While the trade dress might suggest that this issue is somehow related to the death of Ultimate Spider-Man, the story itself offers it very little space once the cliffhanger is resolved. It’s really only part of the issue for a couple of pages before things veer off in another direction again. If you’re expecting to learn more about that plot, then bad news: you’re reading the wrong comic.
Still, with that in mind, it’s not a bad read in itself, providing a big twist and turning point in the saga of the Ultimates, with plenty of Millar-style shocking moments, including a cliffhanger which easily matches that of issue #3 (and which we can expect will be followed up with greater conviction.)
In many ways, this issue represents a return to the action-focused, movie-style shorthand storytelling of the first two “Ultimates” series. It’s just a shame it took so long for us to get back to it. It’s hard not to be put back in mind of Jeph Loeb’s “Ultimatum” while witnessing the carnage, but unlike Loeb, Millar manages to hit the emotional beats correctly. These scenes don’t exist purely to shock, but to drive the story in unexpected directions. Most writers seem happy if there’s only one scene in their books that people are left talking about. Millar crams at least three into this comic.
The artists – Leinil Yu and Stephen Segovia – offer up strong storytelling and stronger visuals. Although the art duties are shared, Segovia’s style has always resembled Yu’s, and the results are near-seamless here. Since Yu was unable to complete the entire issue, there’s clearly no better choice than Segovia to assist him. It could have ended up turning the series into a patchwork affair, but instead the visuals are maintained. If all fill-ins and art supports were this well-matched, readers probably wouldn’t care when they had to happen.
This issue definitely recaptures a lot of what the Ultimates were always about and what the Ultimate Avengers should have always been about. It’s good, deep storytelling that leaves you wanting more. Mark Millar is dealing with situations in a very chaotic, but compelling way. While characters are suffering horrible fates, it’s not as wham bam as Ultimatum. It’s there as part of the story and not just there for shock value.
Even if the Ultimate Universe is heading for a reboot, it’s good to see Millar making his exit in style. As a property, the Ultimates never quite recovered from Loeb’s stewardship, but this issue suggests that Millar will at least put them back to the point where their credibility has been repaired. If we’ve got two more issues like this in store, the end of this series is going to be good fun.