I’m not sure there’s one original or clever idea or line in this whole issue which writer Mark Millar obviously aspires to be fresh and interesting.
The first 16 pages of this issue are an extended fight scene as War Machine, Black Widow and Nerd Hulk try to take down Captain America in Paris. In doing so, the team causes mass destruction in the City of Light, arrogantly showing their pride as they smash buildings, imperil civilians, and destroy cars. The scene goes on absurdly long. We readers understand that Captain America is a living legend for a reason, and he’s the toughest fighter in the Ultimate universe, but the action scenes seem to drag on and on as Cap fights his futile battle.
Worse, everything has a really dated feeling as the battle rages. The attitudes of Nick Fury and his Avengers feel very much out of time with the battle. This is not an Obama-era attempt to get along with America’s allies; this is George W. Bush-era sneering arrogance at those who get in the way of America’s most pressing interests. Who cares about death and destruction (with the exception of a rare moment of humanity in which the payoff happens off-screen for some reason) when America’s security is at stake? Aren’t we supposed to be in a new era now? Couldn’t Cap have been brought down without damaging or destroying old buildings that even the damn Nazis didn’t destroy?
The extended battle left me oddly frustrated at the approach of the heroes, as if they had exported America’s battles overseas and damn the consequences.
And so many moments in the fight are just awkward and weird. War Machine looks like some sort of dated mecha figure, while the Widow looks all Ninja. Wow, that was fresh… 10 years ago. Now it just feels odd and dated.
But worst of all is the Nerd Hulk, a combination of Bruce Banner’s brain and the Hulk’s body. Absurdly, the Nerd Hulk battles Cap in a suit and tie with hard shoes and glasses. It’s the weirdest and stupidest hero outfit of all. I’m baffled by the idea that Bruce Banner, even if he were actually to agree to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., would choose to wear a suit and tie to battle. Bruce, this isn’t a scientific conference or job interview. It’s a goddamn fight.
And while I’m at it, why does Banner not feel remorse in any way for the damage he causes Paris? He’s a smart guy; you might think he’d have some sort of feeling for the ramifications of his actions. And what’s with the page turning sideways when the Nerd Hulk shows up? It was probably meant to be a clever way of showing the power of the Hulk, but I just found it damn annoying.
Oh, and the dialogue is equally as annoying as the incidents portrayed. Cap actually uses the phrase “talk to the hand” in a phrase that Millar obviously thought was quite clever. When was the last time you heard the phrase “talk to the hand” used in any sort of clever way? And Nick Fury spouts a line about his ex that is so old that it has hair on it.
It takes until the last five pages before Nick Fury and his group of self-satisfied creeps wander off the page, before we get a few pages showing the new Red Skull drooling over the Cosmic Cube. In that sequence readers actually get a little bit of somewhat clever dialogue, as the Skull and a renegade American general debate which belief system they should use as the basis of their new society. But that moment ends with yet another cliché – he’s a renegade American general allied with a megalomaniacal villain, you do the math on what to expect – and the whole comic ends with another bitter bit of ugliness.
Even the art in the final scene contains a used-up cliché, as the Skull holds the gun like some sort of O.G. from a gangsta rap video. How dull. And I gotta ask what’s up with the Skull’s weird face tattoo. It’s bad enough that the guy has red skin and a face like a skull; he’s gotta mess it up with a White Power tattoo, too?
At least Carlos Pacheco’s art is pretty nice, aside from the clichéd moments he shows. Paris looks pretty much like the real city, though the cars don’t look like real cars. Characters are portrayed pretty consistently throughout and the solid page layouts at least don’t detract from the story. This is far from Carlos’s best work, perhaps because he has three inkers on this book, but the art is by far the best thing about this comic.
This comic has an odd sort of arrogance and self-satisfaction about it that I found completely repulsive. It’s not just the so-called heroes that are shown to be amoral, self-centered idiots. That is what I expect from the Ultimates. But the whole sort of reflexive self-satisfied masturbatory cleverness of Mark Millar’s pathetically outdated script just left me unbelievably frustrated. Millar’s delivered a whole slew of terrific comics for Marvel. I loved Old Man Logan, for instance. But this book has none of the cleverness and energy and respect for tradition that Millar delivered in Logan’s journey across a future America. Ultimate Comics Avengers is plain bad comics.