See all reviews of The Ultimates (2)

Mark Millar, the writer of the original volume of The Ultimates, has told the story before of fans approaching him at conventions, describing to him how that work had changed their lives, specifically that it had inspired them to enlist in the American armed forces. The irony of the situation was that Millar’s intent had been just the opposite, to dissuade readers of American interventionism and the Bush Doctrine. He specifically wrote members of the military, including Captain America and General Fury, as authoritarians bordering on fascists. By the end of the twenty-six issue run, Steve Rogers eventually repudiates global policing, with the Ultimates each resigning from active service to become super-heroes instead of super-soldiers, but only after a preemptive attack on American which the team came to regard as the inevitable reaction to their own preventative strikes in the Middle-East and elsewhere.

The Ultimates #8 (Marvel Comics)


When the latest volume of The Ultimates debuted, it seemed to bear nothing in common with its predecessor save for its name. If anything, the comparison it invited was more so to the Illuminati in Hickman’s New Avengers than Millar’s Ultimate Universe version of the original Avengers team. And while Al Ewing is certainly more similar to Hickman, his run thus far both cerebral and cosmic in scope, musing more so on metaphysics and quantum physics than most standard superhero fare, there too is a bit of Millar’s penchant for geopolitics (though sometimes here in the form of astro-politics).

The main difference, however, is that Ewing’s Ultimates is missing the ironic detachment and biting critique of authoritarianism found in Millar’s run, much like the young men that had read the exploits of Millar’s super-soldiers and decided to enlist. Ms. Danvers is every bit is comfortable as the head of Alpha Flight and Ambassador Extraordinary of Earth as General Fury was as head of S.H.I.E.L.D., yet whereas Thor served to voice Fury’s faults, no such counter to Carol exists. Thus, when she unilaterally shut down a private research facility in the previous issue, it’s presented not as an overstep of authority, but as a victory for diplomacy. Perhaps that’s what makes this new Ultimates so frightening; they see themselves (and are shown to the reader) as the ones in a position of moral authority. Whereas Ultimate Fury was the spook in the shadows of a smoke filled room, Carol and Adam Brashear are all about transparency, themselves the ones being spied upon by shadowy cabals. And whereas Fury was a military man that carried a Big Stick, Carol and company are presented as pacifists that have Big Ideas instead.13523006_840758307914_3947295569328419622_o

Yet those big ideas and that same self-righteousness are exactly what empower Ewing’s Ultimates to trample upon individual liberties in ways Millar’s Ultimates never had the means. Ultimate Hulk, after rampaging through Manhattan, received a public trial in which he was found guilty and sentenced to death on several hundred counts of murder. Black Panther, however, has threatened to execute Connor Sims himself, regardless as to the outcome of his trial, not for past wrongdoings but merely because of the threat Anti-Man possess – and with no more justification than his usual spiel of “I am Wakanda.” If Carol has let the title “Ambassador Extraordinary of the Human Species” go to her head recently, T’Challa let the title “Absolute Monarch” go to his long ago; Fury’s “Director of S.H.E.I.L.D.” seems humble in comparison. And speaking of Bruce Banner on trial, Carol – no longer content to police all human activity, even of private individuals and organizations like project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. – has begun policing potential futures as well, recently appearing to apprehend Dr. Banner at the end of last week’s Civil War II #2, free of any formal charges or chance for due process, or even any recent wrongdoing. Evidently, an individual is guilty today if Carol thinks he might become guilty tomorrow.

Right now, the only material difference between Carol running Alpha Flight and Norman Osborn when he was head of H.A.M.M.A.R. is that the former has far great reach and far less checks on her authority. And, by T’Challa’s reasoning, the only reason why Victor von Doom wasn’t a superhero as respected as Black Panther was that Doom failed to utter “I am Latveria” before committing whatever wrongdoing he pleased. Whereas Millar’s Ultimates were super-soldiers, half of Ewing’s seem to be straight up supervillains. The problem is, if Ewing is critiquing his characters, such is certainly subtle, perhaps too much so.13458787_840758302924_2629317133287571108_o

I’m willing to give Ewing the benefit of the doubt for now, firstly because it’s still fairly early on in his run, and the moral faults I’m finding with some of his members may yet be addressed more directly, and secondly because his writing is otherwise so superb. Perhaps it will turn out that he and I differ philosophically with respect to authoritarianism, or perhaps he will not delve deeply enough into the political angle of this book to rightly discern what message he’s trying to make. If either indeed proves the case, I’ll critique why I think that ideology is wrong, or I’ll critique the book for not fully developing the themes presented in the past few issues, but neither of those would impute on the stylishness of his pseudo-scientific prose, the clear and consistent characterization of the cast, the gravitas given to every story beat, or any of the other marks of his skills as a writer, all of which have been evident in each and every issue thus far.

Is It Good?

Even integrating so heavily into Civil War II, an event of dubious quality thus far, this tie-in issue feels like a perfectly natural extension of the direction this series has taken since the beginning. Half the team may be supervillains whom I actively root against, yet that’s proven an inspired premise in the past on titles such as Ellis’ Thunderbolts and Bendis’ Dark Avengers. Perhaps Ewing will embrace that dynamic; perhaps not. Either way, The Ultimates remains one of Marvel’s best ongoing series, and so long that Ewing and Rocafort are on the title, that’s unlikely to change.13497871_840758297934_8334054540072577788_o

The Ultimates #8 Review
Seamless integration with Civil War IIGorgeous pencils by Rocafort, per usual
Half the team seem to be supervillains, and it's not clear if that's Ewing's intent or not
Reader Rating 5 Votes
  • Ryan

    This review was absolute rubbish. No, seriously, rubbish. You completely took every single little thing Carol and the team has done entirely out of context for no reason other than to get on a stupid high horse.

    One: Pegasus is not a private organization, it is a subsidiary of SHIELD, which Carol Danvers has some authority over because Alpha Flight is part of the same general initiative and Carol herself works out of the Triskelion with her team. She was completely within her right and authority to shut down their cosmic cube project. Speaking of…

    Two: You completely neglected to mention to circumstances of that action. They were making another Cosmic Cube right after the crap that went down in Pleasantville USA. They were abusing their authority and the trust placed in them. THEY were dealing with something of extreme power with lack of oversight and in the shadows. AND it got them in trouble with the Shia’ar Empire who was placing political pressure on them because they detected it AND it got Thanos’ attention! So yeah, Carol was right to shut that crap down! Because it was a stupid idea and incredibly short sighted to be working with a cosmic cube again so soon after Kobik started messing with people’s heads!

    Three: T’Challa was a little out of line, but he has his reasons. He’s not just outright killing anyone of his own initiative. He just gave a warning. I didn’t like it either, but he was giving fair warning he wasn’t about to let Anti-Man become a danger to them or his country. He was just making that clear for now, nothing further. Sorry if he wants to protect his nation form a friggin super villain.

    Four: Most of this ridiculous tirade had nothing to do at all with this book itself. Literally, half this review is more about Carol’s actions in other books and past issues than in the actual story presented here. I thought reviews on issues were supposed to actually TALK about those issues. Not prattle on about other crap that you should’ve talked about in the reviews pertinent to those concerns.

    Five: They’re transparent and open with the public! They share everything they do within reason with the general public! They are not doing this in a vacuum! Seriously, what more do you want for them? Just to sit on their asses and let the danger come to them? Seriously, do you have no concept of a good defense being a good offense? Sorry for saving Galactus from his hunger then, sorry for saving billions of lives across the universe. Better to just accept the status quo and let bad shit happen. Get real.

    Six: Carol is not a tyrant! She is not letting her job description go to her head! Her friggin job is to be an ambassador of humanity to the rest of the universe! That’s a pretty tall order! She has a lot of shit to take care of! She’s keeping the sky from falling on your friggin head! And you think, just because she throws around her considerable authority when she has to you, that means she’s a tyrant? Screw you! Your job is writing stupid little reviews every Wednesday! Carol Danvers is up in space making sure Earth 616 isn’t going to be exploited by literally every other galactic empire out there! Her job is a massive undertaking and all you can do is go “Grr, stupid lady telling a bunch of scientists playing with forces they can’t control! She’s a dictator now because she’s trying to keep them from making another cosmic cube! When has that ever gone wrong?”

    Seven: I am seriously sick of people instantly declaring Carol to be in the wrong about predictive justice and changing the future. I’m sick of people telling me that tragedies need to happen or that she’s not considering the uncomfortable implications or that she’s not doing this ethically or this or that and this. She clearly does, but you keep twisting her words and going on a big soap box rant cause you want to feel like you’ve picked the right side on this shit. You keep taking it out of context, you refuse to see any other point of view on the subject and your constant knee jerk reaction is to go “Rebel, Rebel, Rebel! Fight the Power!” because Bush is out of office and you need someone else to compare to him now. Actually give Carol’s position some legitimate thought, think about what she has to say and stop declaring her a dictator before she’s actually done anything wrong! Honestly, you TeamIronMan jerks are just trying to bring down Captain Marvel’s good name and destroy all the respect she’s rightfully earned over the years. She is Marvel’s premiere female hero! She has saved the friggin world countless times over already! She deserves more respect than you jackasses on Team Tony give her! Team Carol aren’t the bad guys here! Stop acting like they are so you can feel like the big men on campus

    TLDR: Your review was a bad soapbox rant of stupid, Al Ewing is one of the premiere talents at Marvel, The Ultimates aren’t super villains just because they’re a proactive hero team and Carol Danvers isn’t a dictator for wanting to stop tragedies before they happen. Get over yourselves and actually write shit that is relevant to the actual issue you’re reviewing!

    • Matthew J. Thériault

      I could address your individual points separately, but the common theme is that you and I have a fundamental difference of opinion with respect to moral philosophy. From your post, I surmise that you hold to a consequentialist ethos, that the moral rightness of The Ultimates’ actions derives from the consequence of those actions. I myself hold to a deontological ethos, in which the rightness of an action is considered in a moral vacuum. Deontology often presupposes moral realism, which claims that morality is not relative across cultures and for each individual, but rather normative for all people in all ages. In deontology, an action is moral if it conforms to these natural laws, regardless of the particular circumstances or outcomes. A good articulation of this ethical framework in comics would be Captain America’s speech to Kang and Immortus in Avengers #34:

      “Do you have any idea how tired I am of that? You people telling me that I just don’t understand? When it’s you people – you clever people – who don’t get it. I don’t let people die because it’s the lesser of two evils, or expedient, or because it serves the greater good. I don’t compare the act against something else. I see someone that needs help, and I help… I don’t measure people’s lives, I save them.”

      Moral realism and deontology consequently suppose limitations on political authority. Regardless of how extravagant Carol or T’Challa’s job titles may be, they are equally subject to and limited by the same natural laws as any other individual.

      You and I could debate the particular points you’ve raised, but more than merely disagreeing, without sharing an common understanding of what constitutes moral and immoral actions (and therefore what constitutes heroic and villainous actions), we’d only be speaking past one another. As I mentioned in the review, if Ewing continues his defense of consequentialism, in a future review I will critique that philosophy and make the argument for deontology.

      • Ryan

        Nice salad of words where’s the dressing of elitism? Oh there it is, right at the end, basically saying I’m a stupid idiot because I don’t use big words. Mm, deliciously patronizing.

        Given recent developments with Captain America I could suggest listening to the words of a Nazi is a bad idea to base your moral compass on. But given that within the next week we’ll have the “answer” of that stupidity displayed for us in full color that would be presenting a very limited timeframe in which I will date myself more severely than Back to Future did when it talked about having Fusion Power by 2015.

        Instead, I’m going to look at your quote and see how it actually relates to Carol’s actions. Let’s see what she’s done in her long illustrious career. Gone back in time to preserve the present, travelled through space killing evil space bugs, defeated a Skrull Invasion of New York on her own, no back up, potentially sacrificed her mind and her memories to save New York, travelled into Space again to forge better relations with the rest of the galaxy and Earth and helped save all of reality during Secret Wars. Then, most recently, managed to turn Galactus into a Good Guy, find and capture a dangerous cosmic criminal alive and returned him to earth to face trial, and then using foreknowledge of what was about to happen prevented the destruction of Earth by a cosmic entity of even greater power and stopped basically the biggest bad in the Marvel Universe from getting a Cosmic Cube.

        Oh no, how immoral of her to try and seek out potential danger and stop it before it kills people. She should’ve let all those guys just go about their merry way and murder folks, because apparently tragedy is required within the human experience. I guess we should all just let our houses burn down and not take any proactive precautions. Hell, let’s just open the floodgates and do away with safety precautions in general. Drunk driving? Legal. Letting sex offenders work with kids? Legal. Banning Assault Weapons? NAH! Why would that be a good idea, you’re limiting the freedom of people to own guns, man! How else are they supposed to defend themselves when the Guvment comes to rape their wives? It’s not like easy access to that shit is going to get anyone killed.

        The fact is, you’re weighing the lives of people more than Captain Marvel or T’Challa is. They see a problem, they see vulnerabilities, the see things that may endanger lives… and they act upon it. Carol saw a bunch of idiots dicking around with a cube RIGHT AFTER THIS SAME SHIT JUST BLEW UP IN EVERYONE’S FACES and she did something about it. Carol’s job description gives her a major sense of importance. It bears weight. Apparently, you’re of the mindset that the US President SHOULDN’T use his considerable power to enact legislation in a time of crisis or importance. What next, are you going to tell me it was wrong for the Supreme Court to impose desegregation and same sex marriage on the country?

        What is right in this instance? Thanos is coming. He’s after a cube that’s known to fuck shit up whenever the bad guys grab it. I guess she should’ve done nothing, the Ultimates should’ve stayed home and LET the evil intergalactic warlord with a literal hard-on for Death just take it. You know, if the military listened to you, we probably wouldn’t have taken out Bin Laden and we probably would’ve just let the Soviets install nukes in Cuba. Every single one of you Tonyfans, at least the ignorant ones, who give him a blank check to do stupid shit, seems to feel it’s better to react to crisis rather than actually prevent them. You’re in favor of inaction.

        When you get intelligence detailing a possible attack, or threat, or danger, you act on it. This is why 9-1-1 still answers calls and sends cars out even when it might seem like they got a crank call. This is why there are rules against abusing the emergency service, because it takes time away from things they need to do. They have to respond to every emergency situation! What would you do if you were in charge of the phonelines?

        “Help! Help! My Ex-Boyfriend just texted me that he’s coming here to blow my brains out and kidnap my child!”

        “Well ma’am, have you ever considered that he might have a legal right to do that? This is a free country, we can’t arrest people for such things. It would violate his freedom of choice and thought. After all, he hasnt’ actually killed you yet. I mean what is your evidence that it was even him texting you?”

        “He sent me a picture of his face holding a gun! I need to get out of here! I need help! He could be here any minute?”

        “Listen, I can’t be bothered with your paranoid fears of what MAY happen based on such limited evidence. I need to wait for you to actually be killed in order to do anything about it. In my opinion, no real crime has been committed.”

        “Threats are a crime!”

        “In my opinion prosecuting threats is a major breach of freedom of speech. I won’t be a party to thought policing, not in this country. So, unless you’re actually dead right now, I see no reason to send a car over to try and arrest someone for what he MIGHT do.”

        You want to talk lesser of two evils? Not doing jackshit to save lives when you’re told of the potential danger of doing nothing to prevent a disaster from happening IS EVIL! Christ, you want to know what this sounds like? “Well we could take steps to prevent Global Climate Change, but that would infringe on the rights of the poor business owner who pollutes the air. I say we wait for the status quo to become literally unsustainable instead of making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. That’s the American and moral thing to do.”

        So who’s the real person weighing the lesser of two evils here? I say you. When Carol sees danger, she acts, period. Sorry if apparently her going full hog with that philosophy that you support is apparently too much for you to take. Maybe that quote of yours is just used improperly here.

        In any case, it doesn’t matter. Real life is more complicated with shades of grey. Not everything is so clear cut easy to resolve. If you’re told of a bank robbery or a planned murder, do you do nothing? If you do nothing, in my opinion, if you had foreknowledge of the event in question, then you are a guilty party. Because you basically refused to prevent it.

        I honestly wonder how many people would be alive today if we bothered to look at the signs of danger and actually acted upon them. You seem to feel we should just raise up our hands and say “oh well, just how shit is!”

        You’re not nearly as moral as you think.