By Alex Zalben
Ultimate Thor #3: In telling the origin of Ultimate Thor, Jonathan Hickman is doing what the Ultimate Universe is always supposed to do: write whatever you want about a character, without feeling tied to continuity, or what has happened in the “main” Marvel Universe. Too enough, Ultimate Comics have been used to wink at the audience, showing how a character you know and love is TOTALLY NEW AND DIFFERENT.
Here, Hickman instead tells a story that gets to the heart of who Thor is as a character that you could never tell in the 616 books. This issue, in particular, has some huge, spectacular action sequences, where the usually cerebral and wordy Hickman stands back and lets artist Carlos Pancheo stretch his ample muscles, drawing waves of Nazi soldiers and frost giants invading Asgard, Thor’s home. It’s a stunning looking book with some real emotion in it, and possibly the best thing Hickman has written since moving to the mainstream. At least, it’s the most balanced in terms of ideas, action, emotion, and plot.
One last little note: three issues in, and we still haven’t seen the face of the physician who is treating Thor in the modern day, Dr. Donald Blake. Wonder what that’s about? Hmmm…
Recommendation: Read It!
New Mutants #20: Zeb Wells has created a slow simmer of a story on this title, which probably hasn’t helped its status as the third (or fourth or fifth) tier X-Men book. Heck, I’m a huge New Mutants fan, and even I wasn’t totally on board for the first ten issues or so. But holy heck is it firing on all cylinders now, to mix a metaphor.
For the past few issues, a military group stranded in the demon realm of Limbo has waged war on the New Mutants, and it looks like – for the most part – they won. Their purpose? To put together the bloodstone amulet, and wreak vengeance on the demons who have tortured them for years.
As you can probably tell from this description, and one of the other things that’s hurt the title, is that it’s for diehard fans only. I’ve read almost every New Mutants story, probably ever, as well as anything that ties into Limbo (my favorite storyline of all time is probably the Inferno crossover from the ‘90s), so for me, this is like candy. For an outside reader? Not sure how the story will work, particularly as we’re playing on plot points from nearly twenty years ago now.
But for this diehard fan? This title has never been better than it has been for the past few issues. I thought the last arc was exciting, balls to the wall action. I was wrong. Leonard Kirk and Andrew Currie draw at least two spectacular splash pages in here that stopped me in my tracks. Plus, there’s a fantastic cliffhanger that ties all the way back to the first issue of this series (see what I mean about the slow simmer, and only for diehards?). This title makes me giddy, but let’s be honest: it may not be for everyone. Because I’ve been lying to you otherwise. FYI.
Recommendation: Buy It (for fans)! For everyone else, Read It, and let me know whether you understand what the heck is going on.
It’s a bit of a let-down, after the cerebral, dense plotting of the first issue to get a break-out so soon, rather than spending some time with Osborn in prison, out of his element, and meeting his fellow super villain prisoners. At least, it would be if this issue wasn’t so tautly plotted by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Where the first issue was the psychological thriller, this issue focuses far more on action and moving the plot forward. Also, curiously, whereas we barely got any words and screen time from the title character in issue one, the focus is almost entirely on the Green Goblin himself.
Also a little bit of a let down is the art by Emma Rios - but that’s only because it was so dazzling in issue one. Here, we get a few interestingly structured pages of a prison guard going mad that were a little too muddy for my tastes, but otherwise, a very straightforward panel structure throughout the issue. Don’t get me wrong: Rios is one of the best artists working today, and her characters look like they were almost poured on the page, rather than stiffly drawn in the superhero style. It’s just tough to follow up on one of the best first issues I’ve read in ages.
So while I may have some reservations about this issue in regards to the first, superlative issue, this is still heads and tails above most of the comics out on the stands today. If you’re looking for a tightly plotted, uniquely drawn prison drama with superheroes, this is your book. I’m definitely looking forward to more.
Recommendation: Read It! But be sure to buy the first, excellent issue.
Captain America #613: Ed Brubaker sure likes throwing his heroes in prison, huh? First Daredevil, now Captain America is in jail, awaiting trial for his crimes committed as brainwashed Soviet assassin The Winter Soldier. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as crime, trials, and a more real world scenario are well within Brubaker’s wheelhouse. He knows how to write these scenes, and it shows.
Where the book shines, though is in the scenes with Sin, The Red Skull’s maimed daughter who has now taken on her father’s mantle. It’s always fun to write a crazy villain, and with Sin, Brubaker has made a doozy. Like all good villains, the heroes don’t yet know what they’re dealing with, and because of that, are at least two steps behind.
Even better than the main story, though, is Sean McKeever’s Nomad back up. These have been the highlight of the title for a while, as McKeever tells a fantastic story, complete with all the info you need to know about every character, big action, and a huge cliffhanger – all in eight pages. I know the market would never support an ongoing Nomad solo book, so it’s exciting that Marvel has stuck by having this run in the back of one of their top books.
One last note: Butch Guice’s pencils are a perfect match to the tone of this book, and a good successor to Steve Epting’s art. However, the real hero of this issue, art-wise, are the inks by Guice, with Stefano Gaudiano and Rick Kagyar. Whoever did the inking on the last splash page in the cap story, in particular, deserves a huge amount of praise: with a few simple splashes of ink, they suggest tiny silhouettes, rain, and the immense amount of danger that Sin is about to cause for our heroes. It’s an first-rate composition, and does everything a final page should: gets us to tune in for more.
Recommendation: Read It!