Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ultimate Six

Ultimate Six #1-7
Well, I've been catching up on my Ultimate reading lately. Since I only started reading Ultimate Fantastic Four from the beginning, and I started reading Ultimate Spider-Man from Annual #1, I really felt like I was missing something. So I started reading USM from the beginning. I've got to say, I love it. It's a VERY GOOD series. But that's not the point of this review.
Ultimate Six, at least according to the timelines I've been able to locate, occurs following USM #45. So at that point in my reading, I read Ultimate Six. It's obvious that Bendis and Millar have very different ideas of the Ultimates and Nick Fury in the Ultimate Universe. Any of you reading my blog will know what I think of Millar's portrayal of the Ultimates. But Bendis is a different matter, and truthfully, I am once again optimistic...well, I'll save that for later. Analysis first.

Bendis portrays Nick Fury as a genuinely concerned parental-type figure when it comes to his dealings with Peter Parker. He also characterizes Captain America in a completely different manner: in this series, Captain America shows that he is visibly outraged at the actions taken by S.H.I.E.L.D. and the US government to try to create more super-soldiers like him. Far from his fascist portrayal in the pages of The Ultimates, this Cap is a genuinely concerned individual, with a clear moral conscience. Likewise, Hank Pym is not portrayed herein as a psychopath, but rather as a man who has given his life for science, to the extent that he has let his relationships with others suffer. And thus Janet Pym is truly concerned for him, out of love, not out of some twisted masochistic urge.

However, I read this series for Spidey, not for the Ultimates, and, frankly, was a bit disappointed. Spider-Man is no more than a supporting character in this drama, even though he gets marquis billing. In fact, it's not even Spidey who's the character here, it's Peter Parker, as not once does he wear his mask. This isn't a story about Peter Parker, though, it's a story about the weird freaks he's come into contact with over his first 27 issues: Green Goblin, Electro, Doc Ock, Sandman, and Kraven. They have been incarcerated by S.H.I.E.L.D. (man, typing that really gets annoying) for illegal genetic augmentation, although it was my impression that Doc Ock's transformation was completely accidental, so it seems they're just creating a charge in order to hold him securely. Anyways, S.H.I.E.L.D. (cut and pasted that time!) has been trying to glean as much as they can from Norman Osborne and Otto Octavius, and Ock seems to go along with their efforts, except that really he's setting up an escape. They all escape, blackmail the President, blackmail Fury, kidnap Peter, threaten May and MJ, and then try to take over the White House, though I don't exactly understand why. It seems as if Bendis lost sight of where he was trying to go with this series by the time he got to issue six, so he had to create a new ending for it. One that doesn't really make much sense. My only idea about it is that he was trying to figure out a way to motivate Harry Osborne into hatred for Spider-Man (whom he finds out is Parker) and S.H.I.E.L.D., in order to make him the Hobgoblin. However, why S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn't erase this incident from Harry's mind with hypnosis or psychic surgery is mystifying, and seems very irresponsible of them. Like I said, the ending doesn't make much sense.
Also, I'm confused as to why the President is kept completely in shadows in every scene he's in, when The Ultimates makes it quite obvious that he is George W. Bush. Maybe Bendis is trying to say "he's not my president", and frankly, I wouldn't blame him, but this isn't a political blog, so I'll shut up now.

I was saying earlier that this series makes me hopeful for the future of the Ultimate Universe. Since Bendis has written so many books set in this universe, it's clear that he has some sort of vision for it, but that apparently his vision differs quite profoundly from Mark Millar's. However, back to the point, seeing how the Ultimates are treated in such a different manner in Bendis' book makes me realize that no matter what series they show up in or crossover into, their attitudes and personalities will always be controlled by that book's particular writers, and not by Mark Millar. So even though Millar might be a fascist goon, it does not necessarily follow that he will succeed in molding the rest of the Ultimate Universe to the whims of his peculiar beliefs. What I mean to say is that I no longer fear Ultimates appearances in the other books in the Ultimate line...although I may be completely wrong, and we should be afraid...very afraid.

Ultimate Six: OKAY
Ultimate Spider-Man: VERY GOOD
The Ultimates: Still ASS

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