Graphic Novel Review: The Ultimates 2, Volume 1: Gods and Monsters

by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch (Artist)
Publisher: Marvel
Format: Paperback
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superheroes
Release Date: September 20th, 2006
Goodreads

Rating: 4/5 Stars

And so we continue with the story of The Ultimates, in which Marvel give us a more ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’ version of The Avengers. The Ultimates is kind of a reminder that, okay, some interesting stuff came out of it, but it’s definitely A Good Thing we moved past ‘gritty’ ‘realistic’ versions of stuff.

By the end of Gods and Monsters, I found it truly hard not to detest Steve and Tony. I’ve said it in previous reviews, but this is definitely, totally not the MCU Avengers, even if Fury in The Ultimates is basically Samuel L.

In The Ultimates 2, we join the group as they try and deal with the fallout of the Hulk’s rampage. Tony and Natasha are together, Steve is with Jan, and Hank is…extremely pathetic in his attempts to get back into their good graces. These ‘heroes’ are closer in attitude and actions to the supes in The Boys than the ones we’re familiar with on the big screen, and in The Ultimates it works. They show themselves to be selfish, unable to listen to each other and really work as a team, and all too willing to turn against each other if they think doing so benefits them.

This instalment gives us a wider glimpse of the world, with Europe’s own experiments in creating super soldiers revealed, giving us various versions of Captain [insert country here]. But something is afoot, and not just the possible plans of using The Ultimates in war zones. Here, we get Loki, who is up to his usual tricks, and causes all kind of issues for Thor.

Thor is possibly the only Ultimate I actually like; he’s trying to really do good for the world, and finds himself stuck because of it. Something I also like is the way the different relationships have developed by this point, not just romantically. But again, with particular characters it emphasises their negative sides, not to mention how clouded they are by their own power.

None of this should be a surprise considering it’s Mark Millar, the writer behind Kick-Ass. Both graphic novels look at heroes through a more realistic lens, throwing in a dollop of satire against certain aspects of American culture. Some moments are pretty funny, but they’re usually contrasted with a sense of brutality. Again, there are parallels with The Boys – Garth Ennis is Irish, Mark Millar is Scottish, and both have these really interesting outsider views of the US, able to create satire on American culture in a way you can’t totally do from the inside. It’s something that feels almost lost in the MCU but is emphasised in The Boys’ TV series.

And it really is The Boys that Ultimates oddly invokes, though with less of the humour. Still, it’s a solid graphic novel, a different take on these heroes, where they’re wrong way more often than they’re right. Cap can’t quite let go of his past, and really, he is just an old man who wants to hang with his friends. Tony is insufferable and untrustworthy, and there’s little to like in the ‘core’ Avengers team, yet it remains interesting and addictive, a car crash in comic book form. I’m really looking forward to Volume 2 of Ultimates 2, can’t wait to see what shit these characters get themselves into next.

Related Reviews

My reviews for The Ultimates, Volume 1: Super-Human / The Ultimates, Volume 2: Homeland Security

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