Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ultimates #2

Cover by Kaare Andrews

The Ultimates #2 (September 28, 2011)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

In another review of this comic, it was called “high concept.” That was exactly the term I was looking for after reading The Ultimates #2. It was bothering me for a while.

“High concept” can be analogous with “gimmicky” which in turn, can be viewed as “weak.” The Ultimates #2 was definitely out there with its gimmick but Hickman managed to craft a thoroughly strong and compelling storyline. I was confused by some of the backstory and just where within this universe the totally neutral villains spring from and what they plan to do; however, I was intrigued by these villains, the Tomorrow People, simply because they are some of the most unique and compelling bad guys I’ve encountered in a long time.

They’re neutral in the sense that they do not seem to view their actions as evil and, as “perfected” creatures, they do not comprehend or view the world as our heroes do. They’re basically sociopathic machines and they’re a lot of fun to see in contrast with our very flawed heroes. It’s always interesting to see the human side of these characters played up since we’re so used to seeing them emphasized as “meta-humans.”

Anyway, the plot of the Ultimates #2 was pretty crazy and all over the place. Again, everything is still going straight to hell for S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury is running out of options and ideas to prevent the Tomorrow People from taking over the world. What I enjoyed the most about this issue was that Hickman successfully moved it beyond a simple WE MUST STOP THESE BAD GUYS FROM WORLD DOMINATION plot to a rather gripping and successful retelling of a new Ragnarök.

For those of you who aren’t compulsively reading Norse mythology or remember their Wagner/Bugs Bunny, Ragnarök is basically the badass Norse end-of-the-world myth. In the Marvel comics, Ragnarök is a recurring theme and has happened a few times already to different end results (mostly with Loki returning in a different form, most famously as Lady Loki).

Anyway, with the Tomorrow People discovering the existence of Thor, they switch their priorities to assimilating the gods’ powers, and a new Ragnarök is on the horizon. Our Asgardian gods are suddenly powerless and are freaking out. It was pretty intense. I also enjoyed finally seeing an adult male Loki, which I have not seen in a comic yet. Thor’s tense relationship with his own son and Loki’s now resigned understanding of his complicated relationship with Odin was also interesting This comic got a lot deeper and family-oriented that I was expecting it to but Hickman managed to hold it all together successfully.

The art by Ribic was rather beautiful and his renditions of the eerie Tomorrow People were especially successful and ethereal. He managed to fill each panel with a lot of action and emotion without bogging the eye down. I was impressed and am very anxious to continue this series if only to see what happens to my beloved Norse gods.

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