Review by Jack Kibble-White
When it comes to skating over the surface, Mark Millar is comics’ Torvill and Dean. The signifiers of depth and complexity are replete throughout the first volume of The Ultimates 2: God & Monsters without there necessarily being any real subtext bubbling below the surface. This sounds like a criticism, but is intended as a compliment. Millar’s work has always operated at a sensory, not intellectual, level and there are few better at pressing the right buttons.
Although set a year later, tonally The Ultimates 2 picks up right where the first series left off. The letterbox artwork and cinematic sense of location is still in place and the snappy dialogue is written by a man who has nothing left to learn about being taut. This sequel steps up machinations by focusing on the public perception of The Ultimates and how their enemies choose to use it against them. Tellingly, the first chapter ends, not with a slugfest, but Bruce Banner choking on his sandwich as a TV reporter reveals to the world that the scientist is in fact the Hulk’s alter ego.
With Banner standing trial for the Hulk’s crimes and Loki intent on destroying the Ultimates, there is a more substantial plot going on across this collection than we have previously seen in The Ultimates oeuvre. Loki, Master of Manipulation lest we forget, has two strands to his plans: involving the team in combat, but more meaningfully through sabotage in the form of implanting a traitor within their ranks. By the end of this book, we have yet to learn traitor’s identity, but the screw is deliciously turned as we see Hank Pym (Giant-Man) conversing with that very person, the turncoat being kept just off screen.
As ever, Bryan Hitch’s art is superb. Aided by Paul Neary, his consistency and obviously exemplary work rate shine through. There are some nice uses of digital effects as well, such as when Thor is zapped by Iron Man.
If you haven’t liked The Ultimates up until now, the slightly gratuitous introduction of Captain Britain, The X-Men, Daredevil and the Defenders isn’t going to change your mind, and in truth Millar has no intention of reaching out beyond his core audience. They love him and he loves knowing how to give them exactly what they want.
For those preferring a more luxurious package, this is collected along with the sequel Grand Theft America in an oversize hardback.