Only one week after the conclusion of the second volume of “Ultimate Comics Avengers,” the beginning of the third ships. Unlike the second volume where Mark Millar spent the first two issues introducing the new characters of the story arc, the Punisher and the first Hulk, he divides this issue in two to introduce us to Blade and Ray Connor, the new Daredevil, ending the issue with an obvious indication of what the plot of this volume is. It’s a stronger way of beginning the story and definitely makes for a denser and more interesting first issue of an arc.
Despite the ‘controversy’ Millar created over this story line, it doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to what’s going on in “X-Men” beyond the use of vampires. The vampires here are somewhat generic and bland, showing up to offer Blade a truce with their new leader who has united the various vampire clans. Blade, of course, refuses and kills the entire lot of them. On a parallel course is Ray Connor, a teenager blinded in an accident and ‘suffering’ from the same heightened senses as Matt Murdock. He’s taken under Stick’s tutelage, dons the original Daredevil costume, and begins fighting crime.
Millar reigns himself in for Connor’s narration, while going all-out to establish Blade. The contrast gives the issue more tension with two characters that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. This issue doesn’t function as much more than an introduction to Blade and Connor, but it does both well. Blade kills vampires in a badass manner, while Connor goes from near-insane boy to confident urban vigilante. The interesting part is a twist near the end of the issue that spins the story in an unexpected direction and suggests why it’s titled “Blade versus the Avengers.”
The big letdown of the issue is the art. I love Steve Dillon’s art and was looking forward to his work on this story arc, but, together with inker Andy Lanning and colorist Matt Hollingsworth, he’s produced some of the weakest pages I’ve seen from him. Lanning’s inked lines give off a Phil Jimenez vibe that doesn’t gel with Dillon’s line work. Lanning uses a very thin line that often disappears, causing Hollingsworth to overdo the coloring, giving much of the art a ‘colored over the pencils directly’ look. Dillon’s art is best when using strong, thicker line work, and what’s on the page here is underwhelming. Note the blue-haired vampire in the opening pages that looks unfinished, even compared to his fellow vampires.
Still intact, thankfully, is Dillon compositions, facial expressions, and panel-to-panel flow. Those who thought that his style wouldn’t work with Millar severely underrate his ability to convey bold, exciting action as Blade chasing a vampire through the streets after slaughtering his comrades is fantastic action art.
“Ultimate Comics Avengers 3” gets off to a quicker start than the last arc with Millar introducing both Blade and the new Daredevil in this issue while setting up the premise of the arc with an unexpected twist at the end of the issue. This series of series continues to be fun and bold with Millar on his game.