Confession: Since his debut a few years ago, Al Ewing has become one of my favorite writers in comics. His work on Mighty Avengers won me over instantly, as he has a keen knack for balancing big, classic superhero action with personal drama in a way I’ve rarely seen. When I found out he would be writing the relaunch of the Ultimates, a book starring several of my favorite heroes, it was like Christmas had come early. So does the debut live up to my expectations?
Unlike Ewing’s sister book, New Avengers, we start off not in the middle of the action, but with character introductions. Blue Marvel and Captain Marvel are heading off into space, and like in all the other All-New, All-Different Marvel books, we’re told that it’s been eight months since the events of Secret Wars. Blue Marvel reveals that though people are aware there was some massive event, nobody can actually remember the Secret Wars clearly. He refers to the concept of a multiversal renewal, and speculates that whatever happened, it caused reality to be revived and rejuvenated with a new element called Iso-8 acting s the building blocks of this new universe.
On Earth, the secretary of the U.N. is being given a tour of the Ultimates’ HQ, the Triskelion. The massive building houses three distinct wings: The new Wakandan embassy, the ground control base for Carol Danvers’ new Alpha Flight support team, and a special command center dedicated to stopping huge, cosmic threats. The secretary is impressed, but slightly nervous. It seems that after the near-destruction of Wakanda in the lead-up to Secret Wars, Black Panther has allied his country more closely with the United States in the spirit of cooperation. Various countries in the U.N. are worried that this partnership could extend to the military, but Black Panther assures him that Wakanda has no need for such things. After all, America would only slow them down in that area. He says the Ultimates are there to solve problems, and the first problem they’ve chosen to solve is Galactus.
On an alien world, Monica Rambeau and Ms. America are scoping out a local warlord who has been altered after coming into contact with some sort of rare cosmic artifact. The object has allowed him to turn his planet into a police state, and when he sees the heroines spying on him, he attacks. Monica holds her own rather nicely, but is somewhat disturbed at seeing how easily (and arrogantly) America manages to dismantle their foes.
Back in space, Blue Marvel and Captain Marvel are nearing their destination. They continue to discuss the Ultimates’ mission statement. Blue Marvel is conflicted by the nature of the group, as he thinks that their goal of solving big problems could lead to moral compromises down the line. Both heroes agree that they need to make sure they do not become corrupted in the same way Tony Stark’s Illuminati did in the lead-up to Civil War, where they deemed themselves worthy to decide the fates of billions of lives. They reach Galactus’ stronghold, where the devourer of worlds is expecting a fight. In a surprising move, they say they’re not here for a brawl, but to solve Galactus’ problems for him.
As I mentioned above, this issue is slower than the action packed New Avengers debut, but I feel it works well. We spend the bulk of the run time being introduced to characters and their status quo. Be warned: this is not Mark Millar’s Ultimates (or Jeph Loeb’s, thank god). This is very much in name only, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ultimate problems require ultimate solutions, so in that way, the name is arguably more fitting here than it was for Millar’s Avengers modernization. I’m liking the direction this is headed. Big science stories.
If I had any complaints, it’s that at times, the dialogue can be confusing, especially the opening conversation about Iso-8. It makes a little more sense if you’ve read Ewing’s Contest of Champions (which also deals with Iso-8), but it does seem like a somewhat odd note to begin the story on.
Kenneth Rocafort’s art here looks wonderful. I know he is an accquired taste, but his stylized work here really fits, especially for characters like the Black Panther and Galactus. The detailing on those two in particular looks awesome. Ultimates is probably one of my most anticipated titles of the relaunch, and I’m not disappointed. I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Kenneth Rocafort
Colors by Dan Brown
Letters by Joe Sabino
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A black, gay genderqueer nerd from New York who loves filmmaking and writing about comics and sci-fi.