Monday, June 13, 2005

Ultimates: Homeland Security - What Was So Wrong With This?

Today's "You Decide" is the second Ultimates trade, "Homeland Security" (pick courtesy of MCF).

The collection contains issues #7-13 of the first volume of Ultimates, written by Mark Millar with pencils by Bryan Hitch (inks by Andrew Currie on #7 and 8 and Paul Neary on #9-13).

The question in the title is more of a rhetorical question, as Mark Millar has pretty much done a 180 from this story in Ultimates Volume 2, and I think that that is unfortunate, as this story was quite good, I thought.

Bryan Hitch is a fine artist, and I think he is put to much better use when he is not just drawing people sitting around talking who all happen to look like celebrities. In this storyline, Millar actually gives him things to DRAW, and Hitch does a great job with it.

This storyline also saw the reunion of Hitch with his Stormwatch and Authority inker, Paul Neary, who I think was a big improvement over Andrew Currie on the title (Currie seemed a bit less willing to actually INK Hitch's pencils, which is fairly understandable, as Hitch's pencils must seem so daunting - so detailed in nature...but Neary is not put off by the detailed pencils, as he is quite willing to ink, and the end product is much cleaner and, in my opinion, better looking).

The big difference between this series and the current one is that in this volume, Millar was much more willing to give the readers people to root for (and yes, in Hank Pym, someone to root against). In the current volume, he is basically doing the "you thought they were nice? WRONG!" thing, which is certainly a fair enough writing approach, I just do not think it suits the style of comic he is writing, just like how I did not think Brian Azzarello's Superman storyline fit the style of comic he was doing, so I do not think Millar on Ultimates Vol. 2 fits the style of the comic.

His work on THIS story, though, does...and it is disheartening to know that apparently Millar was not pleased enough with this style to repeat it. It is not like this style canNOT be repeated. This is basically the same style Millar used for 33 issues on Ultimate X-Men...but only 13 issues of Ultimates?

It is a shame.

In any event, this storyline tells two major stories

1. The resolution of the first story arc (#7 deals with the carnage of the Hulk and #9 deals with the abuse Hank Pym commited in the first arc).

2. The rest of the issues detail the Ultimates fighting against the Chitauri, an alien race of shapeshifters who were behind Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1940s.

The second stories, I think, were the highlight of the collection. Yes, it was fun to see Captain America beat up a giant-sized Hank Pym, but like the "What do you think the A stands for?" line, it strikes me more as just setting up Cap for a later fall than anything else.

The fights against the Chitauri were handled well.

First, there is a Matrix-style fight with Hawkeye and Black Widow against Chitauri operatives that I thought was handled particularly well (really highlighting Hitch's ability to depict action and movement...which makes the fact that so many issues of Ultimates do NOT have movement even MORE annoying...the guy is really good at drawing action and movement, let him draw action and movement!).

The flashback story of Captain America against the Chitauri Nazi operative back in 1944 was quite cool.

Finally, the final fight against the Chitauri was handled exceptionally well (except for some cheesy moments) with many very cool moments.

Millar, in this arc, really gave us people to root for. As Wasp says, "I think this means we just offically became superheroes."

So I ask again...what is so wrong with that?

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Blogger Greg said...

What was wrong with it? Well, nothing, I suppose, but there wasn't anything terribly right with it, either. The problem with the Chitauri story is twofold: it's been done, and it gives humans an excuse.

Okay - it's been done. X-Men/WildC.A.T.s, Logan and Zealot, gorgeous freakin' art by Charest, same exact story. Same. Exact. Story. Okay, it doesn't take place in the present, but it's the same exact story. Millar ripped it off. Let's call him on it. Sure, plagiarizing ideas is nothing new in any form of fiction, but still.

Second, it bothers me when writers try to explain away the almost unbelievable evil of the Nazis by saying "Aliens did it." What a cop-out. It's almost like they can't believe the almost unbelievable evil of the Nazis, so they need a convenient, "comic-book" excuse for what happened. It bugs me. Human beings are perfectly capable of being horrid to each other. We don't need no stinkin' aliens to explain the Nazis.

You mentioned the Captain America line picking on the French. I have a lot more respect for the French than apparently anyone on the planet (except, you know, the actual French), and that moment was the lowlight, to me, of Ultimates Vol. 1. Still a good read, but at that moment I realized that Millar was turning into a rock star who wanted attention for being him rather than for his writing talent (which is considerable).

So that's what's wrong with it. You asked.

6/13/2005 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"In the current volume, he is basically doing the "you thought they were nice? WRONG!" thing, which is certainly a fair enough writing approach, I just do not think it suits the style of comic he is writing, just like how I did not think Brian Azzarello's Superman storyline fit the style of comic he was doing, so I do not think Millar on Ultimates Vol. 2 fits the style of the comic."

Bitch, you better have been wasted when you wrote that sentence.

6/13/2005 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad Curran said...

I found this storyline to be pretty underwhelming, too. I think it's the fact that Millar hooked me with his character work in the first six issues, and after the Pym/Cap fight, it was all plot. And pretty letharically paced action, at that. I've liked the new volume considerably more, probably because he's been doing shorter stories, although I still think the series peaked after that first storyline.

6/13/2005 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

I'm probably alone in this, but I'm actually enjoying the second series more than the first, and I think the latest issue - The "Defenders" one - was the best so far in the series. I"m not a huge Millar booster but he really seems to be heading someplace interesting with this. On the other hand it could be like "Wanted" and end with a big "FU" to the readers...

6/14/2005 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, Nik, as I have said elsewhere on this blog, if Millar does not give Ultimates 2 the "Wanted" treatment (which I think he WILL), then yeah, it would be a good book as well.

I just think he IS going to give it the Wanted treatment.

6/15/2005 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

I liked it. Not as much as I liked the first one (Which was just OH MY GOD, kill your family for the inheratince money to buy more copues awesome) but still really solid. Hitch conveys that Kirby-ish sense of BIG STUFF HAPPENING NOW better'n any other artist working today, and makes even the talking heads sequences feel all Kirby, which was better than Kirby could do.

And, holy geez, the fight scenes were like diamond-shaped chunks of visual ballet.

6/16/2005 09:37:00 PM  
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