"Part 2 of 5"
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Brandon Peterson (p & i), Justin Ponsor (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This second issue of Ultimate Vision plays out more like a sci-fi horror comic than a superhero book, and that makes sense when you consider that it's a sequel to Warren Ellis' similarly-themed "Ultimate Galactus" trilogy. Unfortunately, it doesn't do anything hugely original with the concept, never straying too far from the clichés of the genre and failing to develop the Vision into a particularly compelling protagonist. In fact, the android spends the majority of this issue incapacitated and stuck in a dumpster, allowing writer Mike Carey to shift the focus onto his villains, Ultimate A.I.M., and their intentions for the captured Gah-Lak-Tus module.
After neutralising the Vision last issue, Doctor Tarleton of A.I.M. continues to outline his plans for global domination. His terrorist threats and promise of a new world order are standard comic book villain fare, but his crazy scientist persona is just sane enough to make for a fairly calculating villain rather than a cliché raving madman. Unfortunately, that's about as far as the appeal of his character goes: whilst Mike Carey attempts to inject personality into the book via Tarleton's gradual descent into full-blown super-villainy and a Bendis-esque interlude featuring two talkative garbage disposal men, the majority of the book's characterisation is flat and predictable. When the Vision does finally escape from her predicament towards the end of the issue, her android dialogue is about as by-the-book as it gets for robots in sci-fi, and whilst I'd be interested to see how she relates to other supporting characters (such as Ultimate Falcon, or Dima, the plastic child from the first issue, who looks to be growing into the role of surrogate daughter à la Newt from Aliens) there just isn't enough attention given to her to make her interesting as a solo character here.
Whilst the writing doesn't provide a huge amount to get excited about, Ultimate Vision still has Brandon Peterson's slick visuals to fall back on. Peterson's grand, detailed shots of structures like the Gah-Lak-Tus module are impressive (even when you know that they've been rendered by 3-D modelling programs, at least in part), and his cinematic grasp of framing and pacing makes the book's visuals flow well. Whilst there are a couple of disconnections between writing and art (a bungle in which the dialogue conflicts with the visuals over which arm Tarleton is using to operate the Gah-Lak-Tus module's targeting system is mildly distracting), Peterson seems to understand what kind of tone Carey's script is aiming for. A scene in which two A.I.M. astronauts are attacked, possessed, and devoured by the contents of one of the module's biostorage units is a suitably gruesome sequence without being too graphic, tapping into the same areas of bodyshock-horror and the eeriness of outer space that characterised the Alien movies. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the issue results from the effective way that the confined locale of the A.I.M. satellite is brought to life by Peterson's art, and Justin Ponsor's darkened colour pallete gives the scenery a dank, dirty feel which is punctuated by the vivid flashes of green, purple and red that accompany the use of A.I.M.'s technology.
Whilst not a wholly unentertaining book, Ultimate Vision isn't going to set the world alight. There's not enough emphasis on character to give readers an emotional anchor in the story, the plot is fairly slow-moving for a 5-issue limited series, and there's nothing to set it apart from other stories which have covered the same ground. Still, the artwork is solid enough to hold readers' attention even when the writing falters, and fans of pulp sci-fi will likely enjoy the book's unchallenging take on some old staples of the genre.
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