Saturday, 6 April 2013

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates volume 2 review

The second half of the story that began in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates volume 1 continues in this volume but only until about half way. As of issue #10 the creative team begins to shift and begins to lead the story into a slightly new direction. More importantly, it announces the end of what was easily one of the more interesting Marvel comics of 2012.

Hickman continues to add more conflict in his story by introducing characters and events from previous Ultimate Universe stories. The big addition here being primarily adding Hulk to the mix. I really like the Ultimate Universe Hulk and the main reasons are that he continues to be intelligent when in Hulk form and he rarely reverts back to Bruce Banner. Hickman also further develops certain elements that were introduced in the first six issues such as Tian, the Heavenly Cities, floating cities populated by newly evolved super humans governed and protected by star headed brothers (quite literally).

As expected, Nick Fury and his Ultimates attempt to stop the growing threat of the Maker and his City. Also as expected, Hickman continues to add new elements to the escalating conflict which surprises the readers as well as the story’s heroes. This is the kind of conflict that makes us wonder what drives these people to continuously put their lives on the line to defend a planet that doesn’t appreciate the difficulties of protecting them. You really have to wonder. The Ultimates go through a physical and emotional hell on a regular basis. They’ve lost members from emotional and physical breakdowns and some have even been killed. I’m not sure how to absorb certain aspects of their behaviour. Thor, Iron Man and Fury’s main superpower seems to be stubbornness. They refuse to give up despite the fact that they’re up against something they barely understand and clearly won’t be able to defeat without more loss than gain. Hickman excels at writing a story set in a world of incredibly unique and powerful beings co-exist and what happens when they’re all participating in a global conflict. I seem to have answered my own question regarding the Ultimates motivation. With a threat so large as the Maker and the City, survival is as much of a reason to fight as any other.

The biggest disappointment of this volume is on the art side of things. Ribic’s last issue on art is #9. After his departure he’s followed by five other artists led by Luke Ross. Ross’s art is unpleasant after reading nine issues of Ribic. There is a heavy and obvious use of photo reference that serves only to make everything, especially the characters, look uncomfortably stiff. Some pages are much better than others and he draws certain characters better than others as well but overall it’s too dependent on photo references for my tastes. By issue #10, White has also left. He is replaced for one issue by Matt Wilson and, for the last two issues in this collection, Matt Milla. Wilson and Milla’s colouring styles are similar to one another but very, very different from White’s. The new colouring no longer fits the tone of the story that began in the first issue. Things, including people, are too bright. Instead of helping the comic’s narrative, the colouring distracts and forces me out of the story. Faces are overly coloured, different shades and hues are added to further demonstrate expressions and to put it simply the storytelling suffers as a result of the new colourists. Compare a page from Ribic and White’s collaboration with one from Ross and Milla: 

I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next volume. After the decreasing quality of the art and Hickman’s departure after the conclusion of this story in issue #12, I have no reason to return for the third volume. I have nothing against Sam Humphries in particular. He collaborated with Hickman for the last three issues and I would assume he was primarily responsible for the scripting and the dialogue and Hickman mostly took care of the plot. It’s difficult to say for sure, of course, but that’s the feeling I got while reading it. The main difference in scripting was that there were more jokes included in the dialogue and that demonstrated once more how the new creative team didn’t understand the tone of the story being told. From the bright colours to the stiff character poses and the unnecessary attempts at humour, Humphries and Ross will be continuing their work on The Ultimates without me. I’m just glad I took the time to read the first 12 issues of the series which are excellent, despite some of its flaws. If you enjoyed volume you’ll no doubt be reading this volume as well and I hope the changes in the creative team don’t bother you as much as I bothered me. Either way, it’s nice to know that daring stories, such as this one, can still exist in the modern comics industry even if they are short lived.

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