ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney & Jason Keith
Matt C: Nearly three years ago I decided it was time to quit the Ultimate Universe. I’d gained a lot enjoyment from it in its early days but – Ultimate Spider-Man aside- it was beginning to look stale, particularly when the resurgence of quality storytelling in the regular Marvel Universe was taken into consideration. I steered clear of it for a long time (although one day I will pick up the Ultimate Spider-Man trades, honest!) but Mark Millar’s return to the imprint with Ultimate Avengers was too difficult to resist. After all, his work on The Ultimates set the bar ridiculously high for the entire line, so the potential for him to strike gold again was definitely there. Unfortunately, it’s complete lack of likeable characters made it severely off-putting, and even Carlos Pacheco’s wonderful art couldn’t convince me that the Ultimate Universe was somewhere I needed to return to. So I essentially quit again.
And then Marvel announced Jonathan Hickman and Pacheco on Ultimate Thor. Surely I wasn’t going to risk disappointment once more? What could I do though? Hickman’s proven himself to be one of the best of the new breed of writers at Marvel and I do love me some Pacheco artwork. So I took the plunge, and you know what? With one issue to go, Ultimate Thor has been absolutely fantastic. So, time for a rethink then. Steer clear of the Ultimate Universe unless a project from a strong creative team that doesn’t require extensive knowledge of current continuity appears on the horizon? Sounds good to me.
And so we come to Ultimate Captain America from Jason Aaron and Ron Garney. I’ll definitely consider looking at anything Aaron does as he’s responsible for my current fav series, the peerless Scalped. He’s worked with Garney several times before (they obviously have good collaborative relationship) and while their Wolverine:Weapon X series didn’t meet expectations, I still stand by my original assessment that their ‘Get Mystique’ arc was the best Wolverine story in recent years. I may not particularly like the Ultimate version of Steve Rogers (everything I’ve seen him in recently has him coming across as an arrogant bastard) but the creative pedigree was there for me to try the debut issue at the very least.
First impressions are that it’s good but not great. Rogers is still a bit of a prick, and certainly not the inspiring character his Marvel Universe counterpart is, but that differentiation does supply some storytelling mileage and Aaron has come up with an intriguing situation to place Ultimate Cap in. If you’ve read up on the series in advance, chances are the final page twist is already known to you – I won’t spoil it here, but I like the idea a lot, pitting the WWII warrior against someone from a far more cynical and distrusting age who bears a big grudge. We get a fairly powerful opening scene - Cap on his knees with a gun to his head - before we roll back to ‘Six Weeks Ago’, and it’s not to difficult to guess how we’re eventually going to get from A to B. This issue leans heavily towards action, so characterization is all done on the fly, but Aaron is well-equipped to handle this challenge, ensuring we obtain a sense of who the main players are.
As it’s action-heavy, Garney gets to do what he does so well: pack panels with the kind of bristling energy that really conveys the feeling of chaos and violence. His inks aren’t too heavy, which lends some of the scenes a graceful brutality, and Keith’s choice of colours when things kick off really emphasizes the intensity and level of danger inherent during the combat sequences.
It’s too early to get a bead on where this is heading, whether it’ll manage to pack some social and political commentary in to offset the shoot-outs and punch-ups, but Aaron’s set the scene well here and I’m hopeful that this will be more evidence to prove that I was wrong to dismiss the Ultimate Universe in its entirety all those moons ago. 7/10