The average episode of Seinfeld had two to four intersecting plots running simultaneously. Despite this, the show was famously criticized and celebrated for being a show where “nothing happens.” It was clear, it wasn’t that nothing was happening, it was that none of what was expected was happening. In this respect, The Ultimates is a lot like Seinfeld. It’s the book where a whole lot of “nothing” happens.
This issue is a particularly strong example of that trend. It’s not uncommon for The Ultimates to completely eschew a traditional fight based structure, however, there isn’t even the usual exploration and Super Science, at least not from the team itself. Instead we get something that so often is cause for complaint in comics, an inventory issue.
This issue is very much about taking stock and setting up future plot threads, but it does so in a way that is exhilarating and energetic.
As DC has seemingly striven to focus on smaller crossovers that only affect a few books, Marvel has tackled the challenge of integrating books into event storylines head-on. My standard example of this is Cullen Bunn’s Magneto, but it’s perhaps not surprising that another shining star in this regard was Loki: Agent of Asgard. The Ultimates #7 is clearly from the same mind, as it seamlessly integrates the concerns of “Civil War II” into the larger plot of the series.
And just as important, Ultimates 7 also provides a fantastic jumping on point for new readers and Civil War completionists. In twenty short pages, Ewing and Rocafort not only introduce readers to the cast of characters and their interpersonal dynamics, but present some shockingly complete views of their personalities, at least as they exist for this title.
With the multiversal stakes of this series providing ample reason for dramatic tension, the characters are free to show us their convictions and where they strain under pressure. Make no mistake, we’re seeing some of the dark sides of these characters. Carol’s impressive limits have been crossed and she’s having an existential crisis, Dr. Brashear may not be capable of the responsibilities his power set comes with, T’Challa is appropriately imperious and unilateral for an absolute monarch. While these may be unflattering elements of these characters, Ewing does a great job of showing extreme situations that cause them to act this way. The result is a feeling of connection to the characters that can go forward with readers, regardless of, but clearly with a mind towards, “Civil War II”.
After a month away, it’s interesting to have Kenneth Rocafort back. In many ways Christian Wards brief stay with the Ultimates helps identify what Rocafort brings to the book. After all, there’s no denying that Ward’s wild indie reputation suits the type of book Ewing is writing, at least better than Rocafort’s more action-packed resume. However, with this issue Rocafort is focused on doing what he does best, drawing sleek, organic futurism and making it look sexy.
Rocafort approaches every panel like a print, a moment trapped in time with its own questions and tensions and, most of all, rhythm. At times that can actually leave a page with a feeling of chronological disconnection, but the clarity and strength of the storytelling usually outshines it. Plus when Rocafort actively employs this, as in a number of multi-panel compositions, it can become a significant part of the issue’s artistic appeal. Take a look at the Anti-Man’s therapy session if you want to see what I mean.
The only serious problem with the art is that distance can become dangerous. Ignored detail or detail scaled down too far can leave some panels looking awkward or muddled.
Dan Brown’s colors lean a little more towards the heavy and primary than his usual fare, but, in my opinion, it generally works for the story. Regardless of what palette he uses, the intense attention to color gradients gives a beauty and realism to the book.
With the first arc steeped in the adventurous ‘Super Science’ tradition of the Fantastic Four, The Ultimates #7 effectively adds ‘Super-Politics’ to its resume, providing a simple but tense series of obstacles for the shaken team as they move forward into the unknown.
The Ultimates #7 is not a must buy, especially compared to its predecessor, but it is a fantastic jumping on point for the series. Full of fascinating character moments and clever visual storytelling, this issue makes me feel very secure about this book’s future, the role that “Civil War II” will have on it, and vice-a-versa.