Thor: "My hammer is called Mjolnir."
Spider-Man: "Majohlnar? Maj-jongner?"
Spider-Man: "How do you spell that?"
Geez, I love Spidey.
So we're familiar with the Fantastic Four mythology, right? In various Fantastic Four incarnations, Reed Richards has always strived to cure Ben Grimm of his monstrous appearance. But he's always failed. No different here in the Ultimate universe. Wracked with guilt and going against S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury's express orders, Reed sends out mechanical probes to a number of dimensions neighboring his own, in hopes that one of them might have the technology to help Ben. Reed's scheme backfires tragically.
Next thing, New York is invaded by the Squadron Supreme, a group of superhumans from a parallel universe, come to arrest Reed Richards for crimes against humanity. Seems that one of his probes had come to their earth, but with a piggy-backing alien organism which went on to wreak horrific carnage on populace and property. Casualties are projected to be in the tens of millions. A devastated Reed agrees to go along and face what's coming to him.
But Nick Fury, the F.F. and the other Ultimate heroes aren't willing to just lose their friend and possibly their earth's most brilliant mind without raising a ruckus. Accordingly, they breach the Supreme Power universe (or Supremeverse). Where Hyperion and the Squadron awaits. It won't be pretty.
This is ULTIMATE POWER, a 9-issued limited series incorporating characters from Marvel Comics's Ultimate line and the Squadron Supreme title. It's a massive crossover, and unlike most of these high-falutin' get-togethers, ULTIMATE POWER has direct, crucial bearing on the continuities of both the Ultimates and the Squadron Supreme. After this series is done, things definitely won't be the same. And concerning the Ultimates team, the change is a major one.
The writing is done, and done well, by Brian Michael Bendis, J. Michael Straczynski (creator of BABYLON 5), and Jeph Loeb, who each takes on three issues. The end product is near seamless; you could tell these guys were meticulous about collaborating and communicating with each other. The story ends up being character driven enough that you don't feel that shorted from a narrative viewpoint (and, remember, this is with a huuuge cast, so character juggling must've been a migraine and a half!). There's a sweeping, epic feel here, a widescreen scope, and with particular focus on a grief-stricken Reed Richards. Sucks to have killed millions, a damning fact which one jerk in the Supreme Power universe flings in his face.
It's probably my familiarity with and preference for the Ultimate line leaking thru, but I, for one, couldn't help rooting for their side (plus, Spidey's on that side of the fence). I'm not that familiar with the Squadron Supreme, a project which J. Michael Straczynski took on beginning in 2003. I know that this Squadron is a re-imagined version, which first came to light in 2003's Supreme Power, Vol. 1 series and then, in 2006, went on in the monthly SQUADRON SUPREME title (Squadron Supreme Vol. 1: The Pre-War Years). But all that's just Google talking. Based on how much I've enjoyed ULTIMATE POWER, I'm getting my hands on those collections, but pronto.
Like the Ultimates, the Squad is government affiliated, and, as usual, the government doesn't exactly come away looking like angels. It's also obvious that members of the Squadron are patterned after the Justice League, and that Hyperion is the Superman version (just as Nighthawk is this universe's Batman). Hyperion may come off as aloof, but his clash with Thor was properly awesome to behold. What about the other matches? Ever wonder how a superspeed tussle between Blur and Pietro would go? It's answered here (although, of course, the Flash can stomp them both into the ground). We get the Thing going another round with an old sparring partner. And, once again, we see how truly powerful an unleashed Scarlet Witch can be. By the way, Zarda (Power Princess) seems to have her own agenda and is trying to convince Hyperion to see things her way. Huh.
Seriously, how much more can Greg Land's phenomenal artwork be lauded? I say, a bunch more. His style is sleek and glossy and panoramic, but that's just surface special effects. Land is also a solid craftsman, who makes very good use of his composition skills. For big time comic book "events" Greg Land is right up there as an illustrator, with fellow current superstars Stuart Immonen, Bryan Hitch, and Alex Ross (and a few others I can't recall right now). And, if nothing else, the reader can take away away the knowledge that this dude draws some of the most gorgeous women around.
By the time ULTIMATE POWER concludes, there'll be a traitor revealed in the Ultimates' ranks and one character will end up leaving one universe for the other. There are surprising guest appearances, and the government will again be guilty of skullduggery. Peppered throughout are fan-gratifying melees and superheroic bombast and machismo (and, I guess, machisma), and Spider-Man being funny and playing an integral role. It's a bit startling to me, though, that Captain America, who usually takes charge of the proceedings, does a wallflower and melts into the background here. But, come to think of it, in the Ultimate universe, Nick Fury is firmly, but firmly, in charge.
As a bonus, also included, at the back end of this collection, are in-depth biographies of the Ultimates, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Squadron Supreme, as well as several pencil-to-ink sample pages of the first issue.
Lastly, not to put a damper on this fabulous series, but, hey, was that alien organism ever beaten? I don't remember.
I still highly recommend this.