This feels more like an epilogue to the last arc rather than the start of a fresh one. But the fallout from The Children of Tomorrow is far too big to be brushed under the carpet. Jonathan Hickman’s approach has given the book a greater sense of continuity and it is a welcome change of pace.
These are the type of issues that, if done correctly, are a joy to read. Dealing with the political and personal ramifications of the last arc, whilst moving the overall plot along and hinting on possible future conflicts; this is another win for Hickman. Although the politics and economics involved aren’t in depth analysis of the Ultimate Universes socio-economical or geo-political state, they do offer more depth to the problems not only the US faces, but ones the characters face as well. This gives the Nick Fury and Tony Stark scenes some realistic backbone and for the most part seem fresh. It’s a line of inquiry which seems to allow the Ultimate Universe to distance itself with the normal Marvel Universe.
Consequences aren’t a revelation in superhero comics but here they offer a scope to the book and puts the teams antics on a world stage as apposed to just New York. Nick Fury’s decisions are now under pressure from his paymasters. Echoing America’s retaliation methods in the real world, the President of Ultimate USA is understandably ready to do something as he bows to media speculation and a public past the breaking point. This gives the Fury scenes, and Fury’s own reluctance to just act, some much-needed weight.
Stark’s financial win is overshadowed by the information that the money comes from a group that used “a nuclear device, made by my company, to short-sell the global market”. It’s a great premise for personal conflict and it’s nice to see Stark out for blood. Thor on the other hand continues to be a broken man. Quite literally haunted by the dead of Asgard. Hickman manages to convey a sadness inherent in Thor and the jeering from his fellow Asgardians is sobering for the god of thunder. Jane’s presence is inconsequential it seems, but Hickman drops in a few moments that could pay off in later storylines.
Hickman also manages to bring back two characters that make a welcome return. Ultimate Falcon has always been more interesting than his Marvel Universe counterpart (even if he has only appeared briefly). Putting in a stealth role and giving him a new power that makes him more than a guy with wings are welcome changes to the character. The idea of him sneaking around The World is a fun one, which has built in tension that should keep it entertaining for a few issues. If he gets a permanent place on the team, that would also be a good thing. The return of another well know Ultimate Avenger is a great cliff-hanger, but to be fair most readers will guess it before the final page. But it evokes an almost mythic idea. In American’s darkest hour, it needs a symbol to light the way. It’s a solid moment, which Hickman delivers succinctly.
Hickman even has time to reference the wider Ultimate continuity. His own Hawkeye mini-series is referenced heavily. There is a lot to take in if your not familiar with that series and the dialogue is quite heavy handed. But it does set the stage for future conflicts and ideas, which will affect the whole Ultimate line. The Spider-Woman moment is a nice nod to Ultimate Spider-Man, but it is utterly unnecessary probably due to the lack of Spider-Woman in the first arc. It may have meant more if she was a more dominate presence. Hopefully in later issue she will be. But to have the book touch on the wider universe is a nice touch and hopefully it can stay interwoven without being unreadable without the other books.
Brandon Peterson comes on board to help Esad Ribic on this one. It isn’t clear if Peterson is a fill in artist at the moment, but he does the majority of the work (15 pages out of 20 in fact). He’s a good fit and their styles don’t clash. Peterson is a great choice for this more low key issue. His characters are expressive and he even manages to make walking through the White House or sitting in a plane interesting to look at. There is one bizarre and unnecessary sexual Spider-Woman as she seems to pose for the boys. But Thor and Jane at the long table with empty seats whilst a thunderstorm acts as a backdrop is perhaps the best panel of Peterson’s in the book. In fact the whole Thor scene is handled well, with the multiple colourist’s giving it a palette that suits the somber mood.
Ribic only does five pages but makes an impact. Invisible Falcon is a good visual as Ribic has a great sense of motion and a good eye for the human body. As always his design for The World is suitable clean and futuristic, with a hint of fascism. Together the art team delivers another visually compelling book.
It maybe a bit of a break from the first action oriented arc. But it is a welcome and necessary diversion. Allowing the characters and readers come to terms with what happened has opened up the book to a large playing field. Characterization is married with world building as Hickman delivers a entertaining script that keeps the narrative moving at a steady pace. The art only enhances Hickman’s script and Peterson is as suited to this style of storytelling as Ribic. The book feels meticulously plotted and as we watch their world change, we can only wonder what delightful surprises Hickman has in store for The Ultimates.