Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Catching Up: Ultimates 2

Earlier this year, I decided to dip my toe in the waters of comics again with a couple of hardcovers. The prices were good on eBay, and I wanted to see if I had missed anything cool. The Ultimates, Vol. 1 was one of the first I read. And sitting that pre-coffee early Saturday morning, ripping through it while my girls watched cartoons, colored, and dressed up as princesses, I thought: "Oh. Yes. Now I remember ... comics are damn fun! Why did I ever stop?". I suppose a lot of the terminology and style of the last few years of comics escaped me, so the "decompression" and "widescreen comics" of the series were completely new. The Ultimates floored me, both in concept and execution. It was big, ballsy, and truly modern. I felt as I did when reading Ellis' Stormwatch/Authority that this was a remarkable take on the superteam, and the superhero genre as a whole. It's with near-certainty that I say that if not for The Ultimates, I would not have sought out more hardcover trades of the past few years of comics, and started down the slippery slope into collecting comics again.

So how fitting is it that it's The Ultimates that forced me off the tradewaiter ledge into the pool of full-blown collecting again? I simply couldn't wait for the trades on this, so caught up with the series through issue 6.

  • I was able to catch up in no small part thanks these great "Marvel Must Haves" which collect three issues into a single comic. $5 for three issues of The Ultimates 2? And they include a script, as well? That's a great deal, and I hope it's something we'll see more of from Marvel. I'm sure they're not "collectible" in any way, but I love the opportunity to catch up on a series I may have missed.

  • For a series that seems to exemplify widescreen explodo comix ... the first six issues have gone pretty quietly. I suppose anything's quiet after the goes-to-eleven brilliance of the Interdimensional Space Nazi War that capped volume 1, but ... this is quiet. And it works. I'm really involved with these characters, and simply enjoy spending time with them. What sells it for me is the maturity of the characters. It's no the faux maturity of swearing and sex that characterizes many "adult" comics, but simple scenes like two couples watching TV together. Something about it - much of it coming from the relaxed comfort Hitch puts in the scene - rings true. These are actual adults, not caricatures.

  • I'm not a big fan of politics in my comics. Many comic writers have a pretty limited political vocabulary, and see things in black and white with large brushstrokes. So I'm surprised to be liking the political backdrop of this series. It's much more pronounced than in the first series, but Millar is not being too heavy-handed with it. At least so far, he's letting the action speak for itself, and simply telling the story of superheros being used as political weapons in the Middle East without a definitive authorial comment.

  • Bryan Hitch once again delivers the goods. He's able to move from big action to small character moments equally well. His art is clean and tells the story well, but still retains character. My only complaint is the photoreferencing that I started to notice in the series. I don't see it as 'cheating', but it throws me out of the comic for a second. I'm not seeing Professor X or Thor in these images ... for a second I snap out of that world and am only seeing Patrick Stewart or Sean Bean.

  • Thor's easily my favorite character in the series, and his "madness" is being handled really well. I'm assuming that his vision of the world is accurate, but Millar and Hitch leave just enough doubt in my mind that I'm not sure where they are going. Same with the "traitor": I'm lost, and I like it. As someone who knew the ending to The Sixth Sense a few minutes in, I love any story where I'm really in the dark.

This is easily one of the best comics on the stands today, and I'm very glad I made the leap into reading the monthlies. This is a real treat, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it all goes from here.


zilla said...

mark - i loved the first trade myself (it was also one of the first trades i read on my way "back"). i'm on vacation in atlanta this weekend and i brought vol. 2 (homeland security) with me... i think both of these volumes were covered in the HC you read. once i get through w/ this one, i'm hoping to ultimates 2 for sure (esp after reading this review).

zilla said...

*hopping (not hoping).

zilla said...

ps - what's this about marvel "must haves"? this is the first i've heard of those... so there's one covering issues 1-3 of the new series? any others?

Mark Fossen said...

I have found "Must Haves" for Ultimates 2, and New Avengers. I'm not sure what else is available.