Well after 11 issues of build-up, we are at the conclusion of Reed Richards tenure as the main villain of this title. The creative team has gone to painstaking lengths to make Richards and his Children not just a credible threats but also a driving force for change within the Ultimate Universe. After a slew of jaw-dropping plot points, we are given what can only be described as the mother of all deus ex machina.
It is bewildering to think that after all that effort in crafting such an intricate narrative involving Reed that it all comes down to a climax which pitters and spurts rather than explodes. The reason for the Ultimates victory is as ludicrous as they come: Tony Stark’s brain tumor is sentient and can control technology. Just writing that down reinforces the fact it is ridiculous. It is too easy and it sucks the tension out of not only the book but also the eleven issues that preceded it. By the end of this issue, you’re left wanting. This disappointment only builds up when you realize that Tian, which has been a big part of the series, has been forgotten.
If we can look past the disappointment, there are some good moments within the issue. Reed and Stark having a verbal duel is really entertaining and Hulk injected with Giant-Man serum is a fun idea. Also it is fair to say that having the Invisible Woman be there for Reed’s downfall makes sense, even if her role has been completely underdeveloped. But the plot device that finishes the conflict with Reed drowns these moments out.
The art doesn’t fare any better. Three artists lend their pencils this issue, but Luke Ross gets the most pages. His work is pedestrian and the title has lost the sense of scale it once had. Ross’ pencils do what is required and his characters are clear and expressive, but it lacks any punch. Even a giant Hulk fighting a giant Iron Man lacks any impact, which is surprising. Ron Garney’s pencils blend into Ross’ well, but again aren’t anything to write home about. Deciding whether Garney does a better job is subjective as both artists are very average here. Although, Garney doesn’t have a grasp on continuity. As he forgets if it should be raining from panel to panel. Butch Guice’s work is jarringly different from the other two and his darker style, at the very least, ends the book on a visual high.
The whole issue feels like an exercise in clearing the deck for the new writer. Hickman may have some input in the ending of his final arc, but it all feels very rushed. It’s a disservice to the narrative and to the fans that have become accustomed to the titles dense plotting. The art doesn’t help as it presents the actions in an uninteresting manner. The title will be moving onto a crossover event and for the moment it would seem that we have seen the last of most of the ideas Hickman has built which is an utter shame.