apparently a random bit of lightning or electricity hits him and he goes down. Meaning Peter doesn’t actually succeed in anything. He just lucks into living. Kind of makes him a side character in Ultimate Six.

There is a great little moment between Ultimate Cap and Peter (making this issue Ultimate Captain America’s first ever good moment). I wish Mark Bagley had drawn it. Bendis might figure out how to write the Ultimates for this series, but he can’t figure out how to write Peter for someone other than Bagley.

I don’t like the comic, I recognize it’s a bit of a ripoff in terms of cost versus payout, but it’s got some good stuff.

Ultimate Six 5 (February 2004)

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Just when I thought the Hairsine art couldn’t get any worse, it does. Given a huge action sequence from Bendis, Hairsine flubs it and then he somehow worsens it.

There are a lot of double page spreads this issue; Hairsine produces less bad art but on a larger scale.

Putting it mildly, this issue of Ultimate Six is an ugly read. Bendis mildly recovers, revealing Norman isn’t quite as insane as he previously implied, which is good. Norman being able to outthink Nick Fury and all the SHIELD geniuses if he were totally insane is a little much.

Though it’s too bad Bendis doesn’t go anywhere with the alternative life style thread Norman suggests between himself and Doctor Octopus.

The issue also shows no one can write Ultimate Captain America and make him an appealing character. Bendis makes him a dick too.

While the writing’s not incompetent, the comic’s bad.

D 

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Trevor Hairsine; inker, Danny Miki; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, MacKenzie Cadenhead, Nick Lowe, C.B. Cebulski and Ralph Macchio; publisher, COMPANY.

Ultimate Six 4 (January 2004)

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Well, there’s a crappy issue.

More of the bad art from Hairsine and Miki and no story from Bendis. The bad guys break in to kidnap Peter from SHIELD at the end, which should be a good action scene, right? Maybe, if Hairsine and Miki weren’t drawing everything silly.

And there’s an Ultimates action scene a little earlier. It’s terrible too.

The issue opens with the faceless president (not Bush, the vocabulary is too advanced) yelling at Nick Fury. It’s a useless scene because there’s no weight to it. Bendis also fails at any of the good bickering (Nick Fury and Peter, Fury and Osborn). Actually, all of the characters are without personality here.

Worst is the bad guys. Hairsine has stopped bothering to draw Kraven and Sandman any different so the conversation scenes are hard to read.

It’s a terrible comic book. I can’t think of any redeeming qualities.

Ultimate Six 3 (December 2003)

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For this issue, Hairsine and his inker, Danny Miki, all of a sudden decide they’re doing a comedy. The art is very emotive, comical and sketchy. There’s no slickness to it.

It ought to work too, because it’s Peter Parker meets the Ultimates mixed with a little of the Nick Fury and Peter Parker bickering. It ought to work with a comical art style.

It does not.

Worse, it feels like Bendis is dragging things out. Instead of enjoying Peter’s trip to the big leagues, he uses it for the bickering (which is good) and exposition (which is bad).

When he finally does get to the big cliffhanger, it feels like he’s missed out on every opportunity the story presented.

The issue starts out okay and Bendis writes the dialogue and emotion fine, it’s just not a good finished product.

And that big cliffhanger implies tedious, contrived plotting to follow….

Ultimate Six 2 (November 2003)

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I remember this issue. It’s the first Marvel comic–with the text recaps–I remember having a spoiler for the end of the issue. Norman’s so nuts he thinks Peter is his son (Peter being the Ultimate Sixth). Shame no editor caught it, because it’s a good little moment at the end.

There’s another good moment in the issue, one of Bendis’s better ones, actually. Hank Pym reveals he’s already got all of Norman’s secret formulas. Norman freaks out. It works with the Hairsine art. Six is Bendis doing the big action Ultimate series and it turns out he does it well. The first issue he was a little restrained, more in the comedic Spider-Man mode. Here he’s doing big action melodrama.

It’s a fine issue. Though he could’ve done it in half the pages.

Shame Nick Fury has to act moronic for Bendis’s plot to work though.

Ultimate Six 1 (November 2003)

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I’m not a big Trevor Hairsine fan–his Ultimate Cap is a disaster, for instance, but given Bendis’s writing of Ultimate Thor, I forgive Ultimate Six a lot.

It’s an Ultimates series too, not just Ultimate Spidey (which I forgot) and Bendis has a great time writing the Ultimates. He does quite well with the character interplays. It’s a lot fun; Bendis is able to present the Ultimates without a challenge, but still make them compelling. He probably would have made a great sitcom writer.

As for the titular six, they’re only kind of funny. Hairsine’s art is very dramatic, which makes them whining in group therapy less funny than it should be. And then there’s Norman. Norman’s totally nuts and all, but when he’s not bickering with Nick Fury, he’s tiring.

Bendis is having fun making fun of the Ultimate universe, which gives no indication of the series’ quality.

The Ultimates 2 13 (February 2007)

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More of the Hitch battle scenes. Page after page of it. But here’s all Millar wrote… Thor fights Loki, Asgardian warriors appear, Thor wins. Probably twenty pages (the issue’s double-sized) for that lame sequence.

Millar leaves a lot up in the air, like Hank Pym’s fate, and he makes Ultimate Tony smart again. The best jokes some from the guest-starring Fantastic Four, not even the regular cast. I’m trying to think of what else actually makes an impression in the comic.

Not much.

It ends with a flashback to show how cool Ultimate Steve Rogers was in the forties before he became a fascist thug. I guess it’s interesting Millar changes Ultimate Cap’s world perspective at the end of the issue and does no work in the preceding twelve issues to set him up for a change.

It’s bad writing, sure, but Ultimates 2 is pointless tripe anyway….

The Ultimates 2 12 (August 2006)

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When Hitch’s art suffers this issue, I suppose it’s more understandable. He’s drawing every established Ultimate character and probably some other ones. It’s the fight to save America! From the Russians and Muslims! The whole thing plays like a rightwing wet dream.

I love when Ultimate Cap taunts the Muslim supervillain like a Bond bad guy.

The issue’s split into three fight scenes–Ultimate Cap and Muslim guy, Hulk and Abomination, Quicksilver and bad fast person. The most emphasis goes to Ultimate Cap, but the Quicksilver scene is at least witty. Millar tries it with Hulk and flops.

Then there are some Iron Man inserts, but Hitch’s robotics are so confusing, I could never even see what Ultimate Tony’s piloting. Maybe a space station.

The real question is Hank Pym. Is he really a traitor or was he always a secret agent?

It’s the only interesting thing about the comic.

The Ultimates 2 11 (July 2006)

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Apparently, terrible last pages are Hitch’s new thing for Ultimates 2. His Hulk looks like he modeled it off Mr. Potato Head.

Otherwise–and Hitch totally flubs the pacing of the Hulk reveal, just terrible work adapting the cinematic moment in Millar’s script–it’s a fine, exciting issue. Sure, there’s no Thor, but Hawkeye’s kicking butt and Ultimate Steve Rogers is fighting bad guys instead of whining about not being able to oppress brown people.

Millar includes a George W. Bush cameo, which is a little odd, since it’s a pointless scene.

I’m trying to remember what else happens… I don’t think much. The biggest joke of the series might turn out to be how Millar basically only humanized Hank Pym and he’s apparently a genocidal traitor. Oh, wait, no, he’s not. He just wants his wife and all the superheroes executed.

That Millar sure does write craftily.

Eye roll.

The Ultimates 2 10 (March 2006)

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Hitch’s last panel in this issue, of a fat-faced Ultimate Steve Rogers with a completely different haircut than the rest of the series really shows he doesn’t have to do anything up to par, just as long as he eventually turns in the pages.

Ew.

It leaves an otherwise cool issue on a low point. Millar’s enjoying himself at least, with Hawkeye kicking ass and Ultimate Tony finally acting smart. Sure, it’s all action movie tricks in a comic, but it works. The finish–with Ultimate Cap–should be great. Hitch ruins it.

The rest of the issue is exposition about how all the bad guys secretly got together. That little Arab kid Ultimate Steve Rogers mouthed off at a few issues ago? He’s the new Captain Arab or whatever they call him. It’s an exceptionally stupid detail… Millar can’t earnestly be that cheap, can he?

Still, not bad.

The Ultimates 2 9 (January 2006)

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Interesting. You have a comic about a bunch of superheroes and none of them do much super. Instead, it’s a bunch of destruction scenes featuring Hitch’s really boring giant robots.

I assume it makes sense to Millar, but probably only as a way to drag out the series some more. I thought the other all-action issues were hard to talk about, but nothing happens here. The State of Liberty gets torn down–in case you weren’t paying attention to the scene, it’s when Millar’s being really subversive. He’s so rebel.

What else… Oh, are Nick Fury and Betty what’s-her-name having an affair? It’d be kind of cute if they were I suppose, might give Fury some character. And the death of Ultimate Jarvis would be sadder if Millar hadn’t made him a misogynist sociopath.

Millar doesn’t even pretend to care about doing a good job with it.

The Ultimates 2 8 (November 2005)

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The biggest surprise this issue–Millar and Hitch ruin the surprise of Ultimate Steve Rogers being the traitor (it’s not Loki messing with reality! It can’t be!) with the cover–is the “next issue” tag. Tony’s marrying Black Widow? So soon? I thought they were just dating. Millar must have skipped their romance to infer more incest between Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Though, to be fair to Millar, that inference needing doing, since the regular Marvel comics have been doing it for thirty years or whatever without any self-awareness.

What’s most amusing is how Ultimate Steve Rogers is at his most likable when he’s hanging out with Bucky. Millar had an actual story and he skipped it to turn Ultimate Steve into a complete dick. Why? Because it’s more sensational and less emotionally honest, which sums up his Ultimates pretty well overall.

Still, while it’s weak, it’s not terrible.

The Ultimates 2 7 (September 2005)

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Oh, come on, Millar doesn’t even try to produce a fulfilling read. There’s some big action stuff with the Ultimates invading Iraq (or unnamed Middle Eastern country where Ultimate Steve Rogers mouths off at the little brown people he’s stuck helping–a nice move from Millar), there’s a conversation between Thor and Tony, Jan and Hank having coffee and Hawkeye’s family getting killed.

Nothing else. Four scenes.

The most frustrating thing about the comic is how those four scenes are, on their own, quite good. The writing is good if not great, Hitch’s art is appropriate. They just don’t add up to a comic.

Millar’s too fixated on talking down to the reader–Tony’s a dumb drunk, Ultimate Steve is a fascist, Nick Fury’s the terrorist-in-chief–he doesn’t let the comic be any fun. Those three things I mentioned are funny. He should embrace it, not soapbox it.