Release Date: October 1st, 2009
Genre: Superhero Comics
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Writer: Mark Millar / Artist: Bryan Hitch
Other Marvel Reviews: Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet / Deadpool Kills Deadpool – Deadpool Killogy #3 / Spider-Man/Deadpool, Volume 2: Side-Pieces [Books] / Spider-Man/Deadpool, Vol 1 [Books] / Generation X – Scott Lobdell [Graphic Novels]
Ah, The Ultimates – a graphic novel that’s been high on my want to read for a long while, and now, thanks to my boyfriend having a copy, I’ve finally managed to read it.
Firstly, if you are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I am), there’s a few things to enjoy in this. It’s in The Ultimates we’re introduced to a Samuel L-lookalike Nick Fury. Fury even mentions if a film would be made of them, he would be played by Samuel L. Jackson, sowing the seeds for what would become an absolutely excellent portrayal by the legend himself.
This is definitely an early 2000s view of The Avengers. In this attempt to ‘update’/modernise them a little, it’s also sort of dated them, not just in regards to many of the celebrity namedrops throughout, but even in their personalities and storylines, they feel very much ‘of their time’. However, you can still the influences these particular versions of the characters had on the films, in various ways.
The Ultimates, in film terms, is basically the first Avengers film, in that it’s focused on Nick Fury recruiting the heroes and getting them together as a team. We get Cap’s backstory, discover Tony enjoys the publicity side, find out Thor is currently in the Netherlands, and is basically an eco-activist. The setup is good, we get some fun moments, and we also get to witness the absolute shitshow with many of the other characters, specifically the scientists.
Here’s the thing that comes through really strongly in this – to be that smart, you also have to be kind of messed up. These characters aren’t just flawed – these are powerful, intelligent heroes who can’t seem to tell what ‘right option’ even means. When they make mistakes, the mistakes are huge.
With the bulk of the team recruited, it’s clear interest from the public will only last so long, especially when they can’t work together as a team and there’s no big threats for them to face. So Bruce Banner, a much more mild, timid, and messed up version of the character we know from the films, decides he will give them an enemy to fight against: The Hulk.
The Hulk also comes with creepy stalker vibes, thanks to Bruce’s strained relationship with Betty, and his rampage through the city has strong King Kong echoes. There are a few different uncomfortable moments, for a number of characters, and about the only characters to come out a little favourably are Cap, Thor, and Tony. And yet, it kind of all works. In a weird way, in that early 2000s way, it’s actually a really interesting take on The Avengers, especially now we’re in Phase 5 of the MCU and we can look back on this having seen a lot of their journeys on the big screen.
I think most Marvel fans – if they haven’t read this already – would enjoy this, whether they came to these characters from the comics or the movies, and it’s definitely worth a read to see what the MCU have since used in the films, too.