Current Reviews


Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #4 (of 4)

Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2010
By: Paul Brian McCoy/Dave Wallace

Warren Ellis
Steve Kurth (p), Jeff Huet & Scott Hanna (i)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 10.

Paul Brian McCoy:
Dave Wallace:

Paul Brian McCoy:

Well, that was a bit of a letdown.

Oh, it wasn't bad overall, but rather than subvert the more cliché elements of the story, Ellis seems to just be going through the motions and embracing the cliches fully. Even the dialogue didn't feel as natural this time around, and Ellis has never had a problem capturing Stark's arrogance and genius.

I also found the resolution to last issue's cliffhanger ending to be a bit abrupt and unbelievable.

However, the thing I did like about this issue, was the ending. After three issues of globe-hopping and weird science, we finally find out what was stolen from Stark's ultra-high security vault. It's a nice twist that allows the series to end with a scene that brings to mind elements of the last season of Deadwood.

Kurth's artwork is the mixed bag it's been from the start. His machinery and armors are extremely well-designed and rendered. His scenery and set design are also very nicely executed. But then he adds people and just completely loses me. I don't like the expressions or the body language that he uses. The faces are ugly and limbs seem to be flailing about like the characters have no control over them. There are only a few oddly twisted necks in this issue, so that's a step up.

As I've said before, the heavy inking of Kurth's work helps to undermine what might actually be interesting facial work. I'd be interested in seeing how these pages looked as pencils.

And that's about all there is to say about that. I'm really not sure what the point of this series was. It didn't seem to go anywhere and I really can't see the events here affecting anything else in the Ultimate Universe. It doesn't even serve as a very interesting exploration of Tony Stark as a character, as it relies a bit too much on cliches that were old when James Bond films were young.

Dave Wallace:

The final issue of Ultimate Comics Armor Wars brings Warren Ellis and Steve Kurth's story to a close, providing a mixture of high-tech action, enjoyable characterisation, several surprising revelations and at least one less-than-surprising double-cross for readers to enjoy.

It's difficult to shake the feeling that this series has been little more than an excuse to throw Tony Stark from one fight scene to another, each of which has pitted Ultimate Iron Man against some variation on his own armour. That said, it's perhaps a little churlish to complain that a book entitled Armor Wars is so preoccupied with people battling over Stark's Iron Man technology, and the book has nonetheless managed to provide readers with an enjoyable romp despite its simplicity. As far as I'm concerned, Warren Ellis's characterisation of Ultimate Tony Stark is still the only one that can match that of Mark Millar in the original Ultimates, and I've also enjoyed the wrinkles that Ellis has added to the story in the form of Tony's new relationship with Justine Hammer and the mystery of exactly who hired Ghost to break into Stark's lab in the first issue.

Both of those elements come to a head here, and whilst I can't say that the resolution to either subplot blew me away, they're both handled perfectly adequately. Where the issue becomes a little more interesting, however, is in the big reveal of the exact nature of the stolen macguffin that has been driving the series since issue #1. Personally, I had been expecting it to be something comically worthless that only Tony Stark could possibly be interested in (a vintage edition of Playboy, perhaps, or a memento of one of his sexual conquests). However, as it turns out, it's something a lot more disturbing and sci-fi oriented than that. This isn't the kind of revelation that you can guess in advance (if anyone reading the series predicted this, I'll be very impressed), but it makes for an unsettling final act for this issue and for the series as a whole, allowing Stark to thwart his enemies but also forcing him to consider his own mortality and his responsibility for the crimes that have been committed using Stark technology.

I haven't yet mentioned the artwork of Steve Kurth, but his contribution to the series has been at least as important as that of Ellis. Given that each issue has seen Tony Stark fight at least one Iron Man-inspired, machine-suited enemy, it might have been easy for the book to fall into the trap of feeling visually samey and uninteresting. However, Kurth's designs have made each antagonist feel distinctive from the others--and that continues here, with some hulking airborne robots that push Iron Man past his limit in one well-drawn action sequence, and a disturbing bio-mechanical creature that plays an important part in the issue's denouement. Kurth also does a good job of capturing characters' facial expressions, particularly in the final section of the issue in which Stark is forced to confront an element of his past that he thought was long buried.

The reason that I haven't given this particular issue a higher bullet-rating is that its two major revelations feel as though they come out of nowhere, with no prior build-up in the series to allow us to become emotionally involved in them. As a result, Ellis is forced to both explain the plot developments and try to make us care about them in quite a short space of time, leading to the final scenes of the issue feeling a little rushed, especially given the gravity of their revelations.

Having said that, this issue (and the series as a whole) has been one of the better Ultimate books to come out of Marvel's relaunch, developing the Ultimate universe in a new but logical direction, providing a solid take on one of the most enjoyable Ultimate characters, and serving up plenty of action and spectacle for readers to enjoy. Let's hope that Ellis returns to the Ultimate books again soon.

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