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    Review: All-New Ultimates #1

    By | April 10th, 2014
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    The latest generation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe arrives in “All-New Ultimates” #1! Check out our spoiler-free review to see if these kids will be able to fill some big shoes.

    Written by Michael Fiffe
    Illustrated by Amilcar Pinna

    • SPIDER-MAN, BLACK WIDOW, KITTY PRYDE, BOMBSHELL, CLOAK & DAGGER officially unite to tackle the vicious, rampant crime wave overtaking Hell’s Kitchen!
    • DIAMONDBACK leads the teen gang, the SERPENT SKULLS, as they run West Midtown’s drug and weapons trade & deal in murderous citywide terror!
    • Detective Brigid O’Reilly and her anti-gang unit are on the hunt for a serial mask killer called SCOURGE; they get close but not without some casualties!
    • Written by Michel Fiffe, the creator of the acclaimed indie series COPRA

    The Ultimate Universe, in spite of its nearly endless reboots, has always felt like a product of its time. The Ultimates were the archetypical early 2000’s pseudo-fascist superheroes that the time called for, and though they’ve had some great stories they’ve never really evolved past that. As a result they were stagnant in some ways, which is antithetical to the “New Stories for New Readers” approach that gave rise to The Ultimates in the first place. Fitting then that with Michel Fiffe and Amilcar Pinna’s “All-New Ultimates”, we’re given an Ultimates team that finally channels the zeitgeist of modern comics to make the Ultimate Universe more relevant than it’s ever been.

    That’s not to say the Ultimate Universe has been dead for the past few years. New developments like Miles Morales, Global Hero and One of the Best Characters to Happen to Comics Ever,  and Kitty Pryde’s New Mutant Revolution have shaken up the Ultimate Universe in ways that could never happen in the 616. In “All-New Ultimates”, the intention to place these characters, as well as other young Ultimate heroes like Cloak & Dagger, Bombshell, and Spider-Woman, at the forefront of the line seems plainly clear. After all the devastation that Galactus wrought in “Cataclysm” (au revoir, New Jersey my love), The All-New Ultimates step up to protect the world while the other mainstay heroes have died, disappeared or gone off to wear weird purple armors in “Ultimate FF.”

    The New York in this comic is a only a couple degrees removed from our own. People still buy pity boxes of dollar pizza and get stood up on dates while crashing in their friend’s apartment or staying in state-sponsored low-income housing. It’d be easy to think of “All-New Ultimates” as a retread of the successful recent volume of “Young Avengers” but while “YA” was a cosmically glamorous romp, “AN-UA” comes off as more down-to-earth. Though the city itself is more Frank Miller’s “Daredevil” than “Young Avengers”, Nolan Woodard’s coloring gives the characters and setting the youthful energy they need to propel themselves through the story. And goodness knows they’d need it considering the gangs tearing apart Hell’s Kitchen, giving The Ultimates a threat they’d never be able to tackle on their own, especially if the brutal fights are any indication. The scene that tops this book off is a scuffle that builds and builds until the team finds themselves in what could be considered an all-out brawl with seemingly no way out. Said clash might not seem very inventive (though holy moly, the grotesque villain who looks like Creepshow is great) but there’s a couple of sequences where the hints of Pina exploring his layout is present. When Miles punches someone out, they’re punched through a panel, their blood flying past the borders and the hand reaching just through the fourth wall. It’s a moment that’s easy to miss, but at least it gives us the knowledge that the potential for real experimental play is present (plus, the other stand-out panel with a hideous scarring is just cool.)

    Really, I’d use the word “cool” to describe most of “All-New Ultimates” (even the appearance of Ganke, Spider-Man’s lego-loving BFF.) Fiffe – whose “COPRA” which you can check out the first chapter on his website is seriously great – has a knack for snarky teen heroes but never forgets to give them heart. His Miles is proof of the development the character has had over the years, taking up more responsibilities as he accepts his heroic qualities while Spider-Woman actually leads the team while looking to get away from the shadow of the Spider-Man name. Bombshell and Cloak & Dagger also get some really neat moments here (specifically and early fight scene involving the latter) and Kitty Pryde struggling with the fallout of “Ultimate X-Men” and “Cataclysm” sets her up for some interesting paths down the road.

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    The plot of “AN-UA” is a little disjointed though. Maybe this is because I’m not completely familiar with Ultimate Lore, but some of the villains and supporting characters seemingly come from nowhere when I feel like I should know who they are. And Spider-Woman’s decisions in this issue, though awesome, also seem to come rather suddenly. There a couple of times when I couldn’t help but wonder how we got to certain part of the plot. So yes, at times “All-New Ultimates” becomes more style over substance (sorry, “Young Avengers) which definitely harms it in some aspects.

    Still, “All-New Ultimates” signifies a breath of fresh air that the Ultimate Universe has desperately needed. It’s not perfect; though the art is great and the characters are sharp, the pacing and tightness of the plot loses itself at points. If you wanted to get into the Ultimate Universe for the first time, it might also not be your first choice considering the lack of exposition it gives to All-New readers. In spite of that, “All-New Ultimates” is a fun, visceral read that’s brought down by an at-times murky plot.

    Final Verdict: 7.3 – Browse. This seems to be title will improve over time as it finds its legs.

    James Johnston

    James Johnston is a grizzled post-millenial. Follow him on Twitter to challenge him to a fight.