“Ultimate Six: Part four”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Trevor Hairsine (p), Danny Miki (i)
The central issue of this seven-issue miniseries sees Norman Osborn and the other four Ultimate villains embark on their nefarious scheme, engaging in a battle of wits with enemies in high places and adding a new dimension to the threat posed to Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. After bluffing the Ultimates and throwing them off balance, the extent of Osborn's obsession with Peter becomes clear as the Triskelion is attacked...
Another impressive issue. More solid writing, more great art, and more of this series taking a step in a slightly different direction to what you were expecting. It's become a Bendis trademark to go back to interesting elements from earlier issues that you thought were throwaway comments, and make them the focus of the story. Here, he returns to the idea from issue #1 that Nick Fury is in fact acting as something of an outlaw himself: he's been given virtually unlimited power - by a right-wing president in the pocket of big business, who is threatened by terrorism on a grand scale - to detain criminals indefinitely in "a little super-villain concentration camp... without any trial or any due process.". The irony of this none-too-fantastical situation will not be lost on the reader.
In this issue, Fury is finally called to account for this behaviour by the very people that he was holding illegally: Norman Osborn and the rest of his merry band of criminals. Osborn shows that he knows how to work his friends in high places, with a threat to expose these less-than-noble operations of the Ultimates that could not only bring down Fury, but also the entire presidency. It's intelligent and relevant writing like this that jusitifes Bendis' accolades. The only bitter pill to swallow may be the realisation that this is what is going on already in the world today, it's already public knowledge - and no-one looks as though they're losing any sleep over it.
As an action-oriented series this issue will not disappoint, featuring a bravura performance by the Ultimates themselves as they storm Kraven the Hunter's media offices, as well as a showstopping attack by the villains towards the issue's close, in a manner which is carefully contrived to use the strengths of each character to maximise their threat. There is a real sense of unstoppable menace on display here, no more so than on this issue's last cliffhanging page. The only possible complaint here could be that Spider-man continues to be under-utliised: there's been hardly a scene of him in battle, or indeed in full costume, since the series started. This is remedied to some extent in the issue's closing scenes, but with only three chapters to play out it'd be nice to see Peter get a little more involved. Maybe Bendis has been focusing himself more on the challenge and enjoyment of writing the Ultimates for a change - to give him his dues, he's concentrating on the most interesting element of the book.
Both story and art continue to impress in Ultimate Six with characterisation and a fast-moving plot proving that they need not be mutually exclusive. The title shines as a great example of mainstream comics with brains: balancing an intelligent plot with relevance to events in the world today with larger-than-life action and flashy superheroics. The next issue can't come quick enough.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!