Monday, January 28, 2013

Ultimates #20

Three reviews for this Monday night, with the first one being the Ultimates.  This series has really picked up since Jonathan Hickman left it(although, in fairness, I can't stand Hickman's writing), to the point where I actually look forward to it every month.  The team is still trying to pull America back together and just last issue have discovered that Nick Fury(the 616 one), appeared to be working with Hydra.  Onward!

Ultimates #20

Summary: We begin with the guy who looks like 616 Fury(going by the name of Scorpio) working with the Death's Head faction of Hydra.  It turns out that this particular Hydra faction was more radical than the rest of Hydra and that they were actively hunting SHIELD tech.  On top of that, they had managed to get their hands on some powerful SHIELD weapon called the Torch.  After analyzing the tape of Scorpio, SHIELD and the Ultimates have come to the conclusion that it actually wasn't Scorpio, but was their own Nick Fury in disguise.  Captain America is disturbed by the prospect that Nick had gone rogue, but many longtime members of SHIELD refuse to believe that Fury has turned.  Hawkeye asks to be let into the Hydra camp so he could extract Fury and prove that Nick was still on the side of the angels.  Cap okays the mission and Hawkeye sneaks into the base, under the cover of an explosion.  Hawkeye finds Scorpio in the tent with a fellow Hydra agent, as well as The Torch.  Hawkeye holds the Hydra agent at gunpoint and asks Scorpio a question only the real Nick Fury would know the answer to, but Scorpio doesn't answer, instead drawing his own gun and aiming at Hawkeye.  With Hawkeye momentarily thrown by Scorpio's action, the Hydra agent gets free and Scorpio knocks Hawkeye down.  By now, the leader of the Death's Head Hydra sect arrives(a woman named Crimson) and demands that Scorpio executes Hawkeye before Hydra abandoned the now exposed camp.  This issue ends with Scorpio lining Hawkeye up for the fatal shot.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this issue.  I was a bit thrown by the fact that Scorpio was apparently Nick Fury in disguise  if only because it would have been kind of cool to see 616 Nick running around in the Ultimate Universe causing all sorts of hell.  If I had a gripe here, it would be that Cap and most of the Ultimates were so quick to believe that Fury had gone bad...  Why couldn't he be undercover?  Other than that though?  This was a perfectly acceptable comic book.  No more, no less.

Score: 7 1/2 out of 10.
ultimates #20
Damn you, 616 Nick Fury!!!


  1. I feel exactly like X about this series...except exactly the opposite. Hickman/Ribic to Humphries/whoever is a trip from the A-list to the D-list in comic creator tiers and it shows.

    Hickman presented Humphries with a truly novel opportunity to explore the concept of an America even more divided than it is in real life, and what did he do? Fall back on a tired, Modi mind-control story. I gave Humphries every opportunity, but I'm dropping this book, along with Gambit, next time I go to the comic shop. What a waste.

    Divided/United never lived up to its potential and had a rushed feeling throughout, probably because of editorial mandate. Still, Brian Wood's Ultimate X-men showed how the Ultimate U could be used to take these familiar characters to new places thematically.

    1. Wow, I wouldn't put Hickman ANYWHERE near the A-list yet! So far all he's done with any amount of success is FF... And he was lucky enough to get FF after Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch brought it back to relevance. And then he simply resorted to gimmicks... Oh no, Johnny's dead! For about 10 issues... Hey look, Spidey(Marvel's most popular character) is on the FF now! Now he's getting Avengers after the massive success of the movie. He seems like a guy who's always in the right place at the right time, but as I've repeatedly said, I can't stand his wannabe Morrison-esque work. Plus his weird Reed Richards fixation bugs me...

      As for the recent events in the Ultimate books, they've been okay(imo, of course). Cap as president is an interesting turn, and the Ult. X-Men stuff is a decent take on the Utopia idea(although it's kind of getting played out). Is it great? No. It it horrible? Nah. But for me, at least it's readable now.

    2. I was using the term "A-list" loosely, but Hickman has amassed a ton of street cred for his indie work (Nightly News, Transhuman, Manhattan Projects), as well as his Fantastic Four/FF runs, which are almost universally praised. Marvel themselves have him on the same level as Bendis, Fraction, and Aaron, so I wasn't wrong in saying that he's on the A-list, as far as being highly regarded.

      That being said, I haven't read any of that stuff. What I did read was his run on issues 1-12 of the latest Ultimates. And I enjoyed what I read a lot - building up the Children as a credible threat, taking out Asgard, Europe, and the US, and going toe-to-toe with the very interesting SEAR mutant nation (which nobody has revisited unfortunately). The ending of the arc (co-written by Humphries, I might add) brought in an unfortunate deus-ex-machina element with Tony's tumor, but it was still cool to see Sue take down Reed, and the story ended well with the Children abandoning their creator. In the first year of the new Ultimate U, the Ultimates was the most consistent and best book of the three.

      Now where are the Ultimates? Back to a generic status quo. Cap may be president, but I haven't seen anything about Cap's character change as a result. Still recklessly running around in a costume, punching fools out. Tony has been a background prop more than anything throughout Humphries's run. All Thor's done is mope around since killing(?) his son. I just don't see any redeeming qualities in this book anymore. It is now by far the worst of the Ultimate U books.

    3. Well, I haven't read any of his indie work, but after reading his Four and FF stuff, I wouldn't be interested in reading it. Still, I think he needs a real measure of success, a HUGE selling work to be considered as a true A-lister. Bendis and Fraction are assured withe their events, and Aaron got there with Schism. I'd even place Gillen above Hickman on the high B-List because he was given a run on Uncanny, when it was the premiere X-book(even though I wasn't a fan). If Hickman can keep Avengers numbers selling huge, or if he's given an event and it doesn't fizzle like World War Hulk, then yeah, he's finally done something to be considered A-list. But right now? He's an outsider's sweetheart.

      See, I'm the total opposite with regards to those early Ultimates comics. For me, it was Hickman overly relying on Reed(again!), and having him and his Children as pretty much invincible antagonists... I mean I get the Asgardians of the Ultimate U aren't on par of the 616 ones, but to get annihilated? Offering pretty much NO resistance!? Madness. Then they destroyed Europe and decimated SHIELD... It was all too over the top. When did Reed become Galactus, because he sure as hell was a world destroyer! Reed's smart and all, but he was literally in cosmic being territory with his antics!

      And again, I have to disagree. I thought Ultimate X-Men was probably the strongest out of the early Ultimate U books. As for now? We have the threat of Hydra(thanks to Modi), who are trying to take advantage of America being fractured. California has apparently gotten their hands on some superhuman clones, which will further their aspirations to be an independent nation. Plus there's the mystery of the Infinity Gems. Sure Cap is still punching people, but would you rather he sits in the Oval Office writing bills? That's not who Cap is. He's a soldier, so his way to "fix" the country is to go out and fight. As for Tony, they're heading somewhere with this Iron Patriot stuff, although I am not a fan of the talking brain tumor... And Thor? He just killed(maybe?) his son, the last of his family. I can't blame him for being mopey! I definitely wouldn't call it "by far the worst of the Ultimate U books", but I do respect your opinion. In the end, I think we're definitely going to have to agree to disagree, because this is actually the strongest of the Ultimate U books for me right now!

    4. I listed the status of the three leads in the Ultimates to illustrate what I see as a total lack of character development. The Big 3 have been very 1-dimensional throughout this run, seeming more like caricatures than actual characters. Humphries has instead focusing on advancing his very predictable plot instead of developing the characters, which has made the Ultimates a very ho hum read each month. It hasn't helped that the art has been equally mediocre. Not trying to dissuade you from liking the series at all - actually I feel better about you following it, so I can keep tabs if/when things change for the better!

      Like I said, I'm happy with where we are at in Ult. X-Men, though I was dismayed to hear about this whole cure thing going down the way it did. Turning Utopia into Real World:Mutant Rules just doesn't seem very interesting to me, and I'm not sure how B. Wood is going to write himself out of this corner.

      Ultimate Spidey has been a bit uneven through Divide/United. On the one hand, having Miles join the Ultimates, even at this desperate hour, has come across as forced and implausible. On the other hand, Miles is so likable and novel a character that it has been entertaining to see how he's dealing with all the change, particularly when he's paired with Ult. Spider-Woman. Bendis is doing a pretty good job here, if not great work.

      Now let's talk history. Re: Hickman's Ultimates, I actually didn't like the fall of Asgard either - it seemed too easy, and reminded me of Ultimatum in a bad way. I see it as how Hickman could justify going back to the original Ult. Thor, with the badass axe instead of Mjolnir. I thought the concept of the Children, and Reed, one of the smartest men ever, having an army from a thousand years in the future was really cool (and def a world-class threat). But if you were against that idea, I guess I could see how you wouldn't like the series.

      LOL, where did this love for Nick Spencer's Ult. X-Men come from? I seem to remember you giving his run pretty crappy reviews because of your hatred of Stryker. I thought the art was nice, but the writing was an incoherent mess of loose threads and hints, without any real direction. I'm actually pretty turned off of Spencer's work because how he basically mailed in the last half of his run, supposedly because he was more excited by his indie work.

    5. HA! Well, I shall endeavor to keep you updated on what goes on in this series, TRobb! I'll put some extra focus on the big three every review too.

      Agreed so much on Ultimate X-Men... The release of the cure was probably a big mistake, imo. Plus with me, you know, hating Kitty and all, the idea of her as the resident Cyclops-esque leader drives me insane!

      Ult. Spidey is a book I ended up dropping due to financial reasons, although I wish I hadn't since JT is always telling me good things about it... That's probably my single biggest gripe about the Ultimate U books, the price point... Since they aren't very high sellers for Marvel(I think they sell around the middle to bottom half of the top 100), why not drop the price point of these series to $3? Personally, I'd be more willing to stick it out with a mediocre $3 book than an okay $4 book...

      I'm not gonna beat a dead horse with regards to Hickman, Reed and the Children(which is an idea Hickman loves so much he actually introduced it, in a way, to Avengers with issue #4!!!). It just wasn't my kind of story.

      I liked what Spencer was doing until Stryker showed up. I like Spencer's work(although it made me laugh when you mentioned his affinity for loose threads and hints, he LOVES that!), but Stryker hurt that series SO MUCH for me... It is too bad he left the series because I would have been curious to see what he was planning in the long run. As long as he stayed away from Stryker and the Sentinels! Man are Sentinels played out...

    6. LOL thanks dude, I'll look forward to your reviews.

      I agree about the price of the Ultimate books. Despite my gripes, I might stay aboard the Ultimates if it was a $3 book. Marvel's really shooting themselves in the foot with their $3.99 pricing in general. Since Marvel NOW, it seems like the majority of their books are at the higher price point, and I'm a lot less willing to take a chance on their $4 offerings. This is keeping me from getting into a lot of their new X-Books, in particular.

    7. Exactly!! I get pricing their best selling books at $4(Spidey, Uncanny Avengers, All New X), but does every single X-book need a $4 price!? Whenever I see a new series in that Marvel preview book, the first thing I check out are titles and creative teams. The second? Price. Before I even read the preview itself, I'll look at the price. And if it's a new book with a higher price, I'll almost always skip it. I know I personally tend to drop books faster if they're $4, while I'll give a cheaper book more of a chance. Hell, I'm going to give that new Morbius book a shot, and only because it's priced at $3. At $4? There's NO WAY I'd pick that up!

  2. Maybe it is Ultimate Nick Fury's father.

    1. HA!! I WISH Marvel would have gone that route again, just to watch as people go insane! :D