Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by David Finch and Danny Miki
Colors by Peter Steigerwald and Guru eFX
Lettering by RS & Comicraft
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Ultimatum is at an end. The question is, was it any good?
Throughout its decade-long history, Marvel's Ultimate universe has pulled no punches, showing that superhero fights did have a human cost, and that no one was safe. With this in mind, perhaps it's fitting that Jeph Loeb took that dial and cranked it to 11. And despite some serious misgivings on the overall execution of this book, I think Loeb sums up how I feel with one phrase: "His vengeance cleared the path for a better world."
For those of you who have been big fans of Jeph Loeb's recent work on the Hulk, then you will probably enjoy the standards that Ultimatum is reaching for. But one quibbly I had with this issue is the fact that while it's billed as a line-wide crossover, it's primarily an X-Men story, with some appearances by the Ultimates, and a handful of cameos by the Fantastic Four. Yet I will say that while the balance of characters is off, there are some moments by Loeb that are just-crazy-enough-to-work: for example, Wolverine literally is burned to his adamantium skeleton by Magneto, as his smoking body falls to the ground. "You killed Wolverine," Magneto says. Suddenly, a horrifying skeleton jerks up, stabbing Magneto through the chest: "Not yet," Wolverine mutters.
Something else that felt weak on the story's end was the final defeat of Magneto. For those of you who haven't read Ultimate Origins, Loeb more or less spells it out for you, as Nick Fury shows Magneto the real secret behind the mutant population. The question I had was -- why would Magneto particularly care? It may be an ugly truth, but a mutant is still a mutant, no matter where he comes from, and the fact that the entire story hinges on this revelation just left me cold. Finally, the fact that eight pages out of 26 were splash pages also frustrated me -- it's not that I don't appreciate some splash pages, but there were times in this book I felt they were needless.
Artwise, David Finch really surprised me with this book. For me, I wasn't a huge fan of his work, as I felt his faces just looked wrong, and the fact that between he and his inkers, his drawings occasionally came off as far too detailed for my liking. But he reins himself in with this issue, however, as the vast majority of it actually looks pretty good, such as the aforementioned Wolverine scene, as well as a scene where Nick Fury telepathically strips down Magneto to his very core. Some images, however, lost me with the composition, including Cyclops' final shot at Magneto.
But that said, while I found Loeb's execution to be shaky, the overall direction of the plot does lead up to one surprisingly satisfying epilogue, where a new mutant is suddenly gunned down in cold blood. Going back to work such as the Long Halloween, I've always found Loeb is at the height of his powers when he has something in popular culture to riff from, and this scene holds the promise of some real shakeups in the Marvel Universe -- if the Hulk hitting New York in the Ultimates or Magneto hitting the White House in Ultimate X-Men was like their 9/11, the death of this character could be their JFK assassination. Furthermore, another scene featuring the Thing -- a scene which is really the only important use of the Fantastic Four in the entire issue -- is a little too cut-and-dry, but again could set up some interesting tension in stories to come.
All in all, if subtlety is your thing, you're probably not going to find it in Ultimatum #5 -- this is a comic that definitely piles on the shock factor, sometimes at the expense of the drama. That said, sometimes comics are like a forest -- you have to burn everything down before it can grow again. And while I can't say that this comic is a strong example of what the medium can aspire to be, I will say that Loeb has given some major promise for the Ultimate lineup. Love it or hate it, there's no cop-outs in this book, and that's something that's rare in this industry. So here's hoping that what they said is true: that nothing will ever be the same again.