Review: Is Marvel’s Relaunch Of The Ultimate Universe Enough To Regain Fans?

Review: Is Marvel’s Relaunch Of The Ultimate Universe Enough To Regain Fans?

In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out today, August 24, 2011.

Reviews By: Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Ultimate Comics Ultimates #1

What it’s about: Let’s get this out in the open: Ultimate Comics Ultimates is one of the worst titles for a book we have ever seen. It’s even worse than Marvel’s ill-fated attempt at blending sports and superheroes in the comic book series NFL Superpro. But redundant title aside, Ultimate Comics Ultimates has a lot going for it.

Jonathan Hickman has proven himself to be one of the premier writers at the company, and Esad Ribic’s art is more impressive than anything any Hollywood CGI artist could conjure up. Together, these two hope to revive the struggling Ultimates books as they get back to basics and ignore Mark Millar’s recent embarrassing run on the title.

With the Asgardians running amok on Earth, the world is beginning to get anxious about their presence. Europe is already deploying a class of super soldiers, codenamed Excalibur, to handle the situation, while Nick Fury finds himself caught in the middle. Hickman and Ribic are using characterizations and designs that closely mirror Marvel’s recent slate of movies, as the company wants to further blend the two universes together. But what the team should really be commended on is their ability to use characters that have been around for decades and present them in a way that's easy to pick up for news fans, yet still familiar to longtime readers.

No one needs to be a comic book expert in order to understand these stories; they’re simply well-written action comics with some great characters and beautiful art. Marvel seems to be bringing the Ultimate line back to where it should be, and with how mediocre Fear Itself has been as of late, Ultimate Comics Ultimates is a welcome sight.

Batman: Gates Of Gotham #5

What it’s about: Scott Snyder’s Gates Of Gotham is making a case for being one of the best Batman stories in recent memory. Ironically, its only competition is Detective Comics, which also happens to be written by Snyder. 

Centering on the early days of Gotham City and the architects that helped create the stone-and-steel juggernaut, Gates is a steam punk history lesson with a ton of explosions and a dense plot that should keep most anyone entertained.

What to expect this month: It’s Batman versus The Architect with the fate of Gotham City hanging in the balance. The whole story behind the construction of the city’s landmarks will be told and the fate of Gotham’s most prosperous families will be revealed.

Gates Of Gotham will bleed directly into the new direction that Batman is heading into after September’s relaunch, so fans anticipating that should catch this miniseries to avoid any confusion. While this is the last Batman story before the character’s reboot, it’s great to see him go out on such a high note. Fingers crossed that DC’s new direction on the character will be just as memorable.

DC Retroactive: Justice League The ‘90s – One Shot

What it’s about: In the ‘80s and ‘90s, writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis teamed up with artist Kevin Maguire to give the Justice League books a much needed facelift. Up until that point, the League had been filled with B-listers and was being written and drawn by talent that didn’t necessarily have any real creative vision.

What Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire did was…fill the League with B-listers yet again. But this time, at least they had a vision. This trio turned the Justice League from a run-of-the-mill superhero book into a title with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and a bit of absurd characterization.

Now DC is featuring this creative team on a Retroactive one-shot, serving as a bit of nostalgia for old-school fans looking to see their favorite talent back on the books that made them famous. This installment features the Justice League going toe-to-toe with the woefully unorganized Injustice Gang.

Don’t expect Shakespearian plots or layered characterizations; just sit back and enjoy the mind-numbing madness that Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire bring to the table.

Chew #20

What it’s about: Hundreds of comics are released every month. Most feature superheroes in form-fitting costumes, some feature vampires and zombies, and there are even a few about Godzilla. Unfortunately, most of them are nothing more than brightly colored birdcage liners. But then there's Chew, the best comic currently on shelves.

Writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory have crafted a truly imaginative and highly stylized piece of pop-art that's just as sharp as it is bizarre. Chew focuses on a cibopath named Tony Chu; a cibopath is someone who can get a psychic reading from whatever they eat. This makes Chu one hell of a detective for the FDA, but it also means that he spends most of his time devouring some truly disgusting crime scene evidence.

What to expect this month: Issue #20 is the last part of Layman’s latest storyline, Flambe. So far we have seen Chu try to decipher a flaming message written in the sky while fighting alongside a homicidal chicken and snooping around Area 51. Moments of sanity are few and far between in Chew, especially as its hero stumbles upon an egg-worshipping cult here.

In a world where eating poultry is illegal, we suppose worshipping an egg is the only logical thing to do. Even though this may be the last part of a larger story, John Layman always does a great job of easing new fans into a story.

The Punisher #2

What it’s about: Over the past few months, Marvel has relaunched a bunch of vigilante books, such as Moon Knight, Daredevil, and, most recently, The Punisher. While Moon Knight may be veering off the rails slightly, Daredevil and Punisher have each had fantastic debuts.

The first issue of this new Punisher series brought the character back to his violent, crime-ridden roots as writer Greg Ruck and artist Marco Checchetto reminded fans why the skull-clad vigilante has been one of the most successful Marvel characters of all time.

What to expect this month: On the heels of a debut issue that was action-packed and full of gut-wrenching moments, Punisher #2 starts Frank Castle on the hunt for the men behind last issue's wedding day slaughter. With some cops hunting him down, and other officers helping him out, the Punisher looks to mow down anyone and anything in his way.

What Rucka and Checchetto have done here is strip the Punisher down to the essentials. There's no advanced tech, no Microchip; only a pissed-off Frank Castle with a hard-on for killing crooks. And besides a heavily hinted at cameo by Daredevil in a future issue, don’t expect a cavalcade of Marvel guest stars to come marching through this book any time soon. This is for Punisher fans only.

DC Universe: Legacies (Hardcover)

What it’s about: Navigating your way through the DC Universe and all of its multiple Earths can be as confusing as a quantum physics lecture. Some Earths are populated only by vampires, some only populated by werewolves, and there are some where every character is black. Writer Len Wein and a collection of artists, including Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert, and George Perez, are here to help make sense of this world with DC Universe: Legacies.

This book is a simple, streamlined look at the DC Universe through the eyes of the average Joe's who populate the universe. It begins with the Golden Age and slowly makes its way through the Silver Age, the ‘80s, ‘90s, and eventually winds up in current times. It also shows how superheroes have evolved from morally righteous dogooders, into the more ambiguous characters that we know today.

Legacies is part history book, part comic book, but it’s never boring thanks to Wein’s intimate knowledge of these characters and his ability to relate to his audience. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the others are all portrayed as Gods walking among men and fill the book with a sense of awe, but Wein still manages to find a way to ground their personalities in reality and make them as mortal as us.

For anybody interested in understanding DC's somewhat convoluted history, or the comic book medium itself, this is a great place to start.

Tags: dc-comics, marvel-comics, image-comics, the-ultimates, punisher, batman, chew
blog comments powered by Disqus