Review: Ultimate Avengers By Mark Millar Omnibus

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Mark Millar is a controversial figure.

No one can doubt what he’s given to comics and, indeed, films. He changed the Marvel landscape with Civil War, gave us London’s Kapow! convention, and launched CLiNT magazine. Oh, and supplied us with possibly the most violent and swear-ridden comic known to man.

It’s been ten years now since the critically-acclaimed Ultimates hit the shelves, introducing warped versions of the familiar MU Avengers. And in Mark Millar’s latest omnibus collection, we’re introduced to warped versions of the warped versions.

Ultimate Avengers By Mark Millar Omnibus collects the first three volumes of the titular comic book (each comprising of six issues) and Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #1-6 in a beautiful white and gold/green exterior that won’t break your wrist unlike some other omnibuses. And with an RRP of £55.99, it’s pretty reasonably priced, considering that you can typically get a copy for about £35. As ever with the omnibus range, it’s wonderfully presented, with nice glossy finishes, a stand-out, white spine and a few ‘special features’ at the back, like variant covers, sketchbooks and cover ideas; it’s fleeting, but a welcome addition.

It begins three weeks after Ultimatum, an event generally considered as bad as comics get, and immediately sets up the premise of the whole book, even though this won’t become apparent until quite a way in. This first arc ushers in the return of Carlos Pacheco (Avengers Forever; Fantastic Four) to Marvel, and his stunning art echoes the widescreen-work of original Ultimates illustrator, Bryan Hitch. He’s a perfect choice for the book, and, coupled with colourist, Justin Ponsor and a plethora of inkers, gives the volume a fresh and exciting feel. The spreads and flowing layouts really help its pace, which has the feel of a blockbuster movie to it. And this is something Millar is often criticised for.

Ultimate Nick Fury sets out his agenda

I can see it both ways. Yes, comics are a medium of their own right; a medium that doesn’t have to be defined by or likened to others, particularly films. This is the reason Alan Moore doesn’t like to see V for Vendetta and Watchmen on the big screen. However, I also feel that as long as it sparks the imagination, it doesn’t really matter.

We also have to remember that many will be flocking to comics after seeing the big-hitters like Avengers Assemble and The Amazing Spider-Man in cinemas and on DVD, so these ‘widescreen,’ sweeping techniques are well suited as an introduction to the medium. As long as the characters are well-written, the dialogue is snappy, and the plot is interesting and relevant, does it really matter if an issue or storyline has the feel of a movie?

The Ultimate origin of the Red Skull…

And maybe this is an issue with Millar’s Ultimate Avengers. While much of the dialogue is good – “[Spider-Man] can drive a man to suicide in three or four exchanges,” someone remarks – and the characters involving, not all of them are particularly likeable. And this is surely a big problem with heroes you’re supposed to be rooting for. Indeed, some of the pointless deaths that occur hardly make an impact. Captain America and Hawkeye remain the most likeable, especially as the former is the personification of a one-man army, but many of the others are just there as replacements for the original Ultimates line-up. There’s a new Black Widow, a new Hulk (or two), and a new Iron Man (sort of) – and only the latter is remotely successful. In fact, I really hate what Millar’s done with the Hulk: the ‘original’ Hulk is a useless addition, while the ‘Nerd’ Hulk is ridiculous.

‘Nerd’ Hulk vs… Iron Man?

Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough, there’s a new Captain America too. Even though the original’s still there, on the whole. And this new Captain is… uh, the Punisher. Maybe this is why the deaths are meaningless: you know another replacement will be along any minute.

The low point for the team comes in volume two, where they’re overshadowed by an amazing Ghost Rider, awesomely drawn by Leinil Francis Yu (Secret Invasion; Wolverine), as he goes up against Blackthorn. (In fact, his Ghost Rider might be the best rendition I’ve seen!) It’s not that strong a story, mainly due to a ragtag team of Avengers who you know won’t gel. With the original Avengers and Ultimates, there were many arguments and fisticuffs, but you just knew that, in the end, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor would get along. But here, there’s too little chemistry and heart.

Ultimate Ghost Rider. Wow.

However, this isn’t a terrible omnibus, as many expected. Actually there’s a lot to enjoy.

As previously stated, Captain America really kicks butt, particularly in the first arc, which heralds in the first and only appearance of the Ultimate Universe’s Red Skull. The twist on his origin isn’t that surprising, but it’s still pretty cool, and suitably gruesome. The death of Nikolai Laskov is particularly horrible – so naturally, there’s some mindless violence lingering on from Kick-Ass.

The third arc riffs off the huge vampire trend of late, something which Millar has come under criticism for. But it’s actually a great move. Keeping up with trends, and predicting the next ones, will always draw readers in, and it’s something that Marvel – and, indeed, every noteworthy company – has always done. Plus there’s a fantastic Twilight parody.

 I was initially sceptical of Steve Dillon’s artistic contributions to the storyline that introduces us to Blade, but, actually, it’s very fitting. But Leinil Yu makes a welcome return in the final storyline, which pits the Ultimates against the Avengers. There are plenty of surprises throughout, but especially in this concluding tale, which starts off really strong. The addition of Spider-Man seems forced – as the Punisher aptly notes, “where the %&*# did HE come from?!” – but Frank’s guilt is great.

The ‘Hulked-out’ heroes in Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #5 is a bit too silly for my liking, but generally, Millar’s conclusions are really strong. The finale to the third arc is very visual and cinematic – clever too – as is the way the Red Skull is dealt with in the first storyline.

Yes, there are plenty of clichés thrown about, and character depth isn’t at its most fascinating, but there’s still a lot to enjoy here. Well worth thirty-odd quid.

If you want to see Mark Millar at his best, pick up The Ultimates. But if you want him in his “not-at-his-best-but-still-much-better-than-most” mode, order Ultimate Avengers now.

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“First Blood”: 40% Off Operation Zero Tolerance!

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Go to forbiddenplanet.co.uk before Wednesday 14th March to get 40% off August’s X-Men: Zero Tolerance HC.

This brings the price down from £55.99 to just £33.59.

At 640 pages, the book collects Generation X #26-31, X-Force #67-70, X-Men #65-70, Uncanny X-Men #346, Wolverine #115-118, Cable #45-47 and X-Man #30, with a cover by Francis Leinil Yu. Writers include Scott Lobdell, Steve Seagle and Terry Kavanagh, with artists like Joe Bennett, Carlos Pacheco and Salvador Larroca.

Here’s the blurb for the 1990s tale:

A rogue faction of the U.S. government, backed by powerful international forces and led by the man known only as Bastion, is about to launch a massive strike against the X-Men with one goal: the extermination of the entire mutant race. With Jubilee and Professor X captives, the X-Mansion overrun and Prime Sentinels darkening the skies, the X-Men, X-Force and Generation X must fight a war on many fronts. And it’s a war they’re losing. This is the X-Men’s darkest hour.

I’m really excited by this release; its reprint in the UK line, Essential X-Men, was being published as I was just getting into X-Men comics, right after the Onslaught saga.

Forbiddenplanet.com hasn’t got the book listed yet, but Amazon.co.uk has it at a pre-order price of £35.61.

It’s a big tome, but nobody seems to know if it’s officially an omnibus or just a Hardcover collection like The Invincible Iron Man books. Either way, it’s worth letting you know about it!

“The Next Generation”: 40% Off Ultimate Comics Avengers!

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April 2012 sees the release of the Ultimate Comics Avengers omnibus, which collects some of Mark Millar’s final work for Marvel (though he may still return after the expansion of the MillarWorld line).

Art by Leinil Yu.

Until 16th November – yep, just under a week – you can pre-order the HC for £33.59, a 40% saving off its RRP of £55.99, from forbiddenplanet.co.uk.

http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&products_id=67238

Written by Mark Millar, and pencilled by Carlos Pacheco, Leinil Francis Yu, Steve Dillon and Stephen Segovia, the omnibus collects Ultimate Avengers #1- 6, Ultimate Avengers 2 #1- 6, Ultimate Avengers 3 #1-6 and Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs. New Ultimates #1- 6, and sees the Ultimates and Avengers battling against the Red Skull, Ghost Rider and a whole heap o’vampires!

Carlos Pacheco's Ultimate Cap!

The material in the 608-page book is also collected in paperback and hardcover graphic novels, under the titles: The Next Generation; Crime and Punishment; Blade vs. The Avengers; and Avengers vs. New Ultimates: Death of Spider-man.

Amazon.co.uk and thebookdepository.co.uk have the omnibus for £41.99, while forbiddenplanet.com has it on pre-order for £38.63.

Art by Leinil Yu.

Will you be buying it? Are you a Mark Millar fan? And did you pick up the last Ultimates omnibus? Please share your views; all are welcome.

January 2012’s Solicitations

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Marvel has just released details of what’s coming in January 2012… and it looks like Amazon.co.uk was right with their prediction of Mark Millar’s run on Ultimate Comics Avengers. It seems that December will be a quiet time for Omnibus fans, but the New Year will continue the trend of two releases a month. Here are the solicitations for Ultimate Comics Avengers and – get ready to be excited – The Amazing Spider-man Volume Two…!

ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS BY MARK MILLAR OMNIBUS

Cover art by Leinil Francis Yu.

Written by MARK MILLAR

Penciled by CARLOS PACHECO, LEINIL FRANCIS YU, STEVE DILLON & STEPHEN SEGOVIA

COVER BY LEINIL FRANCIS YU

All of superstar Mark Millar’s ULTIMATE AVENGERS sagas, collected in one volume!

• Captain America goes rogue to learn the truth about the Red Skull, and S.H.I.E.L.D. commissions a new team to bring him in!

• A 7-foot-tall biker with a flaming skull has been brutally murdering the rich and powerful, and the White House orders the Avengers to take down the Ghost Rider!

• The various vampire clans have united under a charismatic new leader encased in a salvaged Iron Man suit. Can Blade and the Avengers work together to stem the blood-red tide?

Collecting Ultimate Avengers #01-06; Ultimate Avengers 2 #01-06; Ultimate Avengers 3 #01-06; and Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates #01-06.

608 PGS./Parental Advisory …$75.00

ISBN: 978-0-7851-6132-5

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS VOL. 2

Cover art by John Romita.

Written by STAN LEE

Penciled by JOHN ROMITA with DON HECK, LARRY LIEBER, JIM MOONEY & MARIE SEVERIN

Covers by HUMBERTO RAMOS & JOHN ROMITA

The Stan Lee/John Romita era starts here! Lee and Romita transformed the web-slinger into Marvel’s top title with stories that raised your spirits, tore at your heartstrings and kept you on the edge of your seat. From the revelation of the Green Goblin’s secret identity to the unforgettable entrance of Mary Jane Watson, these classics define Spidey to this day — with star-studded debuts including the Kingpin, the Rhino and Captain Stacy; Spidey’s disastrous first tryout with the Avengers; the iconic “Spider-Man No More!” issue; the true story of Peter Parker’s parents; and an epic battle against the Green Goblin!

Cover art by Humberto Ramos.

Collecting Amazing Spider-man#39-67 and Annual #03-05; Spectacular Spiderman Magazine #01-02; and material from Not Brand Echh #02, 06 and 11.

968 PGS./Rated T …$99.99

ISBN: 978-0-7851-5857-8 (Ramos cover) and ISBN: 978-0-7851-6014-4 (Romita cover).

The first ASM omnibus was released in 2007, and collected the entire Steve Ditko run, so it’s about time we had a follow-up, featuring the brilliant art of John Romita.

Amazing Spider-man #67

Obviously, with this omnibus finishing on ASM #67, there’s plenty of Lee and Romita’s legendary run remaining, so maybe we’ll see even more of the web-head in 2012. Who else is hoping for a follow-up to Uncanny X-Men Volume One or other classic omnibuses?

January’s going to be a great month – especially for those with excess money from Christmas!

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