By Mark Millar (writer), Carlos Pachecho (artist)

The Story: The secret history of the Red Skull is revealed as Colonel Danvers reluctantly tasks Fury with putting together a black ops team to capture a rogue Captain America, who is still understandably distraught after last issue’s startling revelation.

The Good: Millar again reminds us why this will forever be his comic, imbuing this issue with great character moments that put the entirety of Ultimates 3 to shame (I know, like that’s hard to do, right?).  From Captain America crashing a plane into the ocean and then telling its crew to stop whining to Nick Fury sharing his true feelings about Hawkeye… I was reminded of how much of a welcome relief it was having Millar back on the book he made famous.  Pacheco’s art is reliably solid, and he delivers some spectacular scenes like Captain America’s two-page throwdown and Red Skull’s… uh, transformation.

The Not So Good: I can’t help but feel like Millar is showing an incredible amount of self-restraint on this title so far. Whether he’s been asked to tone it down or has simply lost interest in the characters, Ultimate Avengers is lacking the drive and energy that made Ultimates such a thoroughly addictive story to read, and that’s been disappointing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a flat out boring comic, yet, but it’s getting there. It’s to the point now where something doesn’t happen to justify the $3.99 price tag. I’m willing to drop this title because it has yet to give me any reason to stick around, and this is only after the second issue! Also, Red Skull’s origin was painfully contrived and unconvincing. I read this issue twice just to make sure there wasn’t something I’d missed that explained his motives, but no, Millar simply never took the time to explain it better. Skull’s origin reads like it was concocted solely for the purpose of justifying the inclusion of that splash page, but utterly failed to make me believe why and how he turned out the way he did. With a little more thought into what he was writing, Millar could have easily avoided this pitfall if he wanted. Finally, I felt Pacheco’s art suffered greatly at the hands of too many inkers whose own art lacked the depth necessary to bring Pacheco’s pencils to life. The finished pages were good, but they could have easily been great.

Conclusion: This is a decent comic, but it’s simply treading water when it should be making waves. The writing and art are solid  but uninspired, and for $3.99 an issue, I don’t know how long I can keep waiting for things to get interesting. I have yet to be convinced that this is a comic I need to collect.

Grade:  C-

-Tony Rakittke