Monday, December 10, 2007

There's a Law of Diminishing Returns joke in here, somewhere

I don't think I'm prone to hyperbole, so don't think I'm being rash when I say that Ultimates 3 #1 was the worst comic I've read all year. It's maybe even the worst I've read in the last couple years.

It takes a particularly awful comic to activate my continuity-geekism. (For those non-comic, theory-friendly friends of mine, continuity geeks are my abject.) For instance: Thor's hammer uses the mainstream universe design, not the Ultimate universe one; Thor's dialect is similarly wrong; the Wasp has changed races (!?). As well, the military-style uniforms have been abandoned for superhero costumes without explanation, which signals a far more troubling shift - Millar's Ultimates might have lacked subtlety, but he aimed for a certain verisimilitude that is lacking in the mainstream Marvel world and his stories were driven by their political texts and subtexts. In failing to ground Ultimates 3 in this way, Loeb has somehow managed to entirely miss what made the Ultimates something other than the Avengers.

Need more examples of its awfulness? Well, we're introduced to a villain (Venom) who lacks any character or motivation, and who spends most of his screen-time battling a new Ultimate (Black Panther) who isn't even given a line of dialogue. Why is he even there? Don't know. Sensing that the story is just awful, I guess, the Wasp delivers a particularly painful recap of what's happened between Ultimates 2 and 3, which serves only to remind us why the 'Previously in...' pages that usually appear at the beginning of these books were such a good idea. Madureira's art is, I suspect, quite spectacular - but it's hard to find under a ridiculously dense wash of digital-paint that muddies his lines. Why Marvel would want to obscure Madureira's strengths like this, I don't know - I can't think of anyone in their right mind who would try so hard to ruin the one thing this comic has going for it.

But I don't know why they let such an unrepentant piece of shit like this go to print in the first place, either. If anyone recommends this thing to you, never ask them for reading advice again. In fact, you should probably stop talking to them altogether.


James said...

Loeb claims he's going to explain the Thor inconsistencies - I'm guessing the undoing of Loki's magic (and it's a big guess because I haven't read Ultimates 2 yet) has revealed the "true" Thor to the world. (Maybe it's also turned Wasp into a white woman? Yikes.)

I'm guessing nobody cares about spoilers at this point, so enjoy(?) these tidbits from the rumour mill: the newly-Extreme (Studios) Hawkeye is going to become Ultimate Bullseye, and Ultimate Black Panther turns out to be Supreme Power's Nighthawk stranded in the Ultimate universe.

Anyone who's ever glimpsed a Joe Madureira drawing could tell you that digitally painting over his pencils is not the way to go, but the whole thing is exacerbated by the horrendous print quality. The colourist complains as much on his site.

Anyway, yeah: Ultimates 3 = bullshit.

neilshyminsky said...

Frankly, the change in accent/dialect/whatever simply doesn't work no matter what explanation they can devise because it violates the entire spirit of the Ultimate universe, y'know? The point of this line was that it should approximate, as closely as possible, what it would look like to drop superheroes in the world as it exists right now - I can recall explicit comments from Marvel about how things should seem at least somewhat plausible, and where they don't then average people would doubt that isn't just some charade or performance. (Recall the line in the first Ultimates volume where 2/3s of Americans don't believe that an alien invasion actually occurred even as their ships explode overhead.) Which is just to say that there is no explanation that can excuse the sheer silliness of Thor's dialogue.

The Ultimate Bullseye thing I can see - that works quite well, in fact. But toying with alternate universes and alternate characters is Ultimate FF's schtick, not the Ultimates, and the Nighthawk thing sounds both ridiculous and unnecessary.

James said...

Oh man, I wasn't mentioning the possibly-imminent explanations of Thor as a defense of Loeb, just as a point of interest. It's ridiculous for all the reasons you say, as well as the more basic one that a Norse God speaking cod-Shakespearean dialogue is as uncool as it is nonsensical.

I guess Ultimate Bullseye makes sense. While it's not what I'd wish for the character, it could have made an interesting arc in the hands of Millar/anyone else. Loeb's made it more than clear that he is not up to the task, though. Circa Ultimates 3 #1, Ultimate Hawkeye resembles nothing so closely as member of Youngblood, alternating between painfully unfunny quips and paper-thin "tortured" characterisation.

At this point, Ultimates (and by implication, the entire Ultimate Universe) is such a trainwreck that I kind of like the Nighthawk/Black Panther thing, just because it's incredibly silly. I can find fun in silly, unlike the rest of Ultimates 3 #1, which is just dreary and awful.