Well, at least the vampires have finally attacked. “Blade versus the Avengers” has somehow outmatched previous “Ultimate Comics Avengers” story arcs for its maddeningly slow pace. This is the penultimate issue in the story and it ends in such a way that the desired “Oh, no, how ever will Nick Fury and his Avengers defeat the evil vampires?!?” isn’t there so much as “Alright, now what lame ‘twist’ or ‘surprise’ is going to be pulled out of someone’s butt to get this thing done in one issue?” The tension that this comic leaves has nothing to do with the story; It has everything to do with the storytelling. Namely, if so little has happened in five issues, how can one issue wrap up what appears to be quite a lot?
The plot to date: under Anthony, the trainer of the likes of Stick and Blade, the vampires have united under a common goal to turn superhumans, thereby making conquest of the Earth that much easier. To wit, they’ve turned the new Daredevil, Stick, Nerd Hulk, and Captain America. In this issue, they attack the Triskelion and the issue ends with them still attacking. Not a lot for five issues, you say? This issue doesn’t help matters by spending an oddly large amount of time on Perun, the Balkan Thor of the Revengers from the first year of “The Ultimates.” He hasn’t appeared in any previous issues and doesn’t actually play a role of any significance, but, hey, let’s waste over a third of the comic on what led him to be in Nick Fury’s employ…
Granted, the use of Perun is meant to make the reader think he will play a significant part in fending off the vampires and his inability to do so is a subversion of that expectation. Except, instead of coming off as a cruel joke on the reader, it reads like a half-assed attempt to play a cruel joke on the reader. It’s self-parody and bad writing trying to be clever. When coupled with the snail-like advancement of the plot, the misdirection of Perun is even more baffling.
The art of Steve Dillon, Andy Lanning, and Matt Hollingsworth on this arc has been inconsistent and this issue is not exception. Missing is the normally strong, dominant line work of Dillon where the inks make every single stroke of the brush jump off the page. Lanning’s thinner, less bold style leads to some digital inking that gives the art an incomplete look if you’re familiar with Dillon’s art. If you look at the edges of Perun and Petra’s heads in the opening pages, you can see the lines almost fade into the background.
Despite that, the art still has some moments that stop you dead. Three panels where Gregory Stark realizes that the vampires have already invaded the Triskelion are masterful for their ability to capture the shock and horror that Stark is feeling, and, then, present it in a visually arresting manner.
“Ultimate Comics Avengers 3” #5 doesn’t leave much hope for next issue’s finale with much to accomplish and so little having occurred to date. Millar’s decompressed storytelling and misdirections are self-parody at this point.