There were a lot of expectations going into All-New Ultimates. The Ultimate Marvel Universe was drastically changed and the creative teams changed with it, so there are probably going to be glitches and flubs here and there coming in- none that are unforgivable. Fiffe and Pinna take a strong, and almost altogether successful swing at the newly formed collection of heroes with their work on All-New Ultimates #1.
It’s good to see Fiffe not take the first issue of this new series for granted. Rather than a focus on catch-up for any new readers, though it is new-reader friendly book, Fife chooses to highlight some serious world-building and spend some time defining his characters. All-New Ultimates is set up to be the primary source for interaction between these characters, the teen team assembled in Survive #1, with Miles still continuing his own book. Miles’ involvement in the first issue is mostly in the background and instead readers get a lot of great interactions from Cloak, Dagger, Kitty, and Jessica. Bombshell is also wonderfully used in this story and I expect to see great things from her character in the future.
The book pushes these characters forward and introduces a new threat to the team, a necessary element if Fiffe hopes to keep the team separate from their predecessors. Team-leader Jessica Drew (who fits wonderfully into her new role) gives both the reader and the team the skinny on their new antagonists, the Serpent Skulls. Original to the Ultimate universe, their name borrows from the Serpent Society and Serpent Head organizations, both of which 616 Captain America has tussled with.
This slithering group of rogues are seemingly no match for the Ultimates, but it’s a different story for the All-New batch of budding heroes this time around. It promises to be intriguing to see how they deal with a problem like this. Mix in the corporation Roxxon and their experiments with super-ability inducing drugs, and this is very much a ground level assault on New York that the team quickly has to deal with.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the fractured narrative storytelling that Fiffe has utilized to tell this story. On one hand we have five heroes who are products of “corporate scientific misconduct” fighting against other such atrocities and on the other hand you have street-level hero business, very much in the spirit of Heroes for Hire or Al Ewing’s current Mighty Avengers. There’s room for the story to go a very idealistic route or a very safe, practical, comic book route. From the looks of it, Fiffe has no intention of doing anything but riding the middle, which could be just fine.
While this particular situation is by means “small-time,” in consideration to the monumental difficulties the previous Ultimates team was up against, there’s no point in holding your breath for world-ending doom just yet. But Fiffe really brings out the importance of the Serpent Skull situation with the a plethora of new characters.
Styx and Stone appear for the first time in their Ultimate incarnations and they live up to their C-list level of fame from the 616 Marvel Universe. Three detectives make their debut in the series as well, which could prove to be an interesting element if the street-level team continues to be seen as vigilantes rather than actual heroes. Though this could be difficult for Fiffe to pull off with Kitty Pryde, the savior of the world, on their team. All of these new villains and potential-allies are interlocked in the Roxxon conspiracy, the very one the Ultimate Spider-Man characters have been wresting with since the Bendis and Bagley era with Peter. It’s a lot harder to put a sincere level of threat behind the name of a company like this without a villainous character like Osborn/Green Goblin behind the curtain. Roxxon was a thug-like, corporate jerk at best and he has been dealt with repeatedly. His small council of experimental villains that Bendis established are intriguing enough and it would be nice to see the same levity that Osborn gives OsCorp given to Ultimate Roxxon and it appears that’s exactly the direction that Fiffe is headed for.
Ultimate books are known for their grounded, realistic character portrayals and oftentimes, certainly with Miles, strong funny-bone. This book is not laugh-out loud and with no school day interactions, outside of Ganke’s random assault in the beginning, there’s little going on here outside of costume. If the books shapes up to be a super-suits only title there’s no shame in that. Many fans have been itching for further development on Cloak, Dagger, and Bombshell and if this book focuses almost strictly on them, it’s still no loss.
I will take a moment to be upfront and say this is not my cup of tea when it comes to art styles. I am not sure what to make of Amilcar Pinna’s art on this book but to my senses and research he seems to be holding back. The colors on the other hand seem to amplify any issues anyone might have with Pilar’s style. Pilar brings a flare that’s not really been seen yet in the Ultimate Universe but the colors are a lot of cool blues and soft purples, and most of it doesn’t really hinder the enjoyment of the panels, but it dampens the action with nothing too inventive or exciting really going on, especially in the action sequences. What the art lacks in creativity it makes up for simplicity. You’re never confused about what’s going on, no panel is ever too busy, and the characters fit snugly into their designs and don’t break them throughout, with the exception of Kitty who appears briefly and looks in one panel like she could afford to eat a few more pizza slices. Skeletal is a good word for it.
All-in-all, you can’t ask for a better first issue. Right to the point, approachable writing style, and great character interaction. The art has a ways to go, but by no means should it be written off. I got what I expected and with it came a promise for a lot more to come. There’s some good times in store for the All-New Ultimates and if this issue is any indication, there’s a strong possibility that soon we are going to be getting a lot more characters we may recognize. Fingers crossed.