The Ultimates Volume One and Two

by Mike Shea on 15 March 2008

I am embarrassed to admit that my love of comic books started with G.I. Joe. I didn't break out of that horrible trend until I was resurrected with The Watchmen and The Dark Night Returns. I read the Punisher and I read the New Universe series. I read about the Beyonder, I read Wolverine, I read Elektra which got me into Frank Miller's stuff leading eventually to Sin City, Hard Boiled, and 300.

I never got much into the mainstream of Marvel. I didn't know Captain America's real name. I couldn't tell you who the Avengers were. I can't even name all four of the Fantastic Four.

I've always wanted to get back into mainstream comic books but nothing really dug into me. That was, until I read the Ultimates.

The Ultimates is a modern rewriting of the oldest Marvel superheros using today's themes, politics, and attitudes. For the most part it works very well. They have all the heroics of a good super hero comic book. The first ten pages of Captain America back in World War 2 is worth the cost of the rest of the book. The artwork is the clear evolution of fifty years of comic book writing with beautiful glossy pages, wonderful color, and perfect scene design. The writing is good in most places and great in a few. The story is enjoyable if not brilliant, with the dialog just trying a little too much to bring older characters into the modern age.

My review here covers two of the Ultimate graphic novels; Ultimates 1 and Ultimates 2. Both run about $20 to $30 for roughly 300 pages. The books are extremely handsome, bound very well, and are a true joy to read. I find little peace in my life finer than sitting on my back porch on a beautiful day with Ultimates 2 open on my lap.

The story does tend to throw a whole pile of characters at you all at once. It never seems to relax as every two pages brings about a new character you may recognize or you may not. Not being a huge Marvel fan from day one, I couldn't tell you how Hawkeye differs from his original character, but he's pretty bad-ass in Ultimates 2.

If I had any complaint it would be that there is too much character and plot packed into too little space, even for 600 pages of comic book.

Overall, however, I love these two graphic novels. They were well worth the price in the time I spent enjoying them. While they aren't on the same emotional level as Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Ronin, or Sin City, they surely entertain far more than most super hero movies ever have. For comic book fans, I highly recommend them.