“Ultimate Six Part 7”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Trevor Hairsine (p), Danny Miki (i)
The miniseries concludes as the aftermath of the Ultimate Six's attack on the White House is explored. Harry Osborn confronts his father, the Green Goblin, begging him to stop fighting: but can he convince the demonic leader of the Ultimate Universe's Sinister Six to cease his vendetta against Spider-Man and Nick Fury...?
I've been a great fan of this series all the way up until this promised thrilling climax that was seemingly begun last issue. The preceding six issues have mixed old-school superheroics with a politically aware subplot, creating a series that was enjoyable on many levels - whether you were a young reader looking for visual thrills and well-known characters duking it out or an older, more mature comics aficionado with an eye for wryly relevant storytelling dressed as an old-fashioned team-up. A shame, then, that this issue throws away much of what has made the series enjoyable and provides a predictable, safe finale which feels a lot less climactic than what happened last issue.
The artwork remains of a high quality: some of the Green Goblin shots are again awesome (his mutating arm providing a possible artistic homage to Akira?) and there is a powerful, solid physicality to Hairsine's depiction of Iron Man, making his presence felt in the final struggle on the White House lawn and in a neat sequential double-page splash shortly after. However, such pretty visuals can only rely on the direction of the writing to provide the bones of a story: and here the issue falls flat. Little heed is paid to the emotional significance of Harry's protests - a potentially revealing moment is cut short, maintaining a pleasing ambiguity in their relationship, but denies the reader any real emotional payoff. Even Harry's reaction to his friend as Spider-Man seems muted and overlooked.
Subsequent sequences show a supervillain roundup which adds little to the story - save for an overt, self-effacing attack on its own comic book logic (why not melt down Doc Ock's arms and kill Norman Osborn? Surely the benefits of keeping them around can't be worth such a devastating attack as was suffered by many parties earlier in the series?). Strong story strands which had criticised American foreign policy surface only in a very subdued way this time round, hinting in broad terms about the undesirable nature of a law-enforcement agency which is allowed to make its own law, but shying away from any direct criticism. A little more punch in this area would have not only cemented threads from earlier issues but also added a more rebellious dimensionality to the obedient character of Captain America, instead of letting him come off as merely a petulant pawn in Nick Fury's gameplan.
The effectiveness of this final installment has also not been aided by its three-month-delayed release, for reasons unknown. I wouldn't be surprised if a more politically scathing finale had been rejected in favour of this more anodyne effort which lets the series go out with a whimper rather than a bang. A missed opportunity.
An oversized sixth issue would have been the perfect way to finish this miniseries. Unfortunately, this overlong, indulgent seventh issue provides nothing but a predictable, uneventful finale which is bereft of the subtlety or character insight that one would expect from such a lauded master of contemporary comics. Pretty as it may be, the final episode fails to follow up satisfactorily on the more overtly political threads that were indicated earlier in the series, leaving only a hollow and overly simplistic superhero story at its core.
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