XIII: Ultimate Avengersby Bobby Acosta on Aug. 24, 2011, under Comic Books, Marvel, Opinion, Reviews
It’s been almost ten years since September 11th, 2001.
That’s a crazy notion, if you really try to consider all that’s happened in-between that time and now.
Coming up on that anniversary, I am attempting to prepare myself as a 5th grade teacher to speak about what happened that day and what it meant for me. I think the biggest topic I’ll have to discuss is how the world we are in now was forever altered by that day. Not to bring it up as a point of political or socioeconomic drama, but, the world we’re in is much different than the one I grew up as a child.
I guess sometimes taking the real world and translating themes into comics does help create new and interesting stories.
Following up on the Ultimate Imprint of the Marvel Universe, in “The Ultimate Hero” where we discussed the new Ultimate Spider-Man, we can talk about the other heroes in the world that would preside in a more prestigious role than renegade teenage hero on the streets.
Beginning in 2002, Ultimate Marvel (the imprint used to tell more modern and contemporary stories) began what would be its biggest series yet, “The Ultimates”, their own version of the regular version of The Avengers. This was their flagship, epic-story-centered book that would handle massive events that could not be done in the smaller stories. With the upcoming movie, I would hope that interest in this property is going to be an all-time high. How many times can you see Samuel L. Jackson in a nice black trench coat and an eye patch before you become interested enough to mosey on over to a computer? Hopefully not that many.
Samuel Jackson’s character is named Nick Fury; he leads up The Avengers in the movie. In the comics, they were called TheUltimates. And in the comics, Nick Fury looked more like Samuel Jackson.
In this version, in a world filled with boys that possess radioactive spider-powers and mutants beginning to possess powers that equate a nuclear bomb, the United States government decides that their best option to stay ahead of any future attacks by persons with dangerous power, is to put together a super team that can combat the threats that all of these terrorists create.
The political allegories are numerous in the comic, from the American government taking a more proactive role in preventing worldwide threats to the mainstream backlash that can be caused by such actions. Where is the line drawn?
“The Ultimates” was written by Mark Millar and drawn by Bryan Hitch, a duo in the comic world that are known for their massive, wide-scale stories. Back in the early 2000s, there was a prominent theme of comic creating known as “wide-screen” comics, where the intensity and the feel of a movie would come to the pages of a comic book. One half of this team, Bryan Hitch, was part of that initiative.
Similar in style and substance to another artist we’ve reviewed, Ivan Reis in “No Fear…A Green Lantern’s Secret Origin”, both he and Bryan Hitch both walk that fine line in-between making your realistic figures looking like photo-traced awfulness and humanistic figures that seriously look like the real world on the page.
Bryan Hitch, during this time at least, is a master of this. His characters move, work, and feel in the way as if we were watching a movie. The biggest contribution that Bryan Hitch gave comics, and this is one still held to this day, is the realism of costumes and appearances. When Hitch draws your characters costume, he will definitely alter it in a way that holds true to the original work, but differs in a very specific manner.
With just a little detail here and there, Hitch makes every costume not only realistic looking, but also functional in the real world. Each stitch or flexible material lining creates a realm of history and reality for each costume. From Iron Man to Thor, it all has a purpose. When reading a Bryan Hitch comic, I definitely look forward to the way he alters each outfit.
Even though the artwork of Bryan Hitch makes each and every comic he works with, his collaborator is Scottish author Mark Millar, better known by mainstream audiences for his creation of the high-school nerd turned superhero that gets his ass kicked quite a bit, “Kick-Ass”.
That’s all well and good, and the discussions about what makes super heroes is interesting, but for another article. His work on “The Ultimates” is something of a far different variety.
Millar’s writing strong typically include stories of a larger variety, that seem to work exceptionally well with the art style of Bryan Hitch. Since a story involving the government sponsored super team stopping threats on a global scale, then yes, this would involve creating an atmosphere where we feel the world is threatened and at serious risk.
This means bringing in someone like The Hulk.
What was the world feeling after the 9/11 attacks?
I was old enough to remember the attacks clear as day, but not old enough to begin to imagine all the ramifications that the attacks would bring to the country, economy, the political landscape of the world, as well as foreign viewpoints of American citizens and the actions of our government.
So what does “The Ultimates” show us about our country within the realms of a super hero epic? Well, when America is faced with a challenge or an attack, we retaliate. In this case, in the form of potential super threats, such as The Hulk going on a rampage through downtown New York and killing over 800 people in the process (in a large allegory to the attacks of 9/11), S.H.I.E.L.D. (the government agency used to stop super-threats against America) sends in their super team, The Ultimates. In one of the best choreographed fight scenes of comics, they take it to The Hulk. This all takes place in Volume 1 of the first series.
This pales in comparison to the fights of the upcoming volumes. Orchestrating panel by panel fight scenes is a tough skill to master, but every panel Millar makes matter and creates a story that engrosses you.
However, getting off topic.
Really, if “The Avengers” movie can’t recreate this then maybe it shouldn’t be made at all.
There is something to be said for dealing with life’s events in a different visual medium. It makes things all the more easier to take in, I suppose. Millar did take the classic Marvel heroes of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, etc. and updated them for a more contemporary audience, just like the Ultimate Marvel Imprint was intended for.
However, Millar creates something entirely different. With every issue, the story is broadened and each character is given a moment to shine, all against the backdrop of political turmoil that engulfs the world.
Fear. Panic. Insecurity.
With those terrors, the nation responds with a super team of characters each with their own personal dilemmas. This is a comic, after all, and these heroes do have some very realistic problems. Captain America now being a man out of time. Iron Man’s personal demons. Giant-Man’s human insecurities and hubris.
Suddenly, parallels are drawn to the point of blurring.
And it makes tragedy easier to take in.
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Rob Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. Contact him at email@example.com