“I’m sitting at the opera and I’m thinking, look at how much work it takes to bore me.” – Dave Attell
Ultimate End is positioned like an epic. It’s got five issues, a huge cast, and the exciting premise of the end of everything. Plus it’s brought to life by an A-list creative team that’s worked on arguably some of the greatest comic book stories of all time. That’s exciting!
Yet the end result has not only been confusing, but it’s now boring. And that’s a serious drag for me as a reader and a fan of these characters and the creative team.
Ultimate End’s central problem is its struggle to find a focus. Is it a character study, where heroes meet their counterparts and better define themselves in the process? Is it an adventure, as characters make wisecracks while fighting insurmountable odds to save the world? Is it a drama, where human beings struggle to make peace with the inevitable? Is it an exciting series of over-the-top action sequences?
In trying to be all of those things, it’s ended up being a disappointing waste of time.
Issue #4 continues the unfortunate trend of Stuff Happening For The Sake Of It. Bagley, Hanna, and Ponsor deliver stunning panels that are jam-packed with characters, my personal favorite featuring an extensive range of Iron Men. These action sequences are beautifully rendered but because of the script, they’re quickly aborted and ultimately empty. There’s zero buildup in the dramatic sense. There’s no momentum to any of it: Battles just happen and then stop. These scenes are fantastic to look at, but the lack of story lets them down.
To that end, it’s frustrating to see plot threads abandoned or ignored at this stage in the game. Why did Tony Stark rescue Banner only to leave him standing in a corner? What is Nick Fury trying to accomplish at this point? What are the All-New Ultimates even doing? Why exactly is the Punisher on a rampage and shooting at teenagers? Where did the bad guys go? What’s happening with the “regular” people of the Ultimate Universe?
If I don’t understand these things by now (and I honestly don’t), then it’s difficult to care about any of it, no matter how much I want to.
And yet, issue #4 makes an effort to hook the reader by offering the welcome appearance of Valeria and Lord Doom. Finally, we have an attempt to link Ultimate End with the greater Secret Wars event! There’s a mysterious hint that all of this chaos is deliberate on Doom’s part, with an outstanding image revealing Miles Morales as the wild card that can derail his plan. Cool stuff, right?
I loved it, but am truly sorry to say that it’s just not enough. Because really, what can happen in the final 20 pages to make up for the previous 80? Knowing that there’s still one issue to go, it already seems like the one scene with Doom and Valeria could have anchored a shorter version of this story and tacked onto one of the main Secret Wars issues.
This event has yet to resonate on any level and it’s almost over. I hate saying this, but thank goodness.