Travelling Man's Blog


Review: The Ultimates Issue 1 by Travelling Man

ultimates issue 1Written by Al Ewing

Art by Kenneth Rocafort

Colour art by Dan Brown

Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

One of the several unsolvable problems of comics is stasis. Batman will never rid Gotham City of crime. Spider-Man will always do whatever a spider can. The worlds we see in superhero comics are vibrant, complex, rich and fundamentally unbreakable. The song may not remain the same, but the forms of the stories always do. Nothing changes. Or perhaps more accurately, nothing changes forever.

No one told the Ultimates that.

Al Ewing is one of the best writers in the business right now and every page of this issue shows you why. It’s loose, TV-like storytelling right down to the cold open and credits spaced through Rocafort’s big, expansive panels. It’s also a comic that trusts you completely. Inside the first few pages, Blue Marvel is talking about how the universe is built and what’s changed post-Secret Wars. Inside the first half issue we get an idea of the sheer scope of the team; T’Challa introducing the Secretary General of the UN to the Triskelin, Blue Marvel and Captain Marvel on a mission in deep space and Spectrum and Miss America on a second string of the same job, on a different world. All of them get moments to breathe and T’Challa, Captain Marvel and Spectrum come out particular well. They also play like a very different kind of team. There’s almost no conflict, no sense of warring personalities. This is a group of professionals, tackling the jobs no one else can. Changing things.

Big things.

Rocafort and Brown are on top form throughout here. I’ve talked already about the expansive panels but it’s the detail that stays with you. The look on Spectrum’s face as she sees just how powerful America Chavez really is. T’Challa’s good natured and relentless explanation of how the Triskelion is essential a science and superheroics nation state. Carol Danvers using an old identity for a new purpose and clearly enjoying it. And, of course, those final pages. This is a book about big ideas, filled with big personalities. It’s also absolutely confident in its mission, just like its characters. Because, and I’m being really careful not to spoil anything here, this book is going to change things. Or at least try.

Vast in scope and brilliantly executed this is one of the best debuts you’ll read this year. Rocafort and Brown’s art is note perfect, Sabino’s lettering is clever, playful and subtle and Ewing’s script is hugely ambitious and successful. Pick it up, meet the Ultimates and get ready for a brave new world, one they’re building one solution at a time.



Review: Avengers Issue 0 by Travelling Man

Avengers Issue 0

Written by James Robinson (Squadron Supreme), Mark Waid (The Vision & Scarlet Witch), Al Ewing (The New Avengers and The Ultimates), G. Willow Wilson (Captain Marvel & Alpha Flight) and Gerry Duggan (Deadpool)

Pencils by Leonard Kirk (Squadron Supreme)

Art by Mahmud Asara (The Vision & Scarlet Witch), Gerardo Sandoval (The New Avengers), Victor Ibanez (Captain Marvel & Alpha Flight), Kenneth Rocafort (The Ultimates) and Ryan Stegman (Deadpool)

Colour by Frank Martin (Squadron Supreme), Sonia Oback (The Vision & Scarlet Witch), Dono Sanchez Almara (The New Avengers), Laura Martin (Captain Marvel & Alpha Flight), Dan Brown (The Ultimates) and Richard Isanove (Deadpool)

Inks by Paul Neary (Squadron Supreme)

Letters by VC’s Travis Lanham (Squadron Supreme), VC’s Cory Petit (The Vision & Scarlet Witch), Vc’s Joe Caramagna (The Uncanny Avengers), Laura Martin (Captain Marvel & Alpha Flight), VC’s Joe Sabino (The Ultimates) and VC’s Clayton Cowles (Deadpool)

Puiblished by Marvel
£4.25

Everything old is new again, and as a result we’re in an extended phase of gearing up for the Marvel Universe. This time it’s the turn of the Avengers family with this preview book that sees a certain team checking in on the various subdivisions of the Avengers. It’s an interesting idea, and one that could have been crushingly dull. Instead, it works a treat.

The framing story here sees the Squadron Supreme, for want of a better word, reassembled. The legendary Marvel characters, designed to evoke their DC counterparts were either absent or largely folded into the Avengers during the Hickman-scripted opus that’s just finished. Here they’re out for themselves and have a cold, rational viewpoint that marks them as something other than hero, and more than villain. I’ve struggled with a lot of Robinson’s Marvel work but this is good, clever stuff and he has a nice line on Nighthwk in particular. The art, from Leonard Kirk, inked by Paul Neary and with colour by Frank Martin impresses too. These characters have been given a definite, if subtle, makeover and it gives them a relevance they might otherwise have lacked. Good lettering from Travis Lanham too,

‘Eidetic’ the Vision & Scarlet Witch story that follows it is phenomenal. Mark Waid is at his best when he cuts to the heart of characters and that’s exactly what he does here. The Vision has begun to hallucinate and, realizing he can no loger distinguish reality, takes drastic steps to solve the problem. Waid renders all this with an absolute laser focus on the relationship between the Vision & Wanda and brings his customary heart and poignancy to every page. Mahmud Asara, who’s work I’m seeing here for the first time, does an astounding job bringing it to life too. The art is atmospheric but detailed, character-focused but light on it’s feet. Sonia Oback’s exemplary colour work really helps too, as does VC’s Cory Petit on letters.

The next story brings us to Captain Marvel & Alpha Flight, repositioned here as a Stormwatch-esque low Earth orbit space station. G.Willow Wilson is one of the best writers working in comics today and this story shows why. She sets up her premise, gives her heroine plenty to do and continues and expands on the tradition of Captain Marvel having a large supporting cast. This feels like both a continuation and evolution of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s defining run and any fans worried should rest assured Carol’s in really good hands.The story is fast paced, clever, sets up what’s to come but stands alone and Victor Ibanez’s smart, clean lines are exactly what it needs. Laura Martin, one of the greatest colourists in the game impresses too, as does Petit once again.

Al Ewing’s first of two stories here ‘Everything is New’ introduces the New Avengers in a wonderfully nasty way. Ewing’s writing is exuberant when he cuts loose and that’s perfectly in step with Sunspot and his ‘Throw money at it! It’ll be FINE!’ approach to running a team. This looks like the team that will play fastest and loosest with the rules and that’s reflected in Gerardo Sandoval’s flamboyant, Madueira-esque art. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but Dono Sanchez Almara on colour and VC’s Joe Caramagna on letters keep it in check. The pages ring with energy and enthusiasm and you can’t help but be swept away. That being said, this is the book I’m most interested to see shift gear to quieter character moments. Firstly because I want to see what Sandoval does with them and secondly because that’s where Ewing excels.

Which he neatly proves with ‘The Opposite of Kicking’. Even better, it marks the return of America Sanchez to Marvel comics. Ms America was one of the best parts of the wonderful Young Avengers run and the spirit of that is very much present here. Ewing uses her as the window into the Ultimates’ world and plants the same doubts and cynicism in our mind as he does in hers. Better still, he throws us possibly the best scene you’ll see all year. The way America solves the problem at the heart of this story, and the joyous art of Kenneth Rocafort, is amazing. This is superhero comics with an epic scale but real compassion and gentleness to them and it reads like nothing else in the industry. With excellent work from Dan Brown on colour’s and VC’s Joe Sabino on letters this is the strongest entry in a strong book by a good margin.

Gerry Duggan’s work on Deadpool is up next, with ‘The Night That Hell Froze Over’. Ryan Stegman’s brawny art style and Richard Isanove’s amazingly good colour work are on top form here but it’s Duggan, and what he does with Wade, that you remember. This is the most unexpected, and yet logical, approach to the character in years and even when you know it’s coming, the final panel has surprising emotional weight. Impressively done.

 

This could have been a hot mess of a book, little more than a series of trailers. Instead it’s an immensely confident, assured look at the new state of play with the Avengers. Pick it up, find something you like and jump aboard. Because this is an Avengers world now, and based on this issue, it’s in good hands.




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