The Ultimates Comic Series Review
By Stu

With the white-hot success of their Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men titles, Marvel decided to set a new book in this new universe, this time based on The Avengers. I remember being excited about this news as soon as I heard it, because I thought The Avengers were actually pretty cool, but always lacked a special something, perhaps because the majority of it’s roster was a who’s who of “we can’t support or own books” … personally. I thought the team needed streamlined and was in dire need of a revamp.

Luckily, the magnificent Mark Millar was brought in to write the book and since day one, it’s been one of, if not the biggest hit Marvel has ever had. Despite it’s absolutely appalling release schedule, the book now dubbed The Ultimates (just what were the mainstream group avenging?) has become a critical and commercial goldmine.

Despite featuring numerous of the same characters, the two worlds are completely different from one another and fans have debated which one they prefer. Some don’t prefer the rather cynical tone that is featured in the book, but I find they’re missing the point. The group was created as a Government response to possible super criminal attacks, essentially planning for an utter disaster. I don’t see how the book can be happy go lucky. I personally find the tone to be perfect and the characters to be highly interesting, especially as most of them are succumbing the pressures of their jobs, or even, their lack of jobs.

Whilst setting up the team was a rather unique story in itself, the thing I really thought set this book apart from the rest is Banner’s frustrated mine having idea to have them fight The Hulk as their claim to be superheroes because people were complaining that the group wasn’t worth the budget they were receiving. Speaking of the fight, wow! Whilst I find Hitch to be one of the most overrated artists in the business, he really went to town on that fight and it looked spectacular. Everything from Captain America kicking the crap out of Hulk, to the destroyed buildings and rubble and Iron Man’s wrecked armour, it all looked beautiful.

A lot of people were originally turned off by how far the characters were from the original, 616 version. I’m all for a bit of variety, and to be blunt, I like these newer versions more. Captain America feels like more of a leader here to me, thanks in no small part to an utterly fantastic World War II sequence and the brilliant “Because he thinks parachutes are for girls” line. Iron Man isn’t quite the tortured alcoholic we’ve come to know, but I get the feeling he soon will be. I actually found Tony to be a very likeable character here, Jarvis taunts aside. I also thought the brain tumour was a nice touch, as I felt the battered heart idea was another one of those things that needed a little tweaking in this day and age.

Whilst these two, my favourite Avengers, for the record, are quite similar to the ‘normal’ versions, the others are where we start straying away. Bruce Banner is no longer the innocent scientist saving a young teen from an unstoppable gamma bomb, he’s an under appreciated, nervous wreck of a scientist who became The Hulk when he became impatient and tested his super solider formula on himself, resulting in his “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” persona. I thought it was sheer genius to have Captain American, The Hulk and Spider-Man’s origin’s intertwined with each other and each being a result of different super soldiers formulas. It simply makes everything a lot clearer and adds a sense of believability to it all.

Personally I don’t think it’s possible to beat this opening arc for terms of drama, tone and action. It simply has everything you could want in a single story. In some senses, it plays out like the perfect Avengers movie, providing you have a couple of $100 million invested in it, of course.

Simply put, The Ultimates is one of the finest comics of our time. Hopefully the animated version will be just as entertaining.