For the past six months, Marvel's comic book universe has been in a state of pure chaos. Teams have been dissolved, heroes have been reimagined, and everything we thought we knew to be true about this world was vaporized by the world-bending crossover series Secret Wars. With the end of Secret Wars in sight (the finale issue comes out November 25), Marvel's focus now shifts to its new teams, its new heroes, and the new adventures ahead. And one of the most promising titles in its stable is The Ultimates.
Helmed by writer Al Ewing and artist Kenneth Rocafort, The Ultimates is a flashy, gorgeous reboot of the team and features Black Panther (a.k.a. T'Challa), Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Carol Danvers), Blue Marvel (a.k.a. Adam Bernard Brashear), Ms. America (a.k.a. America Chavez), and Spectrum (a.k.a. Monica Rambeau) — an all-star roster of the world's flashiest powerhouses. The Ultimates handle cosmic tasks: They take on the most amazing adventures in Marvel's universe and the most ominous villains within it. In the premiere issue, Ultimates No. 1, they're dealing with the world eater known as Galactus and rushing through a gauntlet of astral hunter-killer drones and giant behemoths called Punishers to do it.
Ewing gives each of his characters a distinct voice. But the standout of The Ultimates is America Chavez, a girl whose punches and kicks can rip holes in the fabric of reality. She's brash, even a bit cocky, and in Ultimates No. 1, Ewing has paired her with Spectrum — an older, wiser, more powerful member of the team — to take down a group of killer machines. Spectrum, our narrator, is confident in her own right, but even she is awed by Chavez's sheer power. Rocafort's chiseled, grand art is on point here, complementing the gravity of the fight.
It's a scene that makes you wish Marvel would turn it into a movie.
What Ewing and Rocafort do exceptionally well is make this book feel organic. This rendition of The Ultimates, like its predecessor of the same name, doesn't include a straight, white, male superhero. However, it doesn't feel like a book that panders or is patronizing to the idea of diversity. These are some of the world's most formidable heroes, doing work on a cosmic scale. They're exactly the team you'd want to protect the universe.
The Ultimates displays ease and effortlessness in assembling its team. The quieter moments between the teammates — in the cockpit of their ship, waiting in the wings of the battlefield, zipping through space — are smirky and intimate, a bright contrast to the gigantic cosmic forces that loom ahead. It's very much in the same spirit as The Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
If there's a drawback to this comic, it's the minor disconnect between what's going on in Ultimates No. 1 and what will happen at the end of Secret Wars. Because Secret Wars was delayed in production, some comics scheduled to debut after its conclusion have already been published. Ultimates is one of them, and so it's forced to refer to Secret Wars' world-changing events in vague, fuzzy terms. It's a slightly jarring speed bump (that isn't Ewing or Rocafort's fault), but thankfully it's one that this exciting ride more than overcomes.