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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!

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Recent Acquisitions: Older Books

Along with the various “free” comics I picked up on Free Comic Day, I also snagged a couple other bargains: a fresh copy of the Superman Tribute issue from Wizard that came out after The Death of Superman stuff; a hardcover The Trial of Captain America, and most surprising of all (to me) a $5 copy of Solar, Man of the Atom: Alpha and Omega still in the original bag with a poster! (originally cover-priced $10 on initial release back in 1994). The Captain America book was also $5, and the Wizard issue was a mere 25-cents.

FCBDnonfreebooksI’d also found myself that Saturday revisiting eBay, checking on the current pricing of the Ultimates 2 hardcover. I’d snagged the first hardcover in early May last year, paying a bit of an unwelcome “premium” for it including shipping, on the expectation that its price would skyrocket with the Avengers movie as “everyone” would want the darned thing. I wound up getting Ultimates 2 (also out of print like Ultimates) including shipping for well under cover price, giving me the two-volume set I’ve wanted to have for years.

ultimatesHaving managed to track down the Ultimates 2 volume, I turned my attention to tracking down the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy hardcover. I’d first seen it at a Books-A-Million a number of years ago while visiting with a friend, and I passed on a $17 copy several years ago at Kenmore. Managed to get this copy, including shipping for under $14.

ultimategalactusandvaliantmastersI also have meant to get the Valiant Masters hardcover edition of Bloodshot since about the time the book came out last year. I wound up finding both it and the Ninjak volume, and got both–including shipping–for little more than cover price of either of the single volumes.

ultimategalactusandvaliantmastersstacked Continue reading

Interest vs. Price

ultimateinfinitythumbScanning through my Facebook newsfeed last night, a posted image caught my eye.

Diamond/Previews had posted a cover image for Ultimate Comics Ultimates #25, which seems to show Ultimate Cap, Ultimate Thor, and Ultimate Iron Patriot (?) fighting from the grip of an Infinity Gauntlet.

Now, I definitely think Thanos is getting a bit over-exposed years now UNTIL the next Avengers film. And there’s that part of me with fond memories of the original Infinity Gauntlet story; that part of me that recalls Infinity War #1 that summer before the Death of Superman, and even the more recent Infinity Abyss (was that really over 10 years ago now???).

I also quite enjoyed Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet by Brian Clevinger, from a few years back.

But the more recent stuff involving the Infinity Gems–and Marvel‘s Illuminati–just hasn’t sat right with that kid in me, so I’ve mostly tried to avoid it. Contemporary writers are welcome to do as they will–but if I don’t like the new stuff, I’ll just revisit the old. My wallet, my choice.

That said…I often enjoy some of the “twists” or “re-imagingings” of stuff from the Ultimate line, and since the Ultimate stuff is not in-continuity with the “main” Marvel universe, I’m far more open to changes/etc. there.

So, back to the cover image. Ultimates (“Avengers”?) facing the Infinity Gauntlet or its Ultimate Comics counterpart. I could really enjoy this. It’s got my interest, my curiosity. Something that’s gotta be on a fairly grand scale, right?

If I knew the Ultimate Comics to be priced at, say, $2.99…the image alone would do more than any generic/mysterious “teaser” has done and I’d email my comic shop to request the issue be ordered/pulled for me.

But I know–like what seems the vast majority of Marvel‘s comics these days–these are at least $3.99. So, since I’m not currently following ANY of the Ultimate Comics titles and I am so sick of $3.99, right now I have no intention of buying in on this.

Sounds like a new creative team, probably a decent one-shot issue or jumping-on point…but the price, that extra dollar that Marvel just HAS TO HAVE serves once again to be an anti-sale for me. Had they “stepped” their pricing and perhaps spent at least a couple years at $3.25 or $3.50 BEFORE going whole-hog to $3.99…maybe I wouldn’t be so vocally bitter.

Sorry, Marvel. I’m intrigued, interested, and I’d be all over this at the $2.99 price point…but at $3.99/issue, I intend to pass on this.

ultimateinfinity

Ultimate Comics X #1 [Review]

His Father’s Son

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Colorist: Aspen MLT’s Peter Steigerwald
Digital Inks: Aspen MLT’s Mark Roslan
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comic Craft’s Albert Deschesne
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Art Adams
Published by: Marvel Comics

Okay…so, I can hardly remember the last time I read an Ultimate comic. After reading from issue #3, I let Ultimate Spider-Man go around issue 80 when I gave in on the realization that the stories just weren’t being written for the single-issue format, and I wasn’t enjoying the pacing for the price per issue. I’m pretty sure I gave up on The Ultimates before that due to lateness, and I don’t recall sticking with Ultimates 2 more than a couple issues. All the hype over Ultimatum and the Ultimate Comics relaunch didn’t pull me in. I read Ultimate Iron Man 2 when I scored the hardback for the $6.

I’m not even sure what intrigued me with this issue. The teaser ads? Perhaps in small part–after all, WHAT is there to be done with Wolverine that’s NEW? Would this be something interesting like the Mary Jane and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series? Would a book about a teenaged Logan in modern high school (thinking “Wolverine” instead of “Sparkly Vampire”) come across well?

So, despite my extreme dislike of the $3.99 cover price, I grabbed the issue–choosing the cover whose image I recognized from the teaser ad. Behind Siege #2 (which was spoiled for me via twitter prior to reading), this was near the top of my stack this week–bypassing Deadpool and even a couple Blackest Night issues.

One of the things that Marvel has done well for many years is “The ‘Previously…’ Page” at the start of their issues. This is a page that is basically prose or just non-story content that serves to get a reader up-to-speed on stuff, contextualizing the story that’s about to begin; it also serves to have the issue’s credits all in one place, so that when this page is omitted, a collected volume flows as one long work, uninterrupted by titles and credits every chapter or so.

Opening this issue, we have a series of images with seven simple sentences that serve to place this story. Context provided–whether as wholly new information, or to catch one up. I’d read The Ultimates, and Ultimate Spider-Man, followed a bit of Ultimate Fantastic Four, and even some of the Ultimate X-Men. The pictures and words tell all I need to know–and the world in this issue is apparently the same as I’d read before, but much changed by Ultimatum. The world exists, but even though I haven’t read in years, I’m not lost.

This issue’s story begins with narration from James Hudson, talking about his son–a son brought to him by an old friend years earlier. That old friend wasn’t able to raise the boy, but knew James and his wife Heather could, and so entrusted them with the child. Now a teenager, and running concurrent with the narration of how the boy came to be Hudson’s son, we see this son discovering what he is, and how his being different changes his life. Kitty Pryde–a name and character I’m somewhat familiar with from both the Ultimate comics and mainstream Marvel continuity–enters, with a classic trapping of such stories: the message from a person to their loved one, recorded shortly before dying. This child–Jimmy Hudson–is confronted with the image of his father, and the reality of who he really is. We also learn the difference in his mutant ability from that of his father.

The story, surprisingly enough as I have really not enjoyed Loeb‘s work for years–is relatively engaging. It’s not perfect, but I remained interested throughout the issue, and that’s quite the achievement in my eyes. As a long-time comic reader familiar with much of the Marvel universe in general throughout much of the last couple decades, names were familiar, but as this is not the mainstream Marvel universe, I had zero problem with the Hudsons being different than the characters I knew before this issue, and rather enjoyed the reference to how James’s codename is come about. There was also something to the realization of who the main character is that is at once obvious and yet not exactly what I expected–and any duplication of a similar character in the main Marvel books works so much better to me here.

The issue reads like an origin issue. We have the introduction of characters who are (presumably) going to be much of a supporting cast. We’re introduced to who assumably is the main character of the book. We learn where he came from, how he is seen by his family and others. We see his discovery of his identity, and what that does to him. We’re left on an ending that both provides actual conclusion to this specific single issue’s story, and yet it is clear this is by no means the end–the issue is not a one-shot.

The art isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen, but–except for one panel that really put me in mind of Millar‘s Kick-Ass–never really took me out of the story. It’s clear what’s going on throughout the issue, even the effect as we find out Jimmy’s “other” mutant ability. Particularly with no previous issue to go on, Adams’ art actually stakes itself as definitive to me for this character, and does quite a good job of it.

Again–I despise the $3.99 price point, particularly for a mere 22-page issue. As I’d already compromised my principle (avoiding all Marvel $3.99 books) with Siege and Siege: Embedded, I allowed myself a further compromise to pick this up, since it’s a debut issue of a new series, and I was actually somewhat intrigued.

What I got was a very enjoyable issue, that really does what a first issue of any series ought to do…and it stands alone. I won’t be picking up future issues, as I refuse to pay $3.99 as a regular, ongoing price for a “standard” comic.

In and of itself, though, this was a good read, and actually mostly worth its cover price for the experience. While I don’t plan to purchase future single issues…provided the inevitable collected volume is reasonably priced, I expect I’ll have some interest in picking that up to read this story and go from there.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10

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