By: Sam Humphries (Writer), Joe Bennett (Penciler), Ruy José (Inker), Matt Milla (Colorist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
Review: I have trouble sleeping some nights. It’s this recurring dream I have: every comic writer I’ve ever trashed in print lines up and takes turns kicking me right in the nuts. On and on it goes. Brian Wood’s been getting a few jabs in there lately. Joe Keatinge nearly took ‘em clean off the other week. But even in the grip of deep sleep my body physically convulses when Ultimates writer Sam Humphries steps up to the plate; by Christ, that man must be able to power a Pedalo at an impressive rate of knots with those well-developed calves. And that’s not even the half of it. I always know that at the back of the queue stands Jeph Loeb, a &$@!-eating grin on his face and steel-toed, rocket-powered boots on his feet. Bring it on Loeb, I’ve had worse; I read Ultimatum…twice.
Thankfully Ultimate Comics Ultimates #22 offers me a chance to sling some faint praise Humpries’ way. It does, after all, elicit favourable comparisons to Garth Ennis’ The Boys, even if that wasn’t strictly his intention. It’s hard to see when or how, but I’ve become convinced that Humphries may have been weaving satire into the series all along, and if so, fair enough; that kind of thing has always sat well in the Ultimate universe.
This feels most pronounced at the beginning of the book during a flashback that shows an alternate team of Ultimates deployed in Afghanistan (presumably around the time Cap and the boys were busy defending Washington DC in Ultimates 2). We join the team – consisting of Ultimized versions of Tigra, Vision, Quake and Wonder Man – during a failed mission to uncover the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. They go in all guns blazing only to haphazardly cause casualties among allies and civilians, and they soon lose track of their target altogether (well, that’s one interpretation of real-world events I suppose). When things go wrong, the nuclear option is immediately put on the table. This is almost a Humphries’ trademark at this point – at the first sign of trouble his characters nearly always suggest blasting their problems into atomic oblivion.
The main takeaway from this intro however is the reveal that there was one Ultimate who was just too dangerous for inclusion: The Black Knight. When you finally see this new character I couldn’t help but think of the The Boys’ ludicrous Tek Knight. Dangerous he may be, but he looks about as threatening as Red Dwarf’s ‘Talkie Toaster’.
Elsewhere Captain America presents a quite hilarious parody of the Presidency. His time in office has been typified with the following pattern of behaviour: Here’s a dilemma. Here’s one person with one view on the matter, here’s another person with an opposing view on the matter. How do we solve this one Mr President? “I can’t be expected to hit an argument with a shield!” comes the reply. “Talk it out – and don’t quit talking until you’ve reached a resolution. Idiots.” Cap will then confidently stride out of the room to visit a war memorial. Rinse, repeat.
Let’s see, what else…Well, the blatantly obvious impending arrival of the Infinity Gauntlet is further teased. This is undoubtedly the most exciting portion of the book for me, as Thor and Susan Storm actually make for a fairly awesome couple. As do Tony and his l’il sentient tumor. Kudos to Humphries, this is actually a reasonably enjoyable issue, even if it is filled with the usual erratic character portraits and overly cluttered plotting. Definitely one of the better episodes in his run though.
But Humphries doesn’t take sole credit for the improvements. Behold! Joe Bennett is easily the most suitable artist this series has encountered in well over 6 months – he’s a great fit. With Ruy Jose keeping Bennett’s pencils looking sharp and his shading lending a warm, natural touch this is the most realistic the book has looked in a good long while. It even makes Tigra look just about believable in the Afghan battle scene. Some of his character designs leave a little to be desired though. As mentioned, the Black Knight is a bit of a mess, exhibiting a suit of armour exaggerated to an almost preposterous degree, and Quake’s outfit is an industrially over-designed oddity. He pencils a lovely Hawkeye though. The odd misstep aside, I’m incredibly happy that Bennett’s on board. Let’s hope he sticks around for a good while longer.
Conclusion: Has Humphries’ Ultimate Comics Ultimates somehow gotten so bad that it’s good? That’s difficult to say, though it is starting to carry a certain goofy charm that had me smiling rather than swearing (my main response to the last few issues). Still it does seem to be wasting time with detours when its most exciting plot – the Infinity Gauntlet – is right under its nose. Ah well…I’ll take any improvement where I can get it. Still think twice about buying it, but borrowing it for a read? Yeah, this month it’s most definitely worth it.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Captain America, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Joe Bennett, Marvel, Marvel Comics Reviews, Marvel Reviews, Matt Milla, President of the USA, Quake, ruy jose', Sam Humphries, satire, The Black Knight, The Boys, Thor, Tigra, Ultimate, Ultimate Comics, Ultimate Comics Ultimates, Ultimates, VC's Clayton Cowles, Vision, Wonder Man