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Ultimately , Disappointing
on 10 October 2007
After what seems like a long wait, the next volume in the uniformly excellent "Ultimates" series is published. Thankfully the creative team remains in place, including the inventive Mark Millar writing and the flawless Bryan Hitch pencilling. Surely, a treat is in store for the reader ?
Well...sadly, not quite. Hitch's art remains fantastic, the level of detail (e.g. the scenes where Captain America leaps over a photographic cityscape)is breathtaking, but the storyline seems less engaging than earlier books.
Previous "Ultimates" storylines are essentially cheeky, modern retellings of classic "Avengers" tales form the 60s and 70s, here, Millar deviates from this template, telling what appears to be a wholly original tale. Some elements are uninspired, the villains are second rate versions of the heroes : The Abomination is a poor shadow of the Hulk, Crimson Dynamo a cut price Iron Man, Hurricane a slower Quicksilver etc etc. The big splashy fight scenes do not engage. The Gods rather than God from the Machine ending makes everything too easy.
Perhaps the main problem is that the political element, subversive and slightly Anti-American in the previous books, becomes surprisingly mainstream. We get to see Hawkeye's motivation for hating his enemies quite clearly; the "Axis of Evil"'s hatred of America is not showm to be so well founded. Eventually, despite the odd dig, like the Liberators' offer to bring democracy to the USA,there is too little criticism of the American position; the foreign enemies become cowardly (almost all of villans eventually beg for mercy) and bloodthirsty and extremely two dimensional.
In no small part, this book disappoints only because its predecessors were so good, and the artwork alone makes it admirable, but the freshness present previously is undeniably missing.