Markâ€™s return to the Ultimates was well trailed by the Marvel publicity department and everyone was expecting big things from the titles original scribe. Well nobody can say that he has run out of ideas in his time away from his onetime signature book because we are only two issues into the new run and already the direction this comic is going to take is starting to become clear. Itâ€™s all about close family members and their unlimited capacity to cause emotional and physical harm.
Following on from last issues genuinely surprising revelation we discover that Steve Rogers, unknown to himself, did indeed father an illegitimate bambino before heading off to war. This child was taken from his natural mother by artifice and then raised by the government on a secret desert base. The boy grew up having half of Caps enhanced molecular sequence which allowed him to potentially surpass his Paterâ€™s extremely high standards, which is exactly what Uncle Sam was hoping for. Still he was basically raised as a lab rat and the first real chance he had to turn on his keepers, he took it, with very lethal results for everybody else living or working on that base. Before leaving his governmental foster domicile, he decides to remove the meseodermal tissue from his head to expose the bright crimson ligaments below. Its not a typical graduation ceremony but then this new version of the Red Skull is not your typical lunatic.
I must say, that I liked the way that this version of the Skull got his visual look because it establishes right away, that this guy is a homicidal maniac of the first order. If he is willing to do this amount of damage to himself, there would be absolutely no hesitation in doing very serious harm to somebody else. This man is on mission to destroy anything that the country his father stands for. He plans to be their nemesis and then settle up with daddy for all the hurts that were inflicted upon him since his birth.
This is the most exciting partÂ of the writing in this comic because the rest of the story pace, contained within its pages, is to all appearances extremely languid. After the roller-coaster ride of the first issue this one has a lot of talking head sequences contained within it, interspersed with the obligatory Ultimates rapid violence scenes to appease the action junkies. Well, thatâ€™s whatâ€™s occurring on the surface anyway, but I think there it more to it than that. Physicists tell us that ninety percent of the universe we inhabit is constructed of dark matter, which means that everything we can smell, touch, taste, hear and see all around us is based on a foundation of something that we canâ€™t access with any of our five senses. Thatâ€™s how Mr Millar writes. He is laying down enough foreshadowing in here, to cause a worldwide solar eclipse but itâ€™s a foundation on which he has the potential to surpass his first amazingly entertaining run on this title, if he does it right.
Mr Carlos Pacheco handles the main artistic matters in this book. I vividly recall seeing some of his very early work in a Spanish edition ofÂ Marvel Comics when I was on vacation in that country, long before the American subcontinent had ever heard the mans name, and I was totally blown away by its distinction. However the art in this comic is nothing near the quality of either his â€˜Avengers Foreverâ€™ or â€˜Arrowsmithâ€™ runs. To be totally equitable, it may be the fact that there were several inkers on this project which may have destroyed the mans tight pencil work but it must be said that while the overall package was OK there was a definite variability of quality from page to page and sometimes even from panel to panel.
There were times whilst I reading through this book I sometimes felt like saying: â€œCarlos Pacheco used to be one of my favourite artists. I used to love his high stylised delineationsâ€™ and the way he had of successfully capturing the feeling of momentum on the flat page—Â You, Sir are no Carlos Pacheco!â€ But that would have been unfair because there are still several visible reminders throughout the book of how imaginative this artist can be, the best of which is the double page spread of Cap single-handedly fighting the government troops.
Another thing to note here is the continuing theme that characterises all the members of this Ultimates group.Â Â From what I read both in here and also in the previous runs of the title, there is absolutely no joy and pride of being an Avenger in this universe. There is none of the shared camaraderie and friendship like say the BeastÂ and Wonder Man had for each other because itâ€™s all totally professional and clinical. This is supposed to be the pre-eminent superhero team on the planet and is organised on military lines. I was myself in the military at one time and I remember a strong feeling of professional comradeship. I see none of that feeling in here.
In closing let me be quite clear. This book is light years better than the previous Loeb and Madureira version but itâ€™s nowhere near the quality of the original groundbreaking effort that really did change the face of comics.Â This book used to have a genuine â€œdenier criâ€ feeling about it and hopefully it will capture that magic in a bottle again. I give this comic three stars.