Earth 1610. Not the year 1610. The Ultimate Dimension 1610. The year is 1945. Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, plunges into the Arctic waters after de-routing a Nazi rocket aimed for Washington. Cut to 2002, New York. General Nick Fury recruits morning-drinking, Maxim-girl courting Tony Stark, newly-in-control Bruce Banner, and Mr. and Mrs. Pym (Giant-Man and the Wasp), to form the ULTIMATE superhero team. And hey, maybe that Thor guy over in Europe can help? Together, they will provide the blueprint for Joss Whedon’s smash hit “The Avengers,” while defeating the Chitauri menace, (the Chitauri are reptilian aliens that caused the rise of National Socialism, if you must know.)
What holds up in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s run are the funny bits, such as Nick Fury’s prophetic conviction that only Mr. Samuel L. Jackson should play him in a screen version of the story. Tony Stark errs in aiming for Johnny Depp (although Robert Downey Jr. does get name-dropped.) The Wasp (of Asian descent in this version) complains that they’ll probably cast her as Lucy Liu even though they look nothing alike, but hey, ain’t that Hollywood. As for wimpy, neurotic Bruce Banner, casting suggestions include: “Woody Allen if he dropped a few pounds? That Stuart Little mouse that Geena Davis adopted? Steve Buscemi?” Overhearing this talk, poor Bruce runs out and transforming into the Hulk, howling: “HULK WANTS FREDDIE PRINZE JR!”
Which is funny.
Less funny? A bizarre marital conflict story-line that sees things escalate into what has to be one of the first cases of superhero-on-super-heroine domestic violence. Watching Gigantic, emasculated Hank Pym attack his poor wife (“You shouldn’t have made me seem small”) has to be one of the cruelest moments in Marvel history.
And when Captain America white knights his way into beating the shit out of the wife-beater? Nope, that doesn’t feel right either. These Ultimates are Ultimate assholes. Working close to ‘Watchmen” territory, Mark Millar made a tense, gritty epic that would reverberate.
(Currently re-reading a lot of the Ultimate Universe, which was really my introduction to Marvel in the 2000s)