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Ultimate End #1 [Review]

secretwars_ultimateend001Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Production Design: Manny Mederos
Cover: Mark Bagley
Assistant Editors: Chris Robinson, Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Despite missing the first two issues (to this day 14-some years later I’ve had to rely on reprints for my personal collection) I had jumped into the Ultimate universe basically at its start, with Ultimate Spider-Man #3, and I believe I finally got to read the first two issues initially in a Mighty Marvel Must-Have edition. As such, seeing as how–after several false-starts on the “end” of the Ultimate universe–the ending is finally here, I couldn’t pass this up. And like I started with Ultimate Spider-Man with the single issues, so, too, I found it fitting to follow the single-issues here as well.

This triggers plenty of nostalgia for me from the cover, which utilizes the original trade dress of the Ultimate books–the two solid-color bars down either side of the cover with a skinnier image between. The Ultimate End logo looks familiar, though I think the font is slightly “off” from some of the other Ultimate _______ logos; and of course we have the Battleworld banner across the top and the Secret Wars stamp marking this as part of the overall Secret Wars 2015 event, specifically the Battleworld class of tie-ins. I had noticed an alternate cover with the Miles Morales Spider-Man costume, that looked like the original Ultimate Spider-Man #1 cover that I almost chose over the standard cover. However, never having acquired an original USM #1, I stuck to my guns on getting just the standard/main non-variant cover for this.

We open on (a) Spider-Man tangling with a Serpent Squad, putting him into interaction with Cloak, Dagger, and a Spider-Woman. We then shift to a huge gathering of heroes that seems made up of a mix and combination of “616” characters and “Ultimate” characters. Spidey joins in as everyone is debating the fault and situation itself they all find themselves in, before the party is further crashed by Thors.

Simply opening the book and reading, I was actually expecting the Miles Morales Spider-Man, so was surprised to see a classic-costumed Spidey. Further, this seems to be a Peter Parker Spidey, suggesting he’s either the 616 Spider-Man or another. The issue has a prologue and then jumps to “3 weeks ago,” and references a white portal/other world, so as a cursory read-through I’m not certain on the timing and how much the characters know of where they are and if that was pre-incursion or what; I have not kept up on any Marvel the last several years until Secret Wars #0 and 1. So what may be totally obvious to readers following along was not to me.

Still, knowing the basic premise, that didn’t bother me much…I recognized the various characters overall. Whether this was actually Battleworld as I assumed or a flashback to the universes still being separate isn’t a huge deal to me. Story-wise this worked well enough and had a familiar “feel” stylistically. The art of course is familiar, and Bagley‘s work is just as good now as I recall from when I was following the Ultimate Spider-Man series with his art.

This is only the first issue of–I believe–five, so there’s by no means a complete story here. We’re introduced to stuff, mostly, with a little bit of background/flashback given; this is clearly a first chapter of a larger singular story within the Secret Wars/Battleworld stuff. As I expected that going in and did NOT expect some one-off single-issue tale, I’m fine with that; I also went into this with the expectation that I’d enjoy it and that barring some huge disappointment or negative factor, I wasn’t going to bail on the series just from whatever this single issue held.

I enjoyed the issue overall–story and art, and appreciated the mix of nostalgia and new. I do look forward to the next issue and want to see where things go. I bought this because of my own history with the Ultimate books; though I suspect this may be one of the more “key” tie-ins to the overall Secret Wars as it deals specifically with ending the Ultimate Universe. (After all, Secret Wars is kicked off by the Ultimate and 616 Universes as the final two in existence, merging).

This seems like a very strong issue for a tie-in reading experience, and well worth getting if you’re following Secret Wars. It also seems likely to be a good story overall for putting the lid on the Ultimate Universe, fairly friendly even to readers like me who haven’t really read any of the Ultimate books for years. You could certainly do a lot worse than this issue!

Infinity #1 [Review]

infinity001Infinity

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales with John Livesay, David Meikis and Jim Cheung
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulos with Joe Caramagna
Cover: Adam Kubert & Laura Martin
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

I wasn’t going to buy this issue. I physically picked it up from the shelf last Wednesday, and then put it back. It’s a $4.99 issue, which is $1 more than “usual” for most Marvel fare these days (though to its credit it’s a thicker than usual issue, even factoring out full-page “chapter headings”). But Thanos’ face is featured prominently on the cover (it IS the cover image, really!), and darned if I’m not a fan of classic Marvel Cosmic Thanos stuff! So despite other online chatter, I decided to go ahead and buy this Friday after all, in the interest of giving it a fair chance.

On the whole, I’d have to say that it was a passively neutral read for me. I did not particularly enjoy it…but I did not actively dislike it the way I’d somewhat expected to.

We see a world apparently destroyed by Avengers…then move to Titan, to a creature whose existence seems to be solely its mission–Thanos’ bidding. With the success of one mission, it is now sent to Earth after other secrets. Various events unfold–Space Knights face an unwinnable situation, SWORD and Captain America and Hawkeye bust a group of Skrulls hiding out, and we see the current status quo of the Inhumans and their King, Blackbolt. The spy creature delivers a message, and we get a hint of Thanos’ plan.

After not enjoying SHIELD #1 a few years ago, not being able to “get into” his early Fantastic Four issues, and being completely turned off to his Marvel Now Avengers and New Avengers launches, I’ve pretty much decided Hickman‘s work in general just is not for me. As such, his name attached to Infinity was a big red flag…one that somewhat holds true even now, having read this issue.

Despite Thanos’ face on the cover, he may as well not even actually appear in the issue for the near-zero on-panel time he gets. For that alone I’m disappointed with the issue. Additionally, there are plenty of characters that I’m not familiar with that I get the feeling I “should” be to truly “appreciate” this issue/story.

Visually I definitely enjoyed the art overall…I’m not a huge fan of some of the costumes (specifically Captain America and Hawkeye) but they look about as good as I can expect here, leaving me only to dislike the costumes themselves rather than the depiction. As for the many characters I’m not familiar with, I suppose the visuals don’t do them any disservice…they look how they do, and I’m cool with that.

The title Infinity–and featuring Thanos’ face on the first issue and other marketing as well as the Free Comic Book Day issue–seem clearly chosen to draw association with past Thanos-centric stories like The Infinity Gauntlet or Infinity Abyss. As such, the comparison is there, and as a first issue, this does not do for me here what those did in their respective stories. Plus, about 10 pages of this issue are what we were given in that FCBD issue, so that wasn’t even a prologue so much as “just” some random scene over 3 months before the arrival of #1.

While I imagine things will pull together and make sense by the end of the six individual issues of this “main story”/mini…as a single issue, Infinity #1 leaves me let-down. If I come across positive enough reviews of the later issues and/or tie-ins, I’ll likely be interest in a collected volume of the entire story; but as it stands, I don’t plan on picking up any of the subsequent single issues for this event/story.

Infinity FCBD 2013 [Review]

infinityfcbd2013Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $0.00

Given my history with Thanos, Adam Warlock, the Infinity Gauntlet (and the Infinity Gems’ involvement in the Ultraverse)…even though I REALLY don’t want to get sucked into another Marvel Event, I wasn’t about to ignore the Infinity issue Marvel‘s got out as one of the Free Comic Book Day 2013 offerings.

The cover has a rather iconic look about it, a shattered pane falling away to reveal Thanos’ grin behind it–and images of a bunch of characters from around the Marvel Universe looking rather disconcerted.

The story is fairly simple, as we’re introduced to some aliens, including one whose latest mission was a success. The alien is given another task, which it sets about accomplishing quickly. A “tribute” is extracted from another alien people–who are but thousands where they were once millions. This tribute is presented to Thanos. And on Earth, we learn that tribute will be demanded there as well, or the world will burn.

This issue certainly serves its purpose–to be a “teaser” of sorts, something within the main story of Infinity yet probably not absolutely essential to understanding the story. This reeks of “prologue,” and other than seeing Thanos, I was honestly not very interested here. I don’t consciously know anything of any of these aliens or their worlds. I’ve yet to get through all of Annihilation, Conquest, or the Thanos Imperative, so other than tidbids of spoilery stuff, I’m not really current with Thanos…but this issue doesn’t hold up, considering I’d expect from the cover to either have more of Thanos himself, or of the general Marvel Universe presented.

The issue also reprints a Thanos backup story from Logan’s Run #6 in which Thanos once more survives the wrath of Drax the Destroyer. This was more to my liking, in that at least the focus was on Thanos, not a bunch of characters I didn’t know. Also, I’d never read this particular Thanos story, so it was still new material to me.

The art of the main story is pretty good, and quite to my liking. Thing is, I’m more interested in a story that I enjoy than I am pretty pictures, so it doesn’t make up for the lackluster story snippet. Meanwhile, the art from the Logan’s Run backup at least looks like classic Thanos, and while not entirely to my liking, is easily forgiven as a product of its time.

All in all…I’m not at all impressed with this “preview” or “prologue” or whatever-the-heck-it-is for Infinity. However, as a free issue, this is certainly worth it, if only for the reprint of the classic Thanos story.

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Avengers vs. X-Men #11 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 2.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

Avengers vs. X-Men #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Captain America #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
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Story: 2.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3/5

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