ADVANCE REVIEW: The Ultimates #1 – Spoiler Free

The Ultimates #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Esad Ribic
Color by Dean White
Cover by Kaare Andrews

I’ve lost track of how many Ultimates there have been. I know Mark Miller and Bryan Hitch did a couple series, and then Jeph Loeb did one with Joe Madureira. Maybe there were others? I don’t know, because I haven’t read any of them since the first, which, honestly despite many factors, I really enjoyed as a specific kind of superhero story.

The way I like The Ultimates probably isn’t the way most people like The Ultimates. For instance, I really don’t like these versions of the characters. There’s very little heroic about many of them, and in that way, they’re more realistic, I suppose, but I’m just not rooting for them. From Steve Rogers to Tony Stark to Thor to that one they call Clint Barton, these guys… these are not my kind of guys. But what I do like about The Ultimates is the chance to tell different kinds of stories than we usually get on the treadmill of the regular Marvel U. I like the different take on things, and the fact that, because the characters don’t have to be all that forthright, you do get the sense that anything could happen. So the experience can be interesting, but there’s not much that brings me back to the characters.

Enter Jonathan Hickman. To say that Hickman’s been on a tear lately is an understatement. He accomplished what so many others have failed to do: make the Fantastic Four relevant and interesting again. He’s got a whole other kind of thing happening with S.H.I.E.L.D. and a great many raves on his Ultimate Thor series. On paper, he’s the perfect guy for this gig. But what about in practice?

This issue focuses on the crisis center run by Nick Fury. He shows up for work, and like most days, there’s a lot of nasty stuff going down in the world, and he’s got to orchestrate that response. It’s both thrilling and stressful, but a bit work-a-day. It also tends to be much more nuts-and-bolts than the standard Avengers books. This is how things are run. This is how S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps the world running, and the superheroes get where they’re going. There’s a lot of weight on Fury’s shoulders, and he the right many for a very tough job. Various issues keep him moving the chips around, and Iron Man and Hawkeye are sent to seemingly unrelated events. The UK has sent their new Excalibur team to deal with the rowdy Asgardians who’ve broken into a beer factory, and international kerfuffles abound. This sets the stage for the next step, that you’ll have to read about in the issue, but as it’s a superhero comic book, things don’t go to plan, and heroes have to be heroes. You get the idea.

Overall, it’s compelling, if not a touch dry at times, which I think is somewhat intentional. If you’re looking at things from Nick Fury’s point of view, it’s just a day at the office; an office with a great deal of video monitors. He takes a moment to sip his coffee and gets to business. As there are a lot of characters floating around, and things happening, it can get a little hectic and keeping track of your acronyms might require a crib sheet. Having been not up to speed on the Ultimate world, this is still a fine starting place. I think the second issue will make or break this story. This is very much a cold open, where a regular day goes bad. What happens next? That’s the big question.

Handling art is Esad Ribic, who does pages just like Esad Ribic. I’m a little torn on him. On the one hand, it’s an impressive style, and there are bits of acting from the characters I really like. They look like real people, and that lends credibility to the world Hickman has built. But, as tends to happen with these kinds of realistic pages, they can also look a bit stiff, like people posing for photos. Ribic’s work isn’t too offensive in that regard, and the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, but depending on your tastes, it’s something to be aware of. It will be interesting to watch the real world aspect of the artwork adapt as the story and threats get bigger, and more otherworldly, making for a nice contrast. I tend to prefer more stylistic cartooning in my comic pages, but if we’ve got to have a realistic, painter type of artist, I quite like Esad Ribic, and many more really like his work. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the covers, however. They’re a little lifeless, and don’t have a thing to do with the story. It’s just a pinup, and doesn’t add much to the package. Maybe there’s someone at Marvel who did the math, and they sell, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

It’s a good start. I wasn’t blown away, but I wasn’t turned off either. One thing I always love about Hickman’s writing is that there is thought going on under the surface. It’s always saying something at a deeper level, or at least appears to be, so I’m thinking about it. It’s meticulous. I genuinely believe that Hickman isn’t interested in putting out a comic book that doesn’t impress people, so the effort is on the page. If you liked The Ultimates previously, there’s more here for you to like. If you’ve never read them, this is a fine place to start.

Story: 4 / Art: 3.5 / Overall: 4

(Out of 5)


  1. I’m still on the fence about the art but I have to say I am completely stoked about hickman being on this.

  2. The avengers who are not the Avengers.

    Nicely put.

  3. Outside of moments here and there in FF, Hickman is normally pretty dry, with lots of moving pieces. Sounds like more of the same from him, which is a good thing. And I loved Ribic’s run on X-Force, so color me excited. Thanks for testing the water for us once again.

  4. I prefer a more stylized cartoony style in my art as well. Ribic is really solid and its impressive when you see one or two pages, but a whole book of this type of art is a bit stale for me. Also i didn’t expect that kind of fully rendered colors from Dean White.

  5. I read a lot of comics but have avoided the ultimate universe. The writers being brought into the relaunch are great but im still on the fence

  6. I think it’s more accurate to say that there’s very little *super*-heroic about the Ultimates. They’re still risking their lives to save innocents, they’re just not doing it altruistically.

    But yeah, this sounds pretty good. Hickman might get me reading this title again.

  7. I have enough trouble keeping up the the 616 marvel continuity, so the ultimates universe is just another complication… but I love HIckman’s stuff so I may give it a look when they start showing up on the MDCU.

  8. Love the artist, but hate the writer. Based on this, I don’t think I’m gonna pay four bucks for some pretty pictures. Everyone in the Ultimate universe other than Spider-Man just seems to be a huge dick.

    • That’s about as accurate a statement about the Ultimate Universe as ever. I’m quickly trying to think of a character who *wasn’t* a dick at some point…

  9. On one hand, I have zero interest in reading an Avengers book. On the other hand, I said the same thing about Fantastic Four, and based on reviews here, I bought (and have really enjoyed) everything Hickman has done with that team, so I will check this out for that reason.

  10. I have never been a huge Avengers fan, but really enjoyed the first 2 Ultimate runs and am really looking forward to this new one.

  11. I’ve liked Ribic’s work for the last few years, and Hickman has done some great work as well, but I’m probably not going to be buying this. For two reasons:

    1) Hickman’s hit and miss. I can tell when I’m going to like a Hickman project (Vol. 1 of SHIELD, Nightly News) or when I’m going to be bored by it (Vol. 2 of SHIELD, recent issues of FF). By this point, I can tell where he’s going with certain things, and I’m not sold on his Ultimates project. At best, it’ll be as good as his Ultimate Thor, which was okay but definitely not anything to get excited about or ever want to reread.

    2) I don’t care about the Ultimate universe anymore. I used to read 3-4 Ultimate titles a month a few years ago. But several things such as the downfall of Ultimate X-Men (creatively speaking), the constant need to reboot Ultimate Spidey and/or do completely predictable stories with him, and the constant demolition and rebuilding of the Ultimates franchise–it’s all just left me cold. I don’t feel at home in the universe anymore and it seems like it would be to much of an effort to try to jump back in.

  12. Im kinda pumped about this relaunch. Having only 3 monthly series with a 4th mini every so often means i can read the whole story for like 12, 13 bucks a month.

  13. I think the first two volumes of “Ultimates” and “Ultimate Spider-Man” went a long way towards defining comics in the early 2000’s. (Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate FF were just kind of there because, well, they had to be). The gimmick may have run out of time, and as Party says above, somehow everyone in the Ultimate U except Spidey came across as real dicks. And The Ultimates have never really worked as characters outside of those first 2 volumes, I’ve found. Still… I enjoyed those books enough to give this one a go for an issue or three.

  14. The conclusion to Ultimates 2 was satsifying enough that I didn’t feel a need to read anymore beyond that. Which isn’t to say that this new series won’t be great, just that I’m content with the ending Millar and Hitch gave. Perhaps they did too good of a job πŸ˜‰

  15. Have all these Advance Reviews been for Marvel books so far?

    I’ll probably pick this up. I’m excited for the Ultimate line relaunch. The only book I’m unsure about is Ultimate X-men.

  16. Good review.

    I tend to like Ribic a bit more so this should be in my wheelhouse. But I am a bit iffy on the writing even though I love Hickman. Hickman is great at FF and his Indie work; but his real superhero work like in Ult. Thor has been pretty disappointing. So I’m not sure how I’m gonna like his take on Fury, Stark, and others.

    But I’m excited for it none the less.

  17. I am very jazzed about Hickman writing the Ultimates. I love his ideas and his intricate, layered storytelling.

  18. I haven’t *loved* any of the Ultimates’ series, so I’m not expecting anything different in this one. The storylines rarely involve the team coming together to overcome a problem, which I believe is the heart of any great Avengers story. We usually get glimpses into the lives of singular characters, or the characters all attacking at once, but they never feel close while doing so. At best, they’re a group of people with powers who are coworkers, and maybe that’s the point in the Ultimate U. In any case, I’m always interested in seeing what the ‘next guy’ does, so as usual, I’ll be trying this out too.

    Plus, they’re all dicks. πŸ˜‰