By Millar, Hitch, Currie
Ultimates vol. 1 issues 1-6

This is the “edgy” reimagining of Avengers for a more cynical time where there are no heroes, just different kinds of assholes. In case you can’t tell, I’m a fan of the classic Avengers who were quite dysfunctional enough for me, thanks.

The first issue gives us Captain America in 1945. The Nazis have built a super bomb and a small army of soldiers have been sent to destroy it. Captain America and Bucky are among them. This time, Bucky is a reporter and a medic who has been friends with Cap since they were kids. Cap has a fiancée, Gail, waiting for him back home. Unfortunately, the rocket with the bomb is sent to D.C. and Cap jumps aboard intending to destroy the guidance system before it hits its target. He’s blown off the rocket and into water.

In next issue we’re reintroduced to the rest of the team. Bruce Banner has been on a rampage as the Hulk but swears that the Hulk cells are now gone from his body. He’s offered a government funding for his research into the Super-Soldier serum. Unfortunately, he isn’t quite trustworthy so, Hank Pym’s now in charge. This makes Bruce miserable, of course.

Hank has his own problems. He’s supposedly invented the shrinking and growing serums as well as a helmet that can command ants. He seems to be happy enough to play super hero but he and his wife Janet are hiding their own secrets. Neither of them really likes Bruce.

Tony Stark is still the billionaire playboy that he’s always been.

We don’t see Thor until the later issues. Nobody believes that he’s really the Thunder God even though he can command lightning with Mjolnir. He refuses to join the Ultimates who he sees the extension of US army. He’s trying to change the world for the better in his own way. However, he doesn’t really talk but makes almost constant speeches against corporations.

Captain America is, again, found preserved in ice and revived. He has some difficulties adjusting to the modern world when all of his friends are old or dead. Janet helps him try to adjust. I think the most moving moments in the comic happen when Cap visits old Bucky.

And oh yes, the new General Fury; black, wears an eye patch, and looks like Samuel L. Jackson. He’s probably the only “upgrade” that I actually enjoy.

I liked this version a lot at start when it first came out. However, I have more mixed feelings about it today. I didn’t really like the way that Jan and Hank turned out to be around issue 6. Also, now I think that Millar could have deviated more from the Avengers canon; none of the supposed surprises are surprising. Now it just feels like the same old, same old (although with very pretty art). Perhaps surprisingly, I might have enjoyed Ultimates more (at least now) if they had made more radical changes: a different first line-up? Tony having another addiction than booze or some other problem all together? Tony as a woman? Cap not revived but some other super-soldier instead of him? Thor is the only character who is really different and when I first read the comic I really enjoyed it when I didn’t know where his story was going.

The first four comics feel like warming up for bigger things. The first issue has a lot of ordinary human fights in the WW II but the other issues don’t have much fighting at all. They’re about getting the team together, dealing with media and PR, and letting the characters get to know each other. In contrast, the issue 5 is pretty much a big fight scene and issue 6 deals with the aftermath.

Ironically, most the characters seem to get along better than some of the classic Avengers (granted, they are missing both Hawkeye and Namor).

I love Hitch’s art which is gorgeous as ever.