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Jason Schachat is still very very angry about the man hands.
Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

What the heck is it with Marvel and weak reveals, lately? Sure, we can blame Bendis for House of M (“Gasp! Quicksilver was the one ‘manipulating’ Scarlet Witch!”) and New Avengers (“Ronin is Echo? Oh snap! ...wait, who is that?”), but it seems like their knack for completely uninspiring non-twist anticlimaxes is becoming the hallmark of the company.

In this instance, I’m referring to the revelation of the traitor in Ultimates #9. This is the crux of the current volume. The big event that changes everything and will supposedly set the tone for the rest of the Ultimate Universe. So far, the climax is pretty rocky.

Our story opens with an interrogation where the not-as-dead-as-we-thought Hawkeye (as opposed to the totally completely undeniably dead one being resurrected in the Marvel Universe) has been pumped for information so that America’s enemies can strike.

Cut to Tony Stark’s apartment, where he and Natasha chat a little bit, and we get the impression that Natasha’s up to something. Cut to the Triskelion, where the remaining Ultimates ponder the strange events of late just before all the security goes haywire and S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-Carriers come crashing into the tower.

Meanwhile, back at Tony’s apartment, he finally figures out that something is wrong, and Natasha whips out a gun, shooting Jarvis before bidding Tony farewell.

The rest of the issue plays out much better, showcasing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (being 100% heroic, for a change) as they attempt to hold back the armies of super soliders, giant mecha, and a team of anti-Ultimates. Lots of action and lots of fighting; this portion of the adventure really showcases artist Bryan Hitch’s talent.

Still, the reveal is dull, especially after all the questions raised by the last half dozen issues. A Russian assassin betraying the American super-team? Wow, shock of the century, there. Previous issues had shown Nick Fury nosing around security camera feeds and Hank Pym showing astonishment when he learned the traitor’s identity. Thor was taken down and imprisoned, Captain America was named as a spy... and no one but Quicksilver thought anything was amiss?

And that brings us to another big problem: Loki. Before, Mark Millar was playing a delightful game with us, twisting perspective back and forth so we could never be sure whether Thor really was a god or just some grunge rock reject with a hammer. Now, we know for sure that Loki is real and does in fact wield reality-altering powers.

Um...and she's marrying a guy about to die anyway...
I’ll say that again. *ahem* REALITY-ALTERING POWERS.

As anyone following DC or Marvel books should be able to tell you, this is one of the places continuity headaches start. The other is time travel, but at least that allows for fights between the Fantastic Four and Devil Dinosaur.

In any case, opening either of those doors is basically saying anything can happen. Something doesn’t make sense? Go back in time or alter reality to make it work. You want to raise a character from the dead? Same deal. You want to erase certain characters and change others’ origins? Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a dangerous territory to traverse.

For the most part, this issue works on the merit of having big explosions and super-powered armies raining terror on cities. That alone makes the book worth buying (thanks to Hitch’s great if oft delayed work). However, Millar has now taken off the training wheels and decided to let us ride on our own, and the consequences may not be pretty.

Is the Ultimate Universe ready for an international coalition bent on the destruction of the American empire? Will this turn out for the better without a reality reboot? Do we really want what looks like the latest Red Guardian wielding Darth Maul’s lightsaber? We’ll have to see...

page 2: JSA #80

Jason Schachat

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