Editor's Note: Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, September 16.
Warren Ellis has always been a good fit for Marvel's Ultimate universe, taking their existing concepts and putting a sleek, modern spin on them while retaining the heroic core underneath a veneer of cynicism. So he's a good choice to headline one of the books in the line's post-Ultimatum revamp and hopefully get things back on track after that abomination of an event cleared the decks. This miniseries focuses on Iron Man, seeing him realize that the secrets of his technology have been compromised and set out on a quest to stop evildoers the world over from making use of his designs. It's been done before, in a semi-classic story from the 1980s by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, but that's kind of what the Ultimate line is about: repurposing stories that worked the first time into an updated milieu. New stories would certainly be preferable, but that's the industry we've got, which seems to be determined to eat itself by the tail, Ouroboros-style, until nothing is left.
But while Ellis is stuck retelling someone else's story, he at least tries his best to do it with style. The plot of this issue sees Iron Man making his way through the ruins of New York (after it was flooded in Ultimatum) to his headquarters to retrieve a priceless artifact stored in a secret bunker, and discovering that somebody else got there first. The horror of the devastating event is brought to the fore here, as the streets are piled with the corpses of people who died in the deluge; that's not the kind of thing you see in a lot of superhero comics, and Ellis doesn't shy away from making sure we see the nastiness that Jeph Loeb wrought. And he doesn't make Tony Stark very likeable either; he spends the trek through the rubble complaining about being down to his last 100 million dollars and narrating a podcast about his adventure in a self-centered tone. The Ultimate version of the character is a bit more flawed than the mainstream Marvel one, but writers like Ellis use this to their advantage, creating a character that readers can pretend to dislike, until his true heroism comes out from where it is buried under all the cynicism. Ellis also manages to work in some of his trademark cutting-edge sci-fi concepts, like nanotechnology and higher dimensions. Iron Man is a great character to use to explore nifty ideas like these, and it looks like Ellis will definitely get the chance.
Steve Kurth does a good job on the artwork too, working in the detail-heavy style that Bryan Hitch pioneered on The Ultimates and other artists like Trevor Hairsine, Brandon Peterson, and Carlos Pacheco have continued to use. Kurth stands up there with them, making sure to get every detail of the ruined cityscape or Tony's high-tech facility onto the page, and when it comes time for action, he gets that done too, with characters moving dynamically through space and making sense in relation to each other. It's pretty cool to watch, which has remained one of the draws of the Ultimate line, and continues here.
It's not going to set the comics world on fire or anything, but it looks like this will be an entertaining miniseries, with nice art, good action, and maybe even some interesting character work. With only four issues, it shouldn't drag out too long, and it seems like Ellis will have a good time exploring some technological ideas and bouncing characters off each other. We could definitely have it worse.
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