It’s the classic Ultimates versus the new Ultimates versus – an even newer Ultimates? Suffice to say, things get Crazy. Read on for our review, which contains minor spoilers
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Travel Foreman, Filipe Andrade, Marco Lorenzana and Scott Hanna
Colored by Dan Brown and Matt Yackey
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
A double-sized issue celebrating ULTIMATES #100! Eternity is free – but can even he stand against the might of the First Firmament? Or does the embodiment of everything need help…from Outside? Featuring the Ultimates and…the Ultimates?
Al Ewing has been building up everything in “Ultimates” to this moment. There is the feeling, however, that he’s allowed himself a little room to have fun in this, the endgame to two volumes of comics across 22 issues. The solicits and the cliffhanger to last issue made it perfectly clear that for this centennial, renumbered issue, the original Ultimates team would be returning in some capacity. At this point it’s starting to feel like everyone from Earth 1610 survived the Incursions which, after multiple similar cliffhangers, is a revelation that can’t help but suffer from the law of diminishing returns. Read this issue, however, and you’ll see that Ewing is too smart to fall into that trap, and having too much fun to ever be called predictable.
The chains that have held Eternity since volume 1, issue 1 have been removed, but all that is and ever will be is not safe yet. Galactus – now the Lifebringer – has gathered a cosmic team of heavy hitters called the Eternity Watch to face off against the Maker – himself a refugee of the Ultimate universe. The alternate Reed Richards has teamed up with the High Evolutionary on Counter-Earth to “fix” the cosmos, remaking it in his image in the process. This is all fuel to the fires of the First Firmament – the abstract embodiment of the initial version of the universe – who has returned to reclaim Eternity for his own.
If this is all sounding a little too “out there” then you’d be absolutely forgiven. Ewing’s run hasn’t been afraid to tackle the big picture, and for the Marvel Universe it doesn’t get any grander than when dealing with the ancient and immortal cosmic abstracts. In a way, this is classic Marvel, it’s quintessentially Marvel. Most of these abstract concepts – Lord Chaos, The Living Tribunal, Eternity – all had their origins deep in the history of the publisher, and have been played with in books such as “Fantastic Four”, “Avengers” and “Thor.” Whenever they show up, it’s always the fate of the everything we know at stake, so it’s only appropriate that Ewing has created a team of characters that take the fate of eternity in their stride.
The introduction of the original Ultimates team is clearly a gimmick to celebrate the anniversary. Sure, Ewing spins some pretty convincing spiel as to why they join the fray, and certainly having the Maker in play definitely adds credence to that argument. It’s equally true, however, that they don’t play any significant role in the issue. Their parts could have been played by anyone really, brought in by evil-Reed and pitted against the Ultimates of Earth Prime in a hero-v-hero battle of misunderstanding – oldest trick in the superhero playbook. The real fun comes in the blatant self-awareness that Ewing has of this fact, and in the way that his solution to this is to have them presented as almost comical stereotypes of the grim and gritty characters first introduced by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Captain America once again tells us that the A on his head doesn’t stand for France (still so cringe,) Tony makes a reference to Hank’s domestic violence and Hulk literally calls himself a Nice Guy. These characters haven’t, unfortunately, stood the test of time, but rather than try to fit a square peg into a round hole, Ewing leans into the fallacies of these creations and produces a delightfully tongue-in-cheek sequence.
With all of creation at stake, and the very real battles of abstract concepts, it’s important that the art can convey the necessary scope. Luckily, Travel Foreman has been on “Ultimates 2” since the start and has never shied away from the grand cosmic narrative. Aside from depicting the original Ultimates in a way that emulates Hitch effectively, Foreman tackles the war for all of eternity in a wild, bold and engaging way. Panel borders barely exist in these moments, and that’s entirely appropriate: these concepts defy all boundaries of comprehension and imagination so cannot and should not be constrained. His predecessor, Kenneth Rocafort, took this freedom to the extreme in unique, wonderful and conceptual ways. Foreman manages to reign in the action and keep the choreography flowing naturally, and when a third Ultimates team joins the battle and the book gets even more cosmic, Foreman is joined by Filipe Andrade, Marco Lorenzana and Scott Hanna who all work together seamlessly to produce a gorgeous looking issue.Continued below
“Ultimates 2” #100 is a colorful book. Scenes set in space are never against a plain black backdrop; the cosmos comes alive thanks to Dan Brown and Matt Yackey. All of the grand conceptual beings are bold and bright in a way that again hearkens back to the space operas of Marvel comics past, and Galactus the LIfebringer positively glows. Similarly, all of these beings have their own speech balloon style, which is both a gift and a curse on the pages that are particularly busy, but it’s safe to say that Joe Sabino earns his paycheck for this issue.
The final act of “Ultimates 2” #100 does suffer from a bit too much exposition, filled with all manner of cosmic mumbo jumbo. By the end of the issue you’re left wondering what it is that exactly happened (something-something-multiversal-repair) but there’s always an element of that in stories of this scale, so one can’t help feel that it’s par for the course. At no point does Ewing lose sight of the story, however, or more critically of the importance of grand, impressive cosmic moments, and the art of Foremen et al portray the action in a way that’s fresh and exciting, bombastic and classic all at the same time.
This is the final issue of “Ultimates 2”, and the final issue of Ewing’s run, and to that end all of the plot lines are resolved in a satisfyingly epic way. The smaller character moments are sacrificed for this cosmic conclusion, however, aside from a montage at the end that hints at happy endings all round. The renumbering adds a certain pressure to provide a satisfying ending to a solid, hundred-issue run that Ewing was never moving toward, and as such those artificial expectations are somewhat unfair. As it stands, “Ultimates 2” #100 brings Ewing’s grand space opera to a suitably epic conclusion.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – Bafflingly cosmic in the best way, this centennial issue is an epic conclusion to one of the best runs in modern Marvel comics