by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Jason Keith (Colorist)
The Story: With Galactus still doing his rather ominous-looking actions, the Ultimates recruits the X-Men to their cause.
The Review: To talk about Brian Michael Bendis is to talk about decompression. While Bendis can be an effective writer when he exploits a situation to its maximum through different angles, he can be somewhat problematic when it comes to pacing. Single issues aren’t his specialty, most of the time, with some particularly great concepts being stretched out in order to maximize his strengths. Unfortunately, it does the very same with his weaknesses as well, which can be overly apparent occasionally.
This issue is an unfortunate showcase of the writer’s weaknesses, which sadly does not make for a very satisfying issue. Being a transition issue for the most part to set things up for the conclusion, the story in itself moves characters from point A to B, explain a few things to its readers and set up many elements for things to arrive at their narrative peak later. Unfortunately, there are several problems in the execution of this approach that makes this much-less exciting than it could be.
The first thing that Bendis does right, yet not in the best of way, is to set up some kind of plan and use the characters in order to move things along. Doing so at a frantic pace, the readers are reintroduced to the X-Men as well as to the potential manner in which the Ultimates might confront Galactus. Presenting many facets of their plans and somehow explaining the gist of it in a rapid manner, there is little to no time given for the possible implications, be they moral, scientific or to show how many of the characters might react or feel about the many possibilities offered by the plot and decisions therein. In its quickness, Bendis unfortunately dazzles through the more interesting tidbits which could have made this story much more exciting, treating most of the characters as set pieces more than actual persons with problems, traits and what-not.
The other problem that the comic face is the fact that nothing really does happen here. There is an explanation and a plan at the beginning, some very few moments for characterization and then a good amount of action, all leading to the same conclusion as the previous issues: they need to do something or their world is screwed. There is a lack of accomplishment or surprising twists that makes this rather slow, but also rather safe, with close to no consequences being actually presented for the readers to enjoy. The sensation of cataclysmic events is well done, but it comes at the sacrifice of the characters and the story in general.
Still as it may, the art is still very competent in some areas, with Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy making this more a hit than a miss with their visuals. Where they are rather excellent, for the most part, is in depicting the destruction and the desolation resulting from the actions of Galactus. The few opening pages shows some rather generic, yet concise, visions of a disaster area, one in which empty cars and deserted streets tells the results of all of this chaos very well. The panel layout is also commendable, with an ability to tell the story in a mostly dynamic manner, even with all the talking head action that is shown early. The few up-close character panels are also well done, with a decent range of emotions being conveyed throughout these moments.
It’s not entirely good, though, as there are several other areas where the art simply doesn’t work as well as it should. The second half of the issue, focusing mostly on cavalcades of wild energy, explosions and high-octane action, is mostly a mess. A bit unfocused and highly chaotic, there is a lot on display here, yet the repercussions, impact and sense of importance does not show itself in full. There is a lot going on, but not everything is interesting or entirely clear as many elements, characters and actions struggles against each other for relevance and spotlight in these few pages.
The colorization does not help, unfortunately, with a very high emphasis on warm colors, specifically red in the latter parts of the issue. With two colors being primarily on display in this issue, red and grey, there is a certain absence of diversity that does not help set up some of the more colorful aspects of the issue, like costumes, energy and other such elements. The warm colors does add to the sensation of catastrophe and danger, but it soon becomes overbearing, invading the other aspects of the issue in the colorization as well.
The Conclusion: With nothing much happening, a certain lack of focus on the more interesting aspects of the story and some messy art and colorization, this issue proves to be a misstep for this storyline. Things are set up for the finale, but that’s about it.
Hugo Robberts Larivière