Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This Is The Part Where I Get Called Insane


So, I read Ultimates #9. This comic has been praised by many as over-the-top, crazy superhero stuff with big ideas and wild action.

Others I know who have read it come bounding up to me, saying things like, "Did you read it? Wasn't that awesome? That rocked! What did you think?"

To which I typically reply, "Yeah, it certainly was crazy." Then I make some indistinct noise about being late for an appointment or something and quietly slip away.

You see, I am done with the Ultimates. And this issue just cemented it for me.

Let me say right up front that it's not because I disagree (or agree, for that matter) with Mark Millar's Big Freaking Political Point that he's trying to hit us over the head with. By the way, Mark, you haven't let the contusions heal from the last issue. Spare us the anvil, OK?

Here, then, is why I am done with the Ultimates:

1) I'm semi-OK with Black Widow being the traitor. It certainly fits the character. I am most certainly NOT semi-OK with shooting Jarvis through the forehead. Ooh, so now we know she's dangerous...and by the way, if there's an ounce of integrity to the storytelling here (HAR!), Tony Stark should be immediately drilled through the skull, because she's never going to get a better chance to do it.

2) Thanks, Millar, for managing to conjure up a world in which we're not allowed to feel good for rooting for the Avengers. You've made them all patsies in the hyper-real Ultimate Universe, and while it may be "realistic" given the political climate, it sure as shit ain't fun for me.

3) There's absolutely no other way this can end except for Scarlet Witch and/or Loki to make everyone forget it ever happened, or go back in time and fix it, or whip out the M'Kraan crystal and just change reality. Not that this is out of question for Marvel, but I simply can't believe that Marvel has the stones to make this all-out decimation of America a part of ongoing Ultimate continuity. So I know that it doesn't ultimately matter.

4) This season started out promising, but as I look at it so far, it's followed a pattern: SHOCKING EVENT, talkity-talk-talk-talk for 2 issues, SHOCKING EVENT, talkity-talk-talk-talk, etc. Go back and read a few issues at random from this season, and you'll see what I mean. There just doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan at work here, even with the SHOCKING EVENT of issue #9.

5) I still have a hard time getting over the murder of Hawkeye's kid. That's just...wrong. Affecting, yes. But it sucked a lot of fun out of the comic for me.

6) It's become increasingly apparent that this comic should be renamed "Tom Clancy's Avengers", because it's completed the transition from superhero goodness to techno-military spy thriller, and hey: that's not what I need from the Avengers. So it's clear that I'm no longer the target audience. Heh. Target.

7) Why have they ditched the most interesting character (the might-be nut job Thor) ? That was a brilliant take on him. Haven't seen much of him since he's been locked up.

8) Finally, the comic is just too damn depressing. The Avengers are all self-involved pawns of the military industrial complex. Half of them are incompetent. The other half are locked up. America sucks. No one trusts one another. Everybody's got an agenda. It's hardcore, man. And I know that many, MANY 616 Avengers issues featured many of those characteristics as well; but with Millar himself taking it too seriously trying to Make The Larger Point, I feel like there's no real characterization here, just a means to an end.

So, thanks, Bryan Hitch, for some of the most beautiful art in the last two years. Thanks, Mark, for at least giving us the excellent (if late) Season One. Thanks, Marvel, for at least letting the Avengers get some play time in your Ultimate sandbox. But I don't think I'll be reading Ultimates any more; and knowing that Jeph Loeb is taking over certainly doesn't give me any reason to hope for the future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are insane like you said the ultimates rule the Marvel U idiot

2:59 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Dammit, who let George Will in here?!

3:09 PM  
Blogger Mark Fossen said...

Thanks, Millar, for managing to conjure up a world in which we're not allowed to feel good for rooting for the Avengers.

I guess I think that'll change by the end of the run. I have a real feeling that the last few issues will be the same mad, cheering fun that the first run ended with.

5:22 PM  
Blogger markus said...

I agree with mark fossen on the eventual outcome.
Your description of "Tom Clancy's avengers" however seems spot on, and if that's not your cup of tea it's a good idea to drop the book. For me it's why I keep reading it.
From a critics POV, I'd like to know whether you thinks it achieves what it sets out to do (regardless of whether you consider the goal worthwhile). I get the impression your answer would be "on the whole, yes", but I'd like to know for sure.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Mark: I sincerely hope you're right; and if I get good reports about the final three issues, then I may go back and get them. But as it stands right now, there's nothing I've seen that gives me the same feeling you have.

Markus: That's a tough question, because I'm still not quite sure what this book's goal is. If the goal is in fact to create a dark, hyper-real techno-military spy thriller, then mission accomplished! But it seems like Millar's political point-making has just gotten in the way of EVERYTHING, including some really great characters that he's revamped along the way (Thor, Tony, Banner). If the goal was to tell continuity-free stories in the Ultimate U, then again: mission accomplished.

Don't get me wrong: there are a LOT of good things to like about Ultimates where the characters are concerned---Thor, as I mentioned, and this is probably the best portrayal of Tony Stark in comics right now.

But it's gotten to the point where the team is darn near unrecognizable (and unlikable for the most part), the plot hammering is rampant, and it's become an ENTIRELY different animal than the Avengers. This is more G.I. Joe now.

And that's fine---I know there's an audience for this comic; my decision to give it up was really just me spilling my guts about why I'm no longer a part of that audience.

Clear as mud? :)

7:16 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Yeah, you won't see any fallout from this in the other Ultimate books, which annoys me just a tad, as it's not like there are too many titles to juggle at once.

And putting away their most interesting character (Thor) was probably a mistake, although I suspect he'll come out roaring in the finale to kick some arse, using his powers without the technology, thus proving that if he's not really Thor, he's bloody close.

Then Jeph Loeb will come along and ruin everything. Shit.

9:17 PM  
Blogger markus said...

All clear, thanks for the explanation.
I agree on Thor, definitely the most interesting of the bunch, but I'm also a fan of Ultimate Cap. I find him very unlikeable personally, but he's an interesting staunch conservative in the George Will vain.
The political point making is indeed heavy, but I've always considered that Millar's goal during his run, and I believe he'll end it with the Ultimates realising that they'll always end up compromising themselves if they align themselves too closely with the goals of any one nation state (as opposed to the ideals). Which, to me, would be a satifying conclusion to a "what if ... the "Avengers" became government agents".

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Van Doom said...

I think you may see a slight tie-in with Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. As in, yet again, the big green a-hole has to come in and bail the "heroes" out.
Right now, I'm still a huge fan of this run. It would be nice if the waves rippled over into the other Ultimate books, but honestly, in the past year I've given up on almost all of those titles, so I don't care too much.
Oh, and I'd imagine Thor will become a big player yet again. He's clearly someone Millar loves writing, so I don't imagine he'll gather too much dust.
Now, if the reality-redoing comes about, I will be pissed. Right pissed. I've had enough of that crap for the decade.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

I've dropped "Ultimates" for some of the same reasons. It's a nightmare with no redeeming qualities. I think Millar read "Watchmen" and "Dark Knight Returns" for the first time yesterday and still hasn't gotten over it.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Chuck T. said...

I don't know...I think my biggest complaint has been, "Hey, didn't the Authority kick these flying guys' asses already?" I'm hoping a lot of the generic super flying soldiers get wiped off the board.
But the book is playing Marvel's oldest card: break the hero down. Take him to his lowest point, then kick him once or twice while down. And then, when he pulls himself up and succeeds in the end, he seems all the more heroic for coming all that way...back to start, usually. (It's serialized monthly fiction! Shut it!)
Thor is cool, and I don't think Millar's done with him. I'm thinking maybe Jarvis isn't even real: he's a LMD to replace the old one that died when Tony was younger. And maybe Hank has a plan that he needed to be on the inside to put into motion, but knowing Millar he'll be over his head and it'll bite him in the ass.
Hmm. Thinking about it, the Ultimate United States was trying to keep Ultimate Iraq and Korea and whoever from making super-soldiers; which apparently didn't go as planned. So, was America right to pre-emptively strike at other nation's for having the weapons programs, or were the other nations right to defend their soverignty (sp?) with illegal weapons? Were super-soldiers illegal for everyone except America?

1:10 PM  
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