Back in the Day : Mark Millar – “The Ultimates” (2002)


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)



2 thoughts on “Back in the Day : Mark Millar – “The Ultimates” (2002)

  1. currently re-reading my daughter’s collection: appreciating, again, the mise en scene of the ‘Avengers’ in a more real depiction, both visually and narratively, but it was an ‘outside-in’ exercise which was a little too aware of its own fourth wall (although it didn’t ‘talk’ to us-in-our-own-universe, it cracked enough ‘knowing’ jokes – as you pointed out, which were funny/ironic, agreed – which gave a sort of high-school drama production vibe ‘we know we’re playing a part on stage and here’s a joke to let you know we’re still cool (and worthy of falling in love)’); it was good stuff, but not as finely tuned as the humour of Iron Man encountering Thor in ‘Avengers Assemble’ – “doth mother know you weareth her drapes” – it was too self-aware to sweep me completely away in the story as did Lee/Kirby’s depiction, and even Thomas/Buscema’s …

    nice to read someone writing about the Ultimates – not many of you at all in WordPressland

    • lol I write about all sorts of things because I read all sorts of things and usually I’m one of those who writes about the things no one else does :-p I have actually neglected this blog as I prepare an author page where I talk about books AND movies AND Comics AND TV AND Music and Videogames AND whatever else happens to fall in my purview :-p

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