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Friday, June 5, 2009

Ultimatum #4: A Review

Friday, June 05, 2009 Posted by Chris Tung , , , , No comments


There are certain writers that I read that astound me. I've mentioned many of them throughout this blog, but I don't believe I've brought up the name Jeph Loeb. He's done some great work on television (Lost and Heroes) and some great work in comics (Batman: The Long Halloween, the Marvel "color" books, etc.). I tend to believe that he has an understanding of plot, pacing, and the basics of telling a strong narrative like most great writers.

Ultimatum #4 (in fact, the entire Ultimatum series) does not display this talent at all. In fact, if you were to think that maybe all great writers have a perfect batting average, all you have to do is compare The Long Halloween and this series to see that it is very VERY possible for a writer to pen some fantastic stuff and then some fantastically awful shit.

As I was making my way through the most recent issue, the death toll rose, and my care for each death--no matter how significant the character--began to wane. These are some of the most iconic creations of the Marvel universe, but Jeph Loeb treats them like they are extras in the series. Their deaths have little pacing and breathing room, and the depictions of each death are the most gruesome and graphic for a non-MAX book.

On the topic of graphical depictions, David Finch--who I loved in his New Avengers run--seems to be half assing one of the biggest Ultimate Universe books this year. Everyone looks the same, and by that I mean, everyone has massive bulging muscles when they are attacking each other or yanno...just standing around and talking as if sitting in a chair requires you to flex every muscle of your being. And characters that should be soft--i.e Kitty Pryde--just don't fit with his over-muscled, over-breasted characters.

After suffering through the issue, I began to wonder if there was a meaning behind all of this. My English major digging rested on this notion:
Perhaps Jeph wanted to write a series where we saw the reality of a super hero in real life. Spider-Man shouldn't be able to fight demons, get punched through walls, and essentially drowned without finally dying. And not in a heroic way, but a normal human way of exhaustion and defeat. The heroes behind the mask are still very human creatures while the villains are, at their core, sociopaths with little to lose. In that sense, Ultimatum isn't an entire failure. In these pages, Jeph writes a series that every super hero--no matter what power they have--still has a human behind the mask, and if the Blob is coming at you with a big appetite, you will get eaten.

If this was Jeph's intention then I wouldn't write this book off as a disaster. It's pretty damn close, but I can see what he's trying to do. So I suppose this is me giving it the benefit of the doubt and believing that this isn't something that Jeph writes on his free time as Let's Be Friends Again believes.

Or perhaps they're dead on, and this run is an entire piece of garbage. And once it all gets retconned with the new launching of the Ultimate line, everyone will forget this ever happened.

English major in me says: 3/5
The Comic Book reader in me says: 1.5/5 (the .5 bonus for the decent covers each week)

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