This comic is the top of ‘the ultimates’

Ally Melling

The Ultimates brings together popular comic heroes such as the Hulk and Thor. COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF MARVEL COMICS

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Marvel Comics has successfully brought classic heroes back to life with a harsh new vitality in The Ultimates.

A bimonthly comic book written by Mark Millar (of Wanted fame) and sporting art by Bryan Hitch, The Ultimates satisfies both hard-core comic fans and casual readers alike. Its vibrant art and hardcore content make it more like a movie than a two-dimensional comic book, telling fantastic stories within the Ultimate Universe and incorporating as much reality-basis as it possibly can.

In the newest issue of the second volume, number 10: “Axis of Evil,” the series reaches one of its most exciting heights as the identity of the traitor within the ranks of the Ultimates is finally revealed.

Millar’s clever plot twists and fresh, unexpected character traits prove successful when the Black Widow reveals her plans to avenge Mother Russia against the United States. However, her fianc‚, billionaire Tony Stark (better known as Iron Man) has other plans for his insidious intended.

“Billionaires don’t get rich by being stupid,” Stark says, brandishing a champagne bottle as a weapon.

Elsewhere, readers will see Hawkeye free himself with resourcefulness and mercilessness reminiscent of Bullseye’s use of his own teeth in Bullseye: Greatest Hits.

The Ultimates 2: Axis of Evil

Written by Mark Millar

Published by Marvel

Stater rating: *****

This awesome escape scene alone is well worth the cost of the comic. Not only is every detail of the scene, down to the sweat, lacerations and five o’clock shadow, well-drawn and beautifully colored, but the actions and look defy the common Hawkeye stereotype. When a comic reader usually thinks of Hawkeye, he or she sees the classic, purple-suited archer in an Adam West-Batman-esque cheesiness. Here, however, Hawkeye is presented in raw adrenaline, grimy, hardcore, sporting a bloody wife-beater and a cold gaze.

“Idiots,” Hawkeye says before the hunted becomes the hunter, “you guys are dead already.”

So awesome!

Finally in issue 10, another very important member of the Ultimates (hint: also known as Steve Rogers) will be freed from imprisonment with the help of a “little lady.”

This escape is colored in a clever use of red, black and blue that becomes almost eerie and heightens the excitement, especially on the very last page of the issue when Rogers angrily regains his bearings.

Apart from the reinvention given to classic characters in The Ultimates, Millar also adds a touch of politics by paralleling the war in Iraq within the Ultimate Universe.

Millar shows the views of both Middle Easterners who resent America’s intrusion into their homeland and Americans who invade for their belief in bringing peace.

Preceding The Ultimates 2, the first volume showed the formation of the Ultimates, or the most powerful super-team in the world.

Under the command of Colonel Nick Fury, we found that the government, assisted by scientists Henry Pym (Giant Man) and Bruce Banner (the Hulk), had been trying to replicate the super-soldier experiments that created Captain America in the ’40s.

After many years of research, Captain America was found frozen in the arctic. With his leadership and the addition of some other recruits (Iron Man, Thor, Giant Man, and Wasp), the Ultimates were formed.

However, Banner became distraught after Captain America’s re-emergence and took his own untested “super-serum” to become a rampaging Hulk that the Ultimates themselves had to take down.

After the Hulk was apprehended, the team went on to fight a full-scale alien invasion with seeds planted nearly 70 years earlier.

The Ultimate Universe was created in 2000 as a fresh continuity wherein the popular characters of the “Marvel Universe” can be re-imagined for a new generation. The imprint started out with Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, and later expanded to include The Ultimates in 2001.

The Ultimates is the Ultimate Universe’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers title, and it successfully lacks nearly 50 years worth of continuity baggage as it retells the formation of the Avengers in a contemporary setting.

With underlying themes of political conspiracy, spousal abuse, alcoholism and a graphic depiction of violence, it is quite a departure from your average Marvel fare.

If you want a slightly harder-edged comic book experience with some familiar characters kicking more ass than ever before, issue number 10 will draw you in and leave you hungry for more.

Contact ALL correspondent Ally Melling at [email protected].