Comic book of the week: New Ultimates #1

Comics

There’s a lot of great books out this week, so it was tough to choose a winner. Dave Lapham’s Sparta U.S.A., Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet, Astro City are all contenders, but my pick of the week is New Ultimates #1 written by Jeph Loeb and awesome art by Frank Cho.

(Unless you were a fan of Milestone in the ’90s, in which case Milestone Forever #2 is the pick for you. And if you aren’t a fan, do yourself a favor and pick up any of the recently back in print Milestone trade paperbacks, especially Static Shock Vol. 1: Rebirth of the Cool, which is the best young superhero book ever. That’s right I said ever.)

The Ultimates, a more modern take on the classic superhero team of The Avengers,  has always been a crown jewel for Marvel. (If you missed it, a digital version of the first issue is available to read here.)The Ultimates was a groundbreaking book that Jeph Loeb took over after two stellar 13-issue storylines  by writer Mark Millar (and artist Bryan Hitch). Loeb’s run was widely seen as a letdown after Millar’s work, if not an outright failure.

Despite this, Marvel has give him another shot at the title, pairing him with the always-impressive Cho. It seems Marvel’s faith may be rewarded. Loeb is off to a much better start this time around.

In the wake of a global catastrophe caused by the villain Magneto, the Ultimate Universe has been thrown into disarray and the members of The Ultimates are trying to find their place in the new order of things.

While pondering this, the team finds themselves under attack by The Defenders (ironically enough), a group of formerly non-powered superhero wannabes. The Defenders have somehow gained superpowers and manage to fight The Ultimates to a standstill before stealing the mystical hammer Mjöllnir from Valkyrie and escaping. We see Thor attempting to escape from the afterlife and his half-brother, Loki, taking advantage of his absence on Earth.

Apart from a few lines that suffer from an overabundance of exposition, Loeb does good job easing readers into the story while explaining who everyone is and why they’re there. The pacing moves along nicely, giving sufficient time to all of the different threads and characters introduced. If he can keep up this effort throughout the rest of the series, he may yet step out of Millar’s shadow. And he gets bonus points to bringing back the Ultimate universe’s version of Power Man.

Frank Cho does an excellent job with the art chores in this book. He’s one of the best in the business and his skill is quite evident here. The script allows plenty of women for him to draw, which is one of his strengths. Cho’s art alone is worth picking the book up for.

While the book isn’t as strong as the first two chapters of the title, it’s certainly a great ride well worth taking.