Thursday, December 6, 2007

My real time review of Ultimates 3

I've got some time here, so let's try this. I haven't read a single thing about this issue yet, so I'm going in fairly clean.

(It occurs to me now, several hours after initially posting this, that I should point out SPOILERS! are ahead. And lots of CAPITALIZATION.)

3:16 PM-I notice Sabertooth (or is that Sabretooth?) on the cover, and wonder if he's now on the team. I then realize that I picked up the version with the ULTIMATE BROTHERHOOD OF EVIL MUTANTS (or whatever they're called) cover. I had noticed there were two covers in the store, but they basically looked the same--very, very brown.

3:18 PM-Now I notice that this a gatefold cover featuring ULTIMATE VENOM. Wasn't he killed off? Why is he hanging out with Magneto? The answer awaits within, true believer....

3:20-I see we start out with a sex tape. And, uh, that's the Wasp? She looks a lot different now.

3:22-And then there's Venom out of nowhere, approximately 10 feet tall and busting through the wall like Kool-Aid Man. I'm starting to get the idea that Joe Madureira maybe doesn't care so much about storytelling, cause the dialogue and the pictures aren't really in synch. Venom promises something, but I have no idea what it is because HERE COMES MASSIVELY STEROIDED ULTIMATE BLACK PANTHER!!! I didn't even know there was an Ultimate Black Panther!

3:25-Apparently vibranium knuckles (is there an Ultimate Vibranium?) can hurt Venom. Can't protect you from being thrown, though. Wasp desperately attempts to reach Iron Man on the radio, but wasn't he there on the first page, drinking a martini and avoiding questions about his sex tape? Or is there a different "Tony" in this series now?

3:27-ULTIMATE VALKYRIE? WTF? Wasn't she one of the losers in the Ultimate Defenders? If not, what on earth is she doing here?

3:28-Oh, she's Thor's girlfriend. Okay. Thor, BTW, just killed Venom, as far as I can tell.

3:29-Apparently Valkyrie doesn't speak in Thor's dialectic of Nordic-by-way-of-Shakespeare. I'm still shocked that there's an Ultimate Valkyrie. This reminds me of that Dan Clowes comic where he claimed that the end of the world would come once every possible combination of products had been made. If Ultimate Valkyrie isn't a hi-fi pizza, what is?


3:32-Remember the innuendo about Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's incestuous relationship? It's apparently not innuendo anymore. I think Hawkeye wants to kill them to prevent bad publicity. This is character development, friends--like so many survivors of full family assassinations in real life, Hawkeye now thinks that the solution to any problem is to put a bullet in its skull.

3:35-This art is TERRIBLE. Thought I should point it out. It's like the Disney version of Simon Bisely.

3:36-SPOILER: The Scarlet Witch is dead! Somebody (please let it be Hawkeye) shot at her, and Quicksilver couldn't stop the bullet in time, leaving a 2" hole in his hand. Then a doctor (and you know he's a doctor, cause he's wearing a white lab coat and big nerd glasses) fortuitously steps out of the crowd, tries and fails to save her life, and then announces that she's dead. And then Mephisto pops out of nowhere and offers Quicksilver the chance to save her life--if he'll agree to kill ULTIMATE AUNT MAY.

3:41-And that's it, cause the additional 10 pages are all just ads (Rocket Raccoon is in Annihilation? Seriously?). Oh, one more detail--the fortuitous doctor is using a cane! He's apparently ULTIMATE DONALD BLAKE!

Well, I guess that the way Scarlet Witch died (the bullet turned 90 degrees in midair, as if manipulated by MAGNETISM) would be considered foreshadowing, with a big reveal next issue when the heroes finally remembered who it is that manipulates magnets. But then the cover features Magneto and the Blob, so it's pretty obvious where the story is going. This was basically page-to-page chaos--Venom attacks for reasons as yet unrevealed; characters admit that they don't really know who Black Panther or Valkyrie are (apparently they just showed up one day); Black Panther might be DEAD, since no one's been able to find him after Venom flung him away; Hank Pym might also be DEAD, since he apparently overdosed while at his microscope (missed that on the first read-through); Hawkeye is out of his mind; Wasp may not be Asian anymore (or maybe Madureira just sucks); Ultimate Cap has a secret life he won't discuss with anyone.

Man, I hope that Ultimate Captain America is dating Ultimate Black Panther. If this was the regular Marvel Universe, that would never happen (because of all the Black Panther merchandising of course, not because a certain segment of fanboy nation is violently homophobic). But the Ultimate Universe is sort of like one of those toys that you like for a while, then let your little brother play with once you feel you've outgrown it. I don't think Joe Quesada cares what happens in these comics anymore. Can anyone tell me the creative teams on Ultimate X-Men or Ultimate Fantastic Four? Can anyone tell me if those titles are even published anymore? I always liked The Ultimates, partly because Millar did a good job at keeping things just off kilter enough that you weren't sure exactly what would happen in any issue. It doesn't hurt that these aren't the "real" versions of the characters, thus giving Millar room to kill off quasi-beloved characters in a somewhat off-handed manner. Jeph Loeb seems to be taking that approach to new heights here, so there's reason to hope that he would go way beyond what even Millar would dare and reveal that Captain Greatest Generation John Wayne Was a Commie Fuck You Kids Get Off My Lawn is, in fact, more into the dudes than the ladies. Not that it would go anywhere interesting--in fact, I think Loeb would manage to offend everyone, regardless of their politics--but it would really amuse me.

So this is kind of like Marvel's answer to All-Star Batman, except that, as nearly everyone has pointed out by now, (a) Frank Miller is obviously writing a parody, and (b) Jim Lee's art is the ultimate (PUN INTENDED!) expression of contemporary superhero art, thus adding a subversive element to the proceedings. If The Ultimates 3 is a parody, it's more subtle than what Frank Miller's doing in All-Star Batman and Robin.* I suspect it's closer to unintentional self-parody, which you might actually find just as amusing as Frank Millers "fuck you fanboy" level of satire. As for the art, this is the ugliest comic I've read in some time. Do you like that hideous "digital painting" style that Marvel unleashes for its "prestige" titles? Do you think forearms should, without exception, be just as thick as biceps? Do you prefer the most generic possible background art to that which actually establishes setting or mood? Do you constantly crave extreme foreshortening (PUN INTENDED! THINK ABOUT IT!)? Do you think all scenes should look like they're taking place at dusk? If so, then this is the only comic on the stands that can meet all your demands. And thus the art doesn't really add anything to the comic if you choose the alternate reading suggested above--there's no parodic reading for the art.

On the other hand, you could view this as EXTREME FUTURISM, kind of a version of what comics will look like 10 years from now--gooey coloring over sketchy pencils, bad storytelling, hyper-compressed plots**, and heroes threatening to kill each other every five pages. It's amusing, but I don't think it's amusing enough to spend $3 on. So I suggest you try to download it for free, so that you'll only feel guilty about wasting your time. Reading it for free is what turned around online opinion on All-Star Batman and Robin, right?

*"Praise for The Ultimates 3:
'It's more subtle than All-Star Batman and Robin!'
-Dick Hates Your Blog"

**Retrieved from a thread on Mountain Dew Presents Newsarama, 10 years from now:

"Comic writers should get back to the decompressed storytelling that turned the industry around back in the early 00s. "

"I totally agree. Bring back Daniel Way!"

"The real problem is that everyone's reading comics on their cell phones, and they want a year's worth of plot in 10 panels. Comics are meant to be read on full-sized computer screens, dammit!"

"Good discussion. I'd like to comment, but my mutant overlord supervisor tells me it's time to go back to work running on the treadmill that powers their secret hideout. Suffice to say that I'm sick of Marvel, and I'm erasing all their comics from my brain implant."


Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

1) "Simon Beasley by way of Disney" is the PERFECT way to describe that art.

2) Yes, Rocket Raccoon is in Annihilation, and it fucking rocks. You should read the Starlord mini that just concluded, in which RR is a pretty major character.

William said...

"Mountain Dew Presents Newsarama"...I want to laugh, but I could *so* see that happening! Great post.

Anonymous said...

On the plus side, it's not full of those Loeb trademark internal monologue captions that he's put on virtually every damn comic he's ever written.

On the minus side, does Scarlet Witch really need to show so much sexy thigh as she bleeds to death? It screws up the sense of the scene. Of course, you could say much the same for every other panel in this ugly comic.

Leigh Walton said...

In fairness, my forearm is about as thick as my biceps.

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

I've always thought you'd look good in a rubber/spandex suit with a bullseye target on your forehead, Leigh.

Alex Cybulski said...

Can we be best friends? This review was spot on.

Someone should do a digital parody of this comic for redistribution.

Hawkeye: Wasp, can you fly inside my gun? Buddy? Is my gun clean? What do you think about the oil I've used to lube it? It's scented. You should be able to tell, because like, it's pressed up under your nose.

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