Friday, October 15, 2010


It was with some trepidation that I picked up a copy of Ultimatum TPB by Jeph Loeb and David Finch from my local library and decided to check it out. I'd read a number of scathing reviews on the internet and knew it wasn't well received so was expecting the worse. I was, in fact, pleasantly surprised!

The book certainly isn't going to win any awards but it is entertaining nonetheless. Loeb's story is one of those mindless world-shaking multi-title crossover events that doesn't so much indicate an end to the Ultimate Universe as just clear away (i.e. kill off) some unrequired characters.

It starts with Manhattan being hit by a huge tidal wave that, at least temporarily, leaves the US city under several meters of water. We also get to hear about other disasters - such as the temperature in Latveria suddenly dropping, freezing all of its inhabitants except Doom - although these are just part of the background. Perhaps they were explored more in the other Ultimate titles, however not reading those I wouldn't know. Anyway, whilst some heroes help the public others are drowned with barely the briefest of screen time.

Sue Storm manages to push back the water and Professor X then telepathically emails everyone to say that it was Magneto - distraught over the apparent deaths of his children, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver - who caused the destruction by altering Earth's magnetic poles. The rest of the book describes various heroes heading off to confront Magneto in his sky fortress whilst a small band seeks out the Ultimate Nick Fury, who may hold the key to stopping the Master of Magnetism.

One of my main faults with the story is that there isn't much to it. It's very slight and could be compressed into about two issues instead of five. It's also very simple and requires little to no brainpower to follow. Although this makes it a light, easy read, it also means it's generally an entertaining read. It's just that there's not much of it.

The characterisation of the heroes is also somewhat lacking. Of the Ultimate Universe books, I've only really read the Ultimates, but here the members of the UU's version of the Avengers seem somewhat bland and without any obvious differences or personality.

Of course, the other problem that has been widely expressed is the graphic violence. It is overly violent although, other than one or two scenes, not as bad as people make out. However, scenes such as that depicting the Blob eating the dead body of the Wasp are disgusting and perhaps a step too far. I think it's made worse by Finch's art which can be detailed and grotesque.

Regarding the art, I liked it. The line work by David Finch is fine and detailed but perhaps a little too 90s. It looks a little Jim Lee-like but not quite so accomplished. There is a tendency of drawing muscles upon muscles for the men and large breasts and curvy rears for the women that just seems like 90s overkill. However, it does look suitably impressive if you're a fan of this type of art.

The main problem is Finch's frequent use of splash pages and double-page spreads. There just aren't many panels of art in this book. Every third page is a splash page and even for those pages that aren't, the number of panels is small. Yes, it might look nice, but it just adds to the feeling that the book could be much, much smaller than it is and still tell the same story. You find yourself flipping over pages at a fair rate of knots, entertained by the story (at least when not being grossed out), and finding yourself at the end before you know it with a slight feeling of "Is that it?"

There are also a few pencil sketches at the back which look very good and again highlights the detail Finch puts into his work. But these are just pencil version of panels in the actual book so don't really add anything.

Overall, it's an entertaining read and I enjoyed it more than I thought it was. In fact, I would say I thought it was slightly better than Final Crisis, which I read before this. Perhaps that reflects on my current mood for easily digestable entertainment? It is spoilt by a few violently graphic scenes, somewhat poor characterisation and an unfortunately short story. And all it really serves is to kill off an extremely large number of characters. But it does look pretty and is a page turner.

Grade: Very Good.

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