Or “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Drop A Book.”

UltCover.jpgFirst off, I suppose that I should introduce myself: Hey, I’m Matthew. You may remember me from such movies as “Bloody Mess On The Highway,” and “Calling All Lumberjacks.” I’m also known occasionally as The Lizard King, the twisted mind behind ‘The BMF List,’ now seemingly lost to the mists of time and internet.

My comics pedigree is long and hardly worth mentioning, but I’ll hit a couple of highlights:

I work in a comic store, Gatekeeper Hobbies, in Topeka. I have an almost complete run of all the appearances of the 3-D Man. If I have to choose a favorite X-Man, I’ll go with The Mimic. And finally, my collection consists of fifteen longboxes, thirty shortboxes, and three 3-foot-high stacks of things needing to be filed. More comics than any rational person will ever need, but at least I have a little context to work with.

When it comes to reviews, I’ll try to be positive, I’ll try to be creative, but most of all, I’ll try not to curse like a sailor. Today’s victim– er, reviewed book is very much representative of today’s comic book industry. With “Ultimates 2 #12,” the story is decompressed, the storyline and characters brutal and “realistic,” (I’ll save my rant about “realism” for another day), the violence is rather graphic, and the book itself is several months late.

So late, in fact, that when “Ultimates Annual” came out some weeks ago, one of my customers was heard to remark “Doesn’t EVERY issue of this thing come out annually?” The Ultimates is, as the name would suggest, part of Marvel’s “Ultimate” comic line, and has never been known for punctuality. Ultimates 2 #1 came out in December of 2004, if memory serves, and the wait between issues has been averaging out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-6 months. #12 was originally meant to be the capstone to the entire thing, the big denouement of the entire series. At this point, the only REAL question is “Is it worth the wait?”

Certainly, the issue hits the ground running… Actually, it hits the ground moving like it was fired out of a cannon. The creators know all too well that, since issue 11’s cliffhanger revealed that The Hulk was still alive and kicking, they’d better let the big man… kick. The first three pages are nothing but Hulk-induced devastation, lovingly rendered in widescreen. From that point on, the story doesn’t slow down, as each Ultimate is given their moment (in Quicksilver’s case, a literal moment) in the spotlight. The plot touches all the bases (if only for a second), tying up the loose ends: What about Hank Pym? Who’s the guy in the red helmet? Where is Iron Man? What happened to Captain Britain? Aren’t there OTHER superheroes in the world? And what about Naomi?

The Ultimates, from the first issue of the first volume, has been a fast forward rocketsled, the equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie. Big, loud, fun, full of John Wayne quips and bigger than life heroes. Parts of this book literally gave me goosebumps, as the payoffs cashed in big on seeds planted in previous issues. When The Abomination taunts the Hulk about his limited intellect, our Mr. Banner does exactly what each and every one of us wanted to do with our various tormentors:

Pick up the nearest bludgeon, and beat him upside the head…


Then, rip off his arms and beat him to death with the bloody stumps. Oh, and end it all with a snotty remark. I like Ultimate Hulk. In fact, I like the iterations on almost all the Ultimate Avengers. A capable Wasp, a Quicksilver who uses superspeed to it’s fullest (not just the way comic books have always done it), a Hawkeye who is both comical and deadly, even a slightly drunken Iron Man in his most awesome armor yet…


If you can call a battlewagon the size of Lichtenstein “armor,” I guess. The only characterizations I dislike are those of Henry Pym and Captain America. Mark Millar has stated on the record that he feels Henry Pym deserves his treatment in the Ultimates, as “nobody likes a wife-beater.” Given how unstable the regular-Marvel-Universe Henry Pym is, I can’t take too much issue with his portrayal here… Millar has simply chosen to emphasize parts of the character that I don’t like, the weakness, the dishonesty. But, in so doing, he gives Doctor Pym one of the best moments of the entire issue…


Heh. I’m with Ultron on this one, that conversion seems just a bit too “convenient,” don’t it?

Back on the subject of characterization… One of the biggest problems I’ve had with The Ultimates is Captain America. In an early issue, after downing an enemy, Ultimate Cap took a moment to KICK HIM IN THE FACE. Hitting an enemy when he’s down doesn’t seem very Cap-like, to me. Ultimate Captain America is more of a Steven-Seagal-movie soldier, willing to crack any and all skulls in the name of a greater good. When the villains siege starts to finally collapse, Captain America fights a one-on-one duel with the main bad guy (who would have been German until 2001, but now must be Arabic, apparently). This evil terrorist has, in true villain fashion, ordered his lackeys to stay out of it so he can “humble the American pig-dog blah de blah blah…” This directive only lasts until he loses, of course, and Cap has to power his way through the hordes of identical video-game chaff characters to…



Part of me cheered. A much, much larger part is incredibly troubled by this. Certainly, Abdul has been set up as a quintessential evil, willing to wipe out the American Way just to prove a point. I guess it’s too many years of reading old-school comic books, but stabbing someone to death isn’t (to me) a heroic act.

And I think that’s Millar’s point. His Captain America is a military man, first and foremost, and questions of honor and heroism are secondary concerns. And that’s fine. The book is mighty entertaining, even if it does boil down to what my friend Bruce calls a “cluster-schmozz” and what I sometimes label “Big Dumb Fight Scene.” A well-choreographed, well-drawn, well-dialogued, summer movie story Big Dumb Fight Scene, to be sure, but a fight scene nonetheless.

Oh, and one question does remain, at the end. Throughout the series, doubt has been cast as to whether Ultimate Thor is really an deity of long-lost Asgard, or just a male nurse with delusions of grandeur. Though the book ends with a cliffhanger (apparently, another issue had to be added to the run, the better to get in all the ‘Hulk-Smash-Blow-Up-New-York-Stabitty-Stab-Stab’ action), it give the very strong impression that Tony Stark’s psychiatrists owe SOMEONE a pretty sizable apology.


Judged on it’s own merits, it’s a pretty good book. Certainly you have to turn off parts of your brain and enjoy it for the joy of “crush-kill-destroy,” no Alan Moore subtlety or Grant Morrison metaphors here. Hitch’s art is, as always, beautiful, and I get the feeling Mark Millar has been wanting to tell a story like this for a long time. Even so, I won’t be getting back on the roller coaster for Ultimates 3 or 4. The ending of this storyline went where it had to, thematically speaking. I simply don’t have a lot of interest in the continued adventures of these characters. Certainly, I can understand the urge to skewer a terrorist mastermind. But I’m not interested in reading the monthly storis about the skewerer.


I’m giving it three stars, averaging out the “Hell, yeah!” moments with the “Oh, dear!” moments into a slightly-above-average adventure story.

Oh, one last whine: In previous stories, Hank Pym had to run about naked because his special giant-costume (which DIDN’T change size with him) wasn’t around. When The Wasp grows in THIS issue, her costume grows with her. Unless I missed something, there’s no explanation for this, and they missed a perfectly good opportunity to show a giant naked woman throwing robots like ten-pins. That might have bought them four stars…

No, not really.


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Jeremy J Goldman on

    Ultimates 2 #1 came out in December of 2004, if memory serves, and the wait between issues has been averaging out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-6 months. #12 was originally meant to be the capstone to the entire thing, the big denouement of the entire series. At this point, the only REAL question is “Is it worth the wait?”

    If Ult 2 #1 did come out 22 months ago like you say, don’t know how the wait can be 3-6 months on average between issues. That would mean the story would have taken 36-72 months to come out, as opposed to 22…I **hated** the delays, but wow, that’s a substatial exageration there, no?

  2. I have to agree with Jeremy here. Honestly, the delays for Ultimates 2 is nowhere near as bad as the first volume was. For the first couple of months (roughly up to about #7 or so), I recall it coming out pretty much on schedule. I think once they decided to expand the finale, just like last time, is when things started to go downhill.

  3. Well, honestly, it’s just a total abuse of the word “average.” :)

    If memory serves, the first five issues came out monthly. There were short delays for six, seven and eight, an extremely long delay for ten, and shorter ones for eleven and twelve.

    You’re absolutely right, Jeremy, but it wasn’t so much exaggeration, as bad grammatical form on my part. Mea culpa.

  4. “I’m also known occasionally as The Lizard King, the twisted mind behind ‘The BMF List.’ (It should be noted that the language on The BMF List may not be considered entirely work safe.)”

    Heh. In this case, “not entirely work safe” translates as “cursing like a sailor on HBO”. Nice review, Mr. P. I’ll be following your career with great interest.

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