REVIEW: Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #4

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #4Written by JOHNATHAN HICKMAN

 Colors by DEAN WHITE / Letters by CLAYTON COWLES

The Children Of Tomorrow have succeeded and our heroes have seen better days. But even with all the narrative tension, this month’s instalment doesn’t soar as high as previous issues.

That’s not to say that there isn’t anything good here. Hickman again excels in characterization with Thor being the main focus. It was a nice touch to see Hickman back away from what was promised last issue as Thor raced to vengeance. Even though he wanted nothing more than to avenge his fallen people, he would still give it up to save what was left of the European Captains. He does cut loose but only after the villainous Reed Richards goaded him. The journey of Thor is the emotional anchor for the series. Although it was touching to see that he isn’t as alone as he thinks he is, it was his broken faith which was the most compelling emotional beat of the book.

Reed Richards is channelling his best Dr. Doom routine. As sadistic as he is arrogant, Reed serves as a great antagonist for our heroes. The Children have already been built up perfectly and having Reed at the head of them is a terrifying prospect as show in this issue. His dialogue is deliciously vicious as he talks to Thor. He’s won and there aren’t any terms for surrender or an ultimatum. Reed and his Children have carved up what they wanted of the world and will leave the rest for humanity. The only gripe with Reed is his reveal. Although it is treated like a shocking surprise it has already been revealed way back in the Ultimate Fallout mini series. Obviously not everyone will have read that but the fact remains that the final page reveal lacks impact.

Although there is a nice moment between Nick Fury and Tony Stark, their presence is missed throughout the book. Unlike previous issues Hickman is more focused on Thor and although that works, the book does feel incomplete. It has been a good move on Hickman’s part to narrow the main cast down to Fury, Thor and Stark, but when the others (Hawkeye, Black Widow, etc) turn up they seem more like cameos than team members.

The previous issues had a lot of character and action that pushed the narrative forward and although this issue includes both it feels very light on plot. The moment in the Children’s baby making facility doesn’t really work. It was nice to see Jamie Braddock and hopefully he will stay on the book, but he doesn’t achieve anything here. The Valhalla moment doesn’t quite sell itself as a concept as well as the book sells Thor’s emotional reaction. But to be honest the major sense of filler comes from Reed Richard as his gloating monologue, however enjoyable to read, takes up a lot of the issue.

However Esad Ribic continues to produce some wondrous work. The art has been consistently fantastic since issue one. Ribic knows how to sell emotion as Thor goes through the ringer here. From his stern and determined face at the beginning of the issue to his beaten and broken look halfway through Ribic draws out every ounce of emotion out of Hickman’s script. His design for the Children’s city is beautiful and even the dissecting table had a sense of elegance. Clean, streamlined and futuristically perfect are words that describe Ribic’s depiction of the Children. Thor witnessing his fallen friends is the artistic highlight as it’s dedicated double page spread is something to look at for hours.

Hickman isn’t running out of steam. It’s just that some of the elements don’t work as well this issue. Thor’s performance here is the highlight of the series and has given the book some great emotional depth. Richards is a solid villain and looks destined to be one of the Ultimate Universe’s best, but he is given too much space here. Hickman sacrifices more panel time for Fury and Stark in favou for Richards, which is a mistake. However for all it’s faults it is still one hell of an issue and the art alone is worth the price of admission.

WRITING: 4 / ART: 5 / OVERALL: 4.5

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