About halfway through reading this issue, I suddenly realized why it felt familiar. This series reminded me of “Ultimate Nightmare,” a story presented with a lot of gravitas, but which only existed to set up another story, since it was part one of a trilogy. It was no surprise, then, for me to go online mere hours later and find out that it had just been announced that “Ultimate Enemy” did indeed form part one of a trilogy, with “Ultimate Mystery” and “Ultimate Doom” to follow. Cue jaded sighs.
It certainly doesn’t help that after smashing up the Ultimate Universe with a cricket bat in Ultimatum, Marvel is happy to let “Ultimate Enemy” dive right into similar territory. New York comes under heavy damage, with explosions all over the place. A prominent hero dies or, at least, we’re told to accept that they have. In fact, it feels almost like this is Bendis’ rejected pitch for “Ultimatum.” Not so much event fatigue as dejÃ vu.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its good moments. Rafa Sandoval’s artwork is fantastic throughout, Immonen-influenced in a very good way. Matthew Wilson’s coloring shows characteristic attention to detail. Bendis writes a good scene between Danvers and Fury, even though it might feel a little too “stock Bendis” to some. But best of all, the final page suggests a resolution to a minor Thing subplot which began way, way back in 2006’s “Ultimate Power” (I think). I’m actually more interested in where that’s going than who the antagonist is in this series (and rightly so, because Bendis has already admitted we won’t find that out until “Ultimate Mystery”).
Part of the problem with Ultimate Universe-spanning crossovers is that the casts tend to balloon far quicker than in their Marvel Universe counterparts, and it’s pretty telling that we don’t even see Spider-Woman in this issue despite her being a fairly prominent player at the very start of issue #1. The bulk of the plot seems to deal with the Fantastic Four, while Fury, Spider-Man and Iceman jostle for place in the rest of the issue. It doesn’t feel like much logic went into choosing the cast at all.
A mixed bag, then, but not one that works very well. The book’s art is its saving grace, preventing the over-familiar story execution from becoming as boring as it could have been. Right now, it feels impossible to explain what the story is actually about. Three issues in, we should be past that stage, and it’s a definitely problem that, to be honest… we’re not.