Sunday, August 8, 2010
Ultimate Mystery #1 - The Ultimate Scourge Continues
I know I haven't reviewed many Ultimate titles on this blog. After Ultimatum and Ultimate X my capacity to look at an Ultimate book without going into catastrophic seizures has been severely hindered. My doctor tells me that it already has brianed my damage. It sucks still having to look at all the Ultimate books I bought over the years in my book case. I almost want to have a bon-fire in my back yard and dance naked around it in hopes that some angry fire gods will strike this book from existence. I've tried reading Ultimate Spider-Man, but the art is so god-awful that it looks like a crack addict in withdrawal threw up on the pages. I've even tried giving Brian Bendis's ongoing minis a try. The last one was Ultimate Enemy, which was billed as the beginning to an Ultimate Gah Lak Tus type trilogy. It sounds awesome, but keep in mind that Ultimate Gah Lak Tus was written by Warren Ellis at a time when much of the Ultimate universe was still intact and not suffering from chronic shit stains on certain characters.
The problem with Ultimate enemy is that not much really happened in it. New York City was attacked by some alien creature courtesy of Roxxon, Reed Richards died (killing yet another A-list character from this already depleted series), and Thing shed his rocky cocoon to become some gay-looking purplish creature. That's about it. Again, the whole plot revolves around some creature destroying New York. Seriously, THAT'S the best they can come up with after fucking up the whole series with Ultimatum? Destroy shit again? If this is supposed to be a fresh new story then I'm a respected Gynecologist to Playboy Playmates.
Ultimate Mystery #1 essentially picks up from this bland, boring ass story and tries to continue. Overall, it's about as interesting as watching a hobo scratch himself. But to Bendis's credit, he tries to make it interesting. He deserves some praise for trying to link up the events of this trilogy with that of the first Gah Lak Tus trilogy by bringing in Dr. Philip Lawson, who way back in Ultimate Secret was revealed as the Ultimate version of Captain Marvel (pronounced Mhar Vel). He brings with him Project Pegasus, another story from the Gah Lak Tus trilogy that was originally billed as an advanced new propulsion system meant to take mankind to the stars. Now it's a glorified archives where SHIELD keeps all objects of mysterious or unexplained origins. Lawson gets a little tour from some SHIELD cronies and they seem about as knowledgeable as Sarah Palin on quantum mechanics.
The point of Lawson's trip seems to be that he's an extra level of security. SHIELD is really keen on guarding this place and don't trust a bunch of non-superpowered men with guns to do the job. So Lawson has some witty exchanges with the troops, some of which are pretty funny. It still speaks to the strength of Bendis's writing, but as funny as it may be it really doesn't move things forward or develop any plots. It's just there for the sake of making the book more funny and that would be okay if the premise of this book wasn't so damn serious. The only time Lawson even gets serious is when he shows the troops his Captain Marvel form, which still looks pretty damn awesome.
So that provides one iconic montage for the book to build on. The next picks up with Bendis's signature character, Spider-Man. In this it's refreshing to see him drawn with some level of skill. Rafa Sandoval is several trillion times better than the bullshit, nauseating ass scrapping of David Lafuente. It feels like this should be the real Ultimate Spider-Man comic because the fucking art in the other book is an insult to Bagley and Immomen, their children, and every one of their ancestors. But it isn't so it feels cheapened.
There are still some decent splashes of Peter and his clone, Jessica Drew, talking about the events of Ultimate Enemy. They talk a lot as they're so inclined to do so (they are clones mind you). They even manage to touch on the whole issue of Peter's clone having "lady parts" that may or may not make him question his sexuality. It's too bad they don't stay on that subject because they just end up talking about the events of Ultimate Enemy and deciding to investigate Roxxon further. Again, not much action and that's okay. But you would think that in a series that fucking destroyed everything in Ultimatum would come up with better plots than the old evil corporation bit. Seriously, hasn't that been overplayed enough in comics, movies, and hippie talk?
Yet another story from Ultimate Enemy is revised with the Fantastic Three (yeah, that doesn't have the same ring as Fantastic Four but that's what you get when you fucking kill Reed Richards like you killed so many other decent characters in Ultimate). Sue Storm is having a bad dream and it involves Ben and his ever-loving powers. She seems to be the only one not thrilled with Ben breaking out of his rocky cocoon to look somewhat human again, even if he does look like one of the fucking Teletubbies. Add to this the whole revelation that Ben is in love with Sue in Ultimate Enemy and you get another tired drama that seems somewhat out of place since Reed was killed. But this is Ultimate. Fucking shit up like this is par for the course since Ultimatum.
When Ben does show up he's probably the only one in the Ultimate universe who giddy as a school girl. He loves his new purple glowing power. He now has all the strength without the rock. It seems like the perfect mix for him because he's always been burdened with his appearance. The problem with that is it takes away from some of the appeal of Ben Grimm's Thing character. If he's not struggling with that issue then what the fuck is he struggling with? Is he just going to be another cocky little shit because now the competition into Sue's panties is diminished and he can look in the mirror without cringing again? I respect what Bendis is trying to do by making Ben's power more elaborate, but he's sacrificing some of the aspects that make it compelling. Now that Ben has this power, he really comes off as someone with huge potential to be an epic douche-bag.
Again, there's more talk than action here. They're essentially set up as SHIELD agents now that Reed is dead and there's no more Baxter Building to speak of. The only potential for plot comes from Nick Fury when he comes in and says they're under attack and they need the Fantastic Three (or Terrific Trio now, which sounds far more lame). No details are given and why should they be? This is Ultimate. They follow the standard "destroy a city with a bizarre creature" plot and that's about it.
While this "attack" is unfolding, Dr. Lawson continues flaunt his wit with the troops at Project Pegasus. Again, much of the shit they're storing there is as mysterious as John Goodman's sex appeal. There's more witty exchanges, but they all amount to basically saying "We don't know shit about this shit so why the fuck are you here anyways?" If this is part of the mystery in Ultimate Mystery it's painfully lame. The world was already destroyed in Ultimatum. Who gives a shit about how powerful these relics are anyways? Unless one of them can do a One More Day style retcon, they're essentially hood ornaments for a Pinto.
Some action finally does happen in the middle of their conversations though. There's a sudden jolt and Captain Marvel springs into action. So what's the story here? Is it another alien? Another pan-dimensional blob? Lindsey Lohan getting behind the wheel of a monster truck? Nope, it's Ultimate Rick Jones. Again, this is another reference to a previous Pre-Ultimatum book, namely Ultimate Origins. In it Rick Jones was chosen by the Watchers as a herald of sorts. The nature of his mission and powers aren't clear and this would have been a perfect chance to reveal some of it. But sadly, nothing happens. All he says is that the Watchers told him to announce that destruction is coming.
That's right, destruction. Again...fucking destruction. Seriously, in this book that takes place after a shit ton of destruction in Ultimatum utterly fucked up every Ultimate book ever since that's the best mystery Bendis could come up with. That shit would have plenty of weight if it didn't already fucking happen! That's what happens after you pull a stunt like Ultimatum and destroy damn near everything. Every other plot that involves destruction loses it's punch. It takes what could definitely be an awesome comic in the Pre-Ultimatum world and makes it utterly fucked like a German whore on coupon day. It once again shows how the Ultimatum title has utterly destroyed any potential for Ultimate comics to be awesome and every future story you read must coincide with a powerful urge to shit diarrhea from your eyes.
As painfully shitty the premise of these books are, I can't condemn Bendis too much for this book because it does have a lot of the elements that make his writing so appealing. He does fantastic dialogue and the characterization is pretty solid all around. Then there's the art, which doesn't reek of a perverse manga mix that makes readers want to gouge their eyes out. On it's own it would be a pretty decent book. Not much happened and there was more talking than setup, but it could have certainly set the stage for something awesome. Had I not read Ultimatum, I would be inclined to give this book a 3.5 out of 5. But Ultimatum did happen. All that shit that's totally fucked up the Ultimate comics still remains. That's a hell of a taint and add to that the lame destruction bit at the end and I can only give this comic a 1.5 out of 5. It's not as terrible as the god-awful shit that was Ultimate X, but it's not much of an improvement.
None of the Ultimate comics have any appeal anymore. There's nothing to really make them exciting because it was all destroyed in Ultimatum. Ultimate Mystery #1 is a book that could have been great without Ultimatum. It offers yet another reason why Ultimate should be completely rebooted because nothing can escape the taint of Ultimatum. Until that's undone, Ultimate comics will be relegated to toilet paper. Nuff said.