SERIOUS ISSUES >> 9.1.09

Scouring out the weekly singles scene … in comics!

I’m going to assume ULTIMATUM is one of those company-wide “event” storylines that confounds all but the hardcore Marvel reader. ULTIMATUM: FANTASTIC FOUR REQUIEM #1 is a single-shot offshoot of that, and while it’s obviously tied to a slew of previous events (which it recounts in a big block of text on the first page), it does a mostly good job of standing all by its lonesome. Things within the FF are not well, starting with the death of Sue and Johnny Storm’s father. This threw me for a bit, because he looks about as old as they. Sue and Reed Richards aren’t even speaking to one another, and Ben Grimm is thinking of joining S.H.I.E.L.D. The dysfunction is appreciated, so thanks, Joe Pokaski, Robert Atkins and Mark Morales — your story about their loss is our gain.

But ULTIMATUM: X-MEN REQUIEM #1 doesn’t work so well all on its own. Lots of the X-Men are dead — like, lots — and all laid out on a field. Survivors like Kitty Pryde, Rogue and Iceman show up to pay their respects, but they’re interrupted by the villains Sabretooth, Mystique and a hulking mass known as Assemble (he’s new to me). A fight breaks out, naturally. Then the issue is padded with page after page of needless obituaries for fallen X-ers The Beast, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Angel, Cyclops, Wolverine and others. Ben Oliver’s art is just fine, all in a blue hue courtesy of Edgar Delgado. Perhaps Aron E. Coletite’s script makes sense in the grand scheme of things that is ULTIMATUM, but not as a standalone.

J. Michael Straczynski continues updating old Archie Comics heroes for DC with THE RED CIRCLE: INFERNO #1. One thing I liked right off the bat is how The Hangman’s physician alter ego appears at the beginning, thus linking that one-shot to this one. Inferno is a guy who wakes up in the hospital, and finds — when someone tries to kill him with machine guns — he has the power to erupt into a ball of flame, à la The Human Torch, but with the rage of The Hulk. The Hangman then appears in full costume to try to contain him. Greg Scott’s art is appropriately moody, and looks terrific in all the fiery shades of orange. The final page sets the stage for the appearance of …

THE RED CIRCLE: THE WEB #1. Here, Straczynski introduces us to John Raymond, a wealthy heir to his father’s fortune, despite being somewhat of a screw-up. He tries to make up for that by moonlighting as spidery crimefighter The Web. His outfit is ridiculous-looking, but his modus operandi is rather unique: He takes on injustice only when told to, via victims dropping him a line on www.summontheweb.com. He takes his job a little more seriously when his hippie-ish peacenik brother is kidnapped and held for ransom. The Web makes for a nicely conflicted hero, thus overcoming the unlikability of his true identity. Roger Robinson draws him like a classic superhero.

Guess who’s 600? CAPTAIN AMERICA #600, a giant-size tribute to the star-spangled do-gooder, new and old. Anchoring the anthology issue is an Ed Brubaker-scripted story about what happened “One Year After” Cap was killed during the superhero Civil War. It looks in on a number of people, both friends and foes, to see how his passing has affected them. Roger Stern’s “In Memoriam” does the same thing, albeit with only two pals, but none of the emotional restraint; it’s a bit maudlin. Other, more effective backup stories entail a collector of Cap memorabilia, a Stan Lee tale from 1942 in which Cap and Bucky take on the Red Skull, and an Alex Ross-painted origin retelling. Joe Simon provides a brief essay on the character he co-created, and every CAPTAIN AMERICA cover is reprinted, in eye-straining thumbnails.

You can get even more Captain America in Marvel’s ALL WINNERS COMICS 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1. The period piece by Karl Kesel and Steve Uy focuses on the exploits of Cap, Bucky, The Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch, Toro, Whizzer and Miss America — a post-World War team, even if they aren’t exactly how the press portrays them. In the back half, get some vintage Cap with a 1941 prose short story by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby; and a 1944 yarn in which Cap and Bucky take on — yes, again — the Red Skull in another wonderfully dated, action-packed adventure. A couple of old house ads round up the package, including an opportunity to become one of Cap’s Sentinels of Liberty, badge included, for only a dime. (Don’t send it in, dummy.) —Rod Lott

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1 Comment »

Comment by Jim Haley
2009-09-01 11:13:15

Ultimatum is a crossover involing all the ‘Ultimate’ Marvel comic titles. ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’, ‘Ultimate X-Men’ and ‘Ultimate Fantastic Four’ for example. This is a completely separate universe from the mainstream regular Marvel titles (Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, etc.) so there’s lots of differences where different characters are dead and there are lots of changes to backstories and so on. Just FYI.

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