Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Chris Bachalo (p), Tim Townsend & Andy Owens (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens in the small town of Lincoln, which we see looks like a picture perfect small town, but in reality every single resident of this town is a trained agent with strict orders to kill anyone who even looks funny at the one man this town was designed to keep safe, and this man is the President of the United States. After seeing the President is still a bit uncertain about whether the X-Men should be linked to Magneto as public enemy number one, the book jumps to the headquarters of the Ultimates who are still picking up the pieces in the aftermath of Magneto's attack. After we learn that the Hulk was briefly freed during the attack, and that he used the couple minutes of freedom to eat six members of the nursing staff who were within his reach, the book switches to the X-Men, as we see Xavier has come to the conclusion that his efforts to make it clear the X-Men are not in league with Magneto are falling on deaf ears. To the end we see Xavier makes contact with Magneto, and for a moment it looks like Xavier has decided to join Magneto's side. However, Magneto is quick to see through this rather transparent attempt to locate his hidden base, and in response Magneto alerts the Ultimates where the X-Men have gone to ground.
Up to this point the Ultimate War has been like that initial uphill climb on a rollarcoaster, in that while it has done a great job of building up a sense of anticipation toward the big thrill that one knows is coming. However, given the secondary title of this miniseries is "The Ultimates Vs. Ultimate X-Men", the fact that we are three issues into a four issue miniseries, and the two groups have yet to meet has me a bit concerned. Now the final pages of this issue bring the two groups right to the very brink of the big throw-down, and if the final issue offers up twenty-plus pages of status quo shaking action, then chance are I'll be labeling this miniseries as an unqualified success. However the three issue buildup that Mark Millar has decided to inflict upon a slugfest happy reader like myself has pretty much guaranteed that if next issue isn't an explosive display of the two teams going at each other then I'll be extremely disappointed, not to mention highly distrusting of any future claims that Mark Millar may make about his stories. Still Captain America's final line does a wonderful of setting up the idea that the Ultimates are entering the fight playing for keeps, and the chances of the two teams coming to a peaceful resolution look extremely remote.
I will give the miniseries credit for making the buildup toward the big event interesting enough that I've never found myself bored. The threat of Magneto has certainly played a huge role in this, and it's always nice to see a writer who is able to go all out in the presentation of the idea that a villain is "evil", as in addition to the bridge explosion that opened the miniseries, we've also seen Magneto cripple his own son, and make it quite clear that the Ultimates are woefully unprepared to face him when he attacked their headquarters. Ultimate readers will also notice take note of idea that the Hulk continues to be a complete lunatic, and Mark Millar managed to defy at least one of my expectations as it's clear that the Hulk isn't going to save the world from Magneto, and as such one will have to continue to wonder how in the world is the Hulk ever going to be made part of the group. Now this miniseries hasn't exactly given the X-Men their best showing, as they've pretty much spent the entire time hidden in the secret base, while the Ultimates build a case against them. This issue also has both Xavier & Magneto coming up with the same cunning plan, and while Magneto is quick to spot the deception, Xavier appears to have fallen completely for this rather simple deception.
Chris Bachalo has never been an artist who I look to for the delivery of jaw dropping action sequences, as truth be told while his art has a wonderful sense of energy to it, there's also a degree of confusion to the art, as his work has always been like a puzzle where one has to piece together what he's trying to show you. Now I'm not saying his work is unreadable, but rather that it's always seemed to place more focus on style over clarity. Still this issue offers up two solid examples of Chris Bachalo's ability to deliver visually exciting action, as the scene where the Black Widow play acts the role of an assassin in Lincoln is a truly impressive show, and Iron Man's opening salvo on the X-Men's base in the final pages is an absolutely stunning display of raw power. There's also some fun little details like the panels that detail how one goes about entering the X-Men's hidden base, or the split panel design that nicely details the various reactions when Xavier & Magneto discuss an alliance. There's also a great looking double-page shot of Iron Man hovering over Manhattan, and the last page is an impressive shot of the Ultimates ready to spring into action. I also noticed Captain America's shield is looking a bit rough around the edges.
Three issue in and the two teams have yet to have their first meeting. If not for the fairly impressive final pages of this issue I would be making a bigger fuss about how Mark Millar looked to have forgotten the main hook that is drawing readers to this miniseries. However, the book does continue its entertaining buildup to the big show, as it opens with a rather clever little scene where we see the President of the United States goes to ground in a Norman Rockwellish small town that is quickly revealed to be something far more impressive. The issue also gives us a better look at what the X-Men have been up to, as we see Xavier attempts to pull off a plan to locate Magneto's hidden base, and this scene manages to deliver a fairly intense moment where it appeared the Ultimates' assertion that Xavier is just as bad as Magneto was completely justified. The final pages of this issue also make it clear that the Ultimates have found where the X-Men are hiding, and they are going to handle the group with extreme prejudice.
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