Comic rant: Ultimatum #3

ultimatum3I used to wonder why people still don’t take comic books seriously as an artistic medium. Billion dollar films, huge cultural influence, and characters existing for over half a century should be an indication that comics aren’t just here to stay; they’re a viable art form.

Then you read something like Ultimatum #3, and you remember why people outside the industry think comics are retarded. And they’d be right to think it, if this is supposed to be the tone-setter for the future of the Ultimate universe. This issue (and by extension, this series) has been so incredibly stupid, every time I re-read the issue I find more completely ridiculous crap hidden between panels, tucked away in dialog, or just represented in overly 90’s Image-esque art.

First, let’s kick off the backstory: the Ultimate Universe is Marvel’s “contemporary” universe, where the exact same crap happens in this place as it does in the continuity-heavy universe they created back in the 60’s. The only true difference is that one book has consistently been well-written, and the others have been consistently poor. Jeph Loeb, “superstar” author of Batman: The Long Halloween, Spider-Man: Blue, and the TV show Heroes, has been writing the Ultimate answer to The Avengers (The Ultimates) for awhile, and has earned a bit of a name for himself on that front. I think the term “utterly ridiculous” has been bandied about more than a few times.

That’s the background. The main story is that Magneto is pissed, stole Thor’s hammer, and killed millions of human beings and about ten super powered jackasses. Since the story’s about them, these deaths are the only ones that matter. Among the dead are Captain America, Thor’s girlfriend Valkyre, The Wasp, and a bunch of X-Men. Fortunately for everyone, Thor went to Hell to get his woman back, and found Cap in the process. He trades his life for Valkyre, and she and Cap return to the land of the living for the COOLEST FIGHT EVER!!! At least, that’s what the last two pages seem to suggest. The dialog may as well have gone like this:

Captain America rises from his hospital bed, rejuvenated. He grabs his shield and stands impressively with all the other Ultimates.

Cap: Let’s get all the superheroes and have the biggest, coolest, most epic super-fight ever in the history of the world. Booyah.

This would be Frank Miller All Star Batman bad, if it weren’t so purposeless. You feel like Loeb thinks he knows what the readers are looking for, and “delivers” that. With Miller, I think the man earnestly believes every word he writes is spectacular, and he’s doing it only for himself. In that respect, Miller is insane and Loeb is a hack. It doesn’t keep us from laughing at either of their works, but there’s a little bit of charm left for Miller. A little.

I don’t want to delve into the story any further than I have to, but let’s just say we’re getting closer to a big fight soon, and I’m sure there will be a big, “shocking” surprise halfway through it that will turn the whole story on its ear, in a way that would have surprised and delighted me about twelve years ago. The art is disproportionate in the worst ways, and characters’ faces become inconsistent throughout the issue.

I may return to this review sometime with a scanner so I can just point to the shit that really stands out, but for now let’s just say Loeb and Finch have earned half a flag.

~ by Crivelliman on March 19, 2009.

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