Spoilers in review

Homeland Security continues and completes Superhuman, the first arc of Mark Millar’s comic adaptation of the major motion picture that exists in his imagination. One of the joys of The Ultimates is Millar’s economic way of world building. Sub-plots touch upon defence budgets and public approval ratings, all small details that create a sense of veracity and let Millar get away with having Captain America whack a giant man in the head.

We now have the central premise now sketched in, so there’s more space within which to invoke large scale destruction and action. There’s the aforementioned scrap between Cap and Hank Pym, and then The Wasp is taken captive by an evil alien German called Herr Kleiser, who is the spitting image of actor Robert Carlyle (although this, like Nick Fury’s strong resemblance to actor Samuel L Jackson seems to go unnoticed by most of the characters).

What unfolds is a gripping alien invasion, in which we discover a race called the Chitauri who apparently financed the Nazis in World War Two and now intend to wipe the Ultimates off the face of the Earth by nuking their island base, the Triskellion. A massive battle ensues in which Millar unleashes not one, but two deus ex machina, in the shape, first of all, of Thor and then a reluctant Bruce Banner who transforms into this line’s amped up version of The Hulk and unleashes catastrophic havoc upon the enemy.

It’s a reliably rattling good read, even if there is very little sophistication underneath the hood. Bryan Hitch once again does an astonishing job with the pencils, this time ably supported by stalwart inkers Paul Neary and Andrew Currie. The architecture on display in this book is astonishing in terms of detail, and clearly no one can draw rubble quite like Hitch can.

It’s an impressive book for those who mainline Millar’s sensibilities. And even for the rest of us, it’s an entertaining old school superhero yarn, given a contemporary cinematic twist.

For those who prefer their thrills in a single volume, an oversized hardcover combines this with volume one. A second dose of cinematic action follows in Ultimates 2.