Comic Book Review: The Ultimates: Start with the Impossible TPB
For the last couple years Marvel Universe, in my mind, has become superficial. In the need to chase sales trends, Marvel has practically made launching, cancelling, relaunching, and relaunching books a tri-monthly celebration. Villains who used to pose epic threats get defeated in two-panel long punchlines and their whole world seems to view holding off the extinction of the human race as trivial. I admit that comes with me not reading many of the company’s books, but that’s the impression I’m often left with. Hence why it’s beyond amazing when there’s a comic that gets to prove me wrong, where all my cynicism gets to be misplaced, and simply have a grand time, that book is called the Ultimates.
The Ultimates, sharing only the name of the uninteresting alternate universe Avengers team, follows a troop of Marvel’s most powerful energy-manipulators on a quest to solve the greatest problems in the universe. The roster includes Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spectrum, Ms. America, and the Blue Marvel. Their goal quickly takes them off to the farthest reaches of space, turning Galactus the devourer of worlds into a renewable energy resource, and pushing out beyond the bounds of reality.
The book is penned by Al Ewing, who’s quickly becoming the Marvel writer for high levels of optimism and whimsy while remaining grounded and weary. It’s impressive how far he takes the Ultimates in not just inventive directions, but sheer levels of power. Most of the characters in this book pack enough punch to destroy whole planets. The amount of ridiculous places Ewing takes the plot makes it read like the Fantastic Four crossed with Gurren Lagann. Characters only have their abilities limited to how much ridiculous quantum physics sounding technobabble they can spout. It’s not uncommon to see the crew fly off into dimensions beyond comprehension or made out of literal dreams. It’s a difficult tight wire to walk and Ewing manages to keep things well-balanced. That is the one major caveat for this series moving forward as the only way to maintain that high of doing the impossible can only last for so long. This trade features enough healthy foreshadowing that it’s clear there is an endgame in the works and hopefully it will be just as fun getting there.
The book’s main artist is Kenneth Rocafort with one issue featuring Christian Ward. The Ultimates is lucky to have Rocafort onboard as this books plays to all his best strengths. There are Lovecrafitan monsters, incomprehensible amounts of cosmic forces, and dimensions being kicked in. There is immense use of negative space, massive clashing panels and particle effects even if it runs the risk of cluttering up the page. Though one of the best aspects is Rocafort’s great use of scale is when Galactus is on page. He captures just how massive, impossibly massive the world eater is and there’s nothing quite like it. Ward, in his issue, is likewise outstanding. Ward’s style has a similar rocky texture albeit much smoother. His panels have much greater flow and are part of the action. There’s a particular two page spread made of co-centric circles that’s a wonder to behold. The Ultimates is a book all about testing limits and it’s held up by immensely talented artists.
Colors are handled by Dan Brown, Rocafort and Ward. All are exceptional with their vibrant rainbow infused style. They forgo the generic, by the numbers coloring with ones that a bright, big, and bold. Ward especially is a delight as his pages look like something out of a trippy 1960’s art collection.
The Ultimates: Start with the Impossible is some of the most raw excitement I’ve had reading Marvel comics in far too long. It’s a positive delight that’s endlessly optimistic and never lets up. There are concerns as for a series with the very premise of topping itself can easily peak but this first trade collection is an excellent start.