Current Reviews


Slugfest Special - Ultimate Extinction #2

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Brandon Peterson, Justin Ponsor (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Average Rating:

Kelvin Green:
Mark J. Hayman:
Dave Wallace:

Kelvin Green

There are no real surprises this issue, as Ellis and Peterson deliver more of the same, but “the same” in this case is a good solid blend of science fiction horror and superheroic action. It still feels like Ellis is telling two separate stories at once, but even this is actually working out to his advantage, as it gives an effective impression of the size of the Galactus problem; the superheroes are involved with one aspect of the menace, and Misty Knight is tackling another, and so vast and complex is the threat that the good guys aren’t even aware of each other, let alone that they’re fighting the same enemy.

Or maybe I'm being generous and am reading too much into it. Dunno.

I’m in a glass half full mood, so I’m going to assume that Ellis is subtly informing us of the scale of the threat, even as elsewhere he has characters spout frantic hyperbolic measurements to put across, in a far less subtle manner, just how big Galactus is. That’s not to say that there’s not something intrinsically exciting about an enemy that’s a hundred thousand miles long, but I’ve seen Ellis use the same techniques when he did his “Galactus” stories in both Planetary and The Authority, so I find the subtler indications more satisfying this time around.

Elsewhere, Ellis does a fine job of characterising his cast, whether it’s Nick Fury and Reed Richards shakily forming a working relationship, Cap struggling to come to terms with concepts he is just not prepared for, or the Herald Formerly Known as the Silver Surfer trying to be reasonable and honest as he attempts to kill Misty Knight. The Surfer is by far the most successful character, as Ellis continues to outline a complex and fascinating figure. It’s still unclear what role this version of the Surfer holds, but there are implications that he does not see his actions as acts of violence; he refers to death as a journey of sorts, and coupled with the messianic imagery of the previous issue, one sees the Surfer as almost on a mission of mercy, preparing worlds for their ultimate destruction in a sensitive and compassionate way. All of which, of course, makes him all the more creepy and unsettling.

Peterson’s art does look a little too clean and sterile in places, giving things a slightly artificial feel, and the overly-defined way he’s chosen to portray wrinkles makes Ultimate Jeanne DeWolfe look about ninety, but on the whole this is a great looking comic, with some particularly striking imagery (the first look at Galactus and the literally explosive fight between Misty and the Silver Not-Surfer are standouts) and good storytelling and characterisation throughout. The colouring is also much improved, with less of a reliance on overly flashy effects than in the previous issue, and as a result, the comic is a great deal less garish. Sadly, the cover is utterly dreadful, but you can’t have everything, I suppose.

The Ultimate Galactus trilogy-and-a-bit has been something of a mixed bag, but Extinction is shaping up to not only be the strongest chapter so far, but a very strong miniseries in its own right. There’s a palpable sense of escalating tension (even though this is set before the main Ultimate titles), and the creative team seem to be putting in a more confident job with each issue. Good stuff.

Mark J. Hayman

According to an interview with Ellis, included as a back-up feature (along with, for some reason, a quick preview of the first issue of Nextwave; either Marvel couldn’t sell the ad space or Nextwave sales were stagnant out of the box and needed a push), this was supposed to have been Mark Millar’s circus. Somewhere out there must exist the notes or synopsis for his Ultimate Galactus and it’d be a treat to see what might have been (though not so much of a treat as Alan Moore’s “Twilight of the Superheroes” pitch, which kinda more or less morphed into Kingdom Come - despite repeated denials from every corner).

The Gah Lak Tus trilogy has done a job on my brain. Apart from the very groovy final issue, I was openly hostile to Ultimate Nightmare, while plowing through Ultimate Secret, quick as it seemed, had my hourly coffee intake increase geometrically in a mostly failed effort to thwart catatonia (fair warning: massive doses of caffeine aren’t recommended as a curative for that condition). Extinction (no more “Ultimate,” my nerves can't take it) continues the yak-yak-yak, punctuated by a revelation, a mystery, and (wait for it!) some action. I have to wonder if the T + rating doesn't refer to a new blood type, the carriers of which being somehow better attuned to this lumbering beast than the rest of us A, B and O’s.

The usual tensions are in play: Reed squares off versus Fury, Charles pulls his superior act (ticking off Fury who, by the way, deserved a rebuttal for Xavier’s snooty dig regarding the Black Ops Team having handed his X-Critters their collective behinds), and Cap suffers another bout of 21st century angst. We do get a reveal as, evidently, Gah Lak Tus consists of millions of Jack Kirby Punisher-esque robots which for some reason have decided to form a ring around Jupiter. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest they’re getting a gravity slingshot on the road to Earth; they could have used one of the other gas giants but no one wants to hear about the ring around Uranus. The scale suggests that the Punisherettes are considerably larger than the cute, little guy who pummelled Ben back in the 60’s. Also, these guys have icky purple compound eyes - or maybe they’re headlights, in which case they’re very cool.

At any rate, the main creature feature is seven days from Earth, giving Charles a little less than that to bankrupt the world economy in order to construct a giant Cerebro, with which he hopes to increase his telepathic range and have a nice chat with... him/it/them. Solicitations for the third issue indicate that they don’t hit it off.

The Misty - Surfer - Moondragon plot advances not a whit. True, we get a name for the baldface, but we already knew that. Moondoggie’s existence makes one wonder about Titan, Thanos, and even Mantis, but it’s unlikely that these are threads ever to be explored. There is something up with her, possibly extraterrestrial in nature, and we’ll just have to see what develops. Misty herself is arguably the most compressed piece of storytelling to lurch out of the House Of Ideas in some while; already we have a sense of her origin and disposition, while the bionic arm bit leaves us to wonder about her relationship with Tony Stark. The Silver Something, his daffy (nay, ugly!) wings revealed as detachable (or similar), stalks around in his Dick Tracy outfit, apparently wanting to put the hurt on Misty for having outed him. That’s the action: trashing Misty’s office. Obviously, she escapes serious harm and succeeds only in irritating her aggressor, as being booted out the window of a tall building is apt to do. There’s still no indication as to his motives, though my guess is that he’s collecting specimins; don’t ask me why.

Brandon Peterson, who did a nice job on the two issues of Strange that I otherwise suffered, mostly continues to develop as a strong talent. His characters are readily distinguishable, their anatomy recognizably human, and the scenery is both detailed and very pretty. Peterson doesn’t hold back a thing, his action flows beautifully, and any problems with proportion and scale seem to have been overcome. His use of shadow and light is excellent (with a caveat), and Ponsor’s colours (teamed again from Strange) range from moody to vibrant exactly as they should. There is a problem, however, and it’s sufficient to notch back my enjoyment of the illustration: what is up with those facial lines? I didn’t see it in Strange, I didn’t even see it (much) in the first issue of Extinction. For some reason, every single character, except Misty and Moondoggie (hmm...) appear etched; even Reed and he’s, like, nineteen and made of rubber. Fury I can understand; he’s no spring chicken and has, literally, been through the wars. His is a face that would give small children nightmares (but not Ultimate ones - nightmares, that is). The most blatant etching is seen on NYPD Capt. Jeanne DeWolfe. Either this woman is both eighty-five years old and fared badly in a dozen knife fights, or something is terribly wrong with the inking. Panels where zip-a-tone is used for shading compounds her problems, giving her a Homer Simpson muzzle and the look of someone who’s never heard of soap. Even allowing for Jeanne having had a rough time of it, Reed defies explanation. It’s very distressing.

There are four issues to go. Based on the story so far, this will entail three and a half-ish issues of nattering to inch the story ahead, and a handful of pages of action mixed with grandeur. You may want to start a pool to guess whether the latter will occur in the fifth issue, leaving a long, lamentable denouement for the conclusion. Still, the Misty Knight story, and how it ties in with Moondoggie and the Silver Something, is curious and worth further exploration.

Dave Wallace

Don’t let this issue’s exciting cover fool you – there’s no superhero action to be found in this issue, no snazzy colourful costumes on show, and nary an Iron Man, Wolverine or Thing in sight. What we do get, however, is another issue of build-up to the arrival of Gah-lak-tus (which, at this rate, is probably going to happen around the end of issue #5) and a continuation of the Private Investigator mystery which began last time. Actually though, that brief description is probably a little unfair as – whilst it’s true that Gah-lak-tus itself is still floating around somewhere near Jupiter by the close of this issue – lots of Ellis’s story strands are developed further this month, and in a manner which feels far more cohesive than the last instalment, despite the fact that the FF/X-Men/Captain Marvel/Ultimates/Galaktus plot and the Misty Knight/Silver Surfer/Moondragon thread still remain resolutely separate from one another.

Although I have no knowledge of either Moondragon or Misty Knight from their regular Marvel appearances, their story here is considerably more compelling than last month. Misty’s attempts to track down the assassin from last issue hit something of a brick wall as she discovers that the most likely suspect has been dead for years; the plot then thickens when she is confronted by the angelic form of the metal man that she saw leading a religious cult in issue #1, and an explosive fight breaks out between them which sees the mysterious Silver figure emerge completely unscathed. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to have retained his wings from last issue – a tiny note, but one which might become significant as his role in the bigger picture becomes clear.

However, this thread takes second place to the larger story of Nick Fury’s preparations for Gah-lak-tus’ imminent arrival, which sees the elite of the Ultimate Universe’s superheroes teaming up to work out how best to make a pre-emptive strike against what appears to be a giant alien hive mind. A logical but (for me) unexpected step is taken by Fury in his recruitment of Professor X, and I enjoyed the sci-fi possibilities that Ellis opens up with his plan to magnify the power of Cerebro to such an extent that it can broadcast Xavier’s psychic powers into space. There’s a great dynamic on show here between Fury, Xavier and all the other heroes, and an opening argument between Reed Richards and Fury gives Ellis a chance to court the geek vote by showing just how indispensable Reed’s mind is going to be in devising a solution to the apocalyptic problem which faces Fury’s militaristic strike force. I’m eager to see Ellis craft more of these kind of character exchanges in future issues, because he really seems to have a handle on how to write a crossover team-up book which captures each personality succinctly but faithfully, and which doesn’t give short shrift to any particular character in favour of another. Although Carol Danvers, Tony Stark, Thor, and the other three members of the FF are sadly notable for their absence here, I can’t wait to see what Ellis does with them when they do show up.

Ellis also writes some very solid smaller moments here, the standout of which is a gentle rumination by Captain America on whether he still believes in God. It’s a quiet, understated little scene which adds depth and relatability to the Super-Soldier, and the greatest compliment that I could pay it is to say that the entire two-page sequence feels as though it could have been directly ripped from the pages of Mark Millar’s Ultimates. Part of the reason for that is also Brandon Peterson’s excellent artwork, which retains the Ultimate Universe ’s level of realistic detail with ease, and – even if the computerised shading techniques can be occasionally distracting in their overuse – adds a believable form and texture to every element of the book. Peterson perhaps dazzles most in his representation of the Ultimate Silver Surfer, a visual which hasn’t lost any of its impact since last issue, and which conveys an even more otherworldly impression than last time thanks to the fantastical action sequence in which the character plays a part.

Although I’m keen to see this story progress a little quicker, this issue has convinced me that I’ll be happy enough even if Ellis continues to adopt his slow-burn pacing for the remainder of the series. He’s a strong enough writer to make even the talking-heads scenes feel dynamic and exciting, and the mystery surrounding the Silver Surfer’s nature in the Ultimate Universe is a particularly compelling part of the book which I’m eager to see continue. Coupled with Peterson’s solid artwork – a great fit for the Ultimate Universe, especially with Ponsor’s colours – this is book is fast emerging as the strongest of Ellis’ Ultimate Galaktus trilogy.

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