“Ultimate Comics Ultimates” is unlike anything else currently in Marvel’s publishing catalog. The heroes find themselves overmatched on all sides, stuck begging for help and generally without any options aside from praying that they don’t die soon. Reed Richards and the Children of Tomorrow have decimated Europe with their City and have offered the Americans a deal: leave them alone or die. Since that’s not seen as a viable option, they’re left with only one hope: the People, the Southeast Asian Republic’s replacement for mutants that turned against their masters, took over the country and now rule from twin floating capital cities. It all looks like something from Europe thanks to the amazing art team of Esad Ribic and Dean White.
The People first appeared in Jonathan Hickman’s “Ultimate Hawkeye” mini-series and were impressive there, led by brothers Xorn and Zorn, but Ribic and White make them come off as positively mythical. When the Ultimates arrive for their meeting, it’s like they stepped into another world, one of rock and trees and the spaciousness of nature somehow floating above the earth. By contrast is the City where the Children reside: a cold, giant technology-driven environment. The two groups aren’t entirely dissimilar, but Ribic and White manage to make them look distinct and almost opposite visually, while still playing up their advanced natures.
The rest comes from Hickman. Whether it’s the ostentatious announcement of the Ultimates’ arrival or the way that Xorn and Zorn talk down to their visitors, the People come off as above the rest of humanity. They exude superiority — and seem more than able to back it up. Unlike the Children, they have opened their borders to all who wish to come and advance beyond simple humanity, adding another difference to Richards’ group. What we see of the City is an isolationist society, worried contact will be harmful to their goals of expansion and evolution. Whereas the People live above the Earth, the City continues to expand downward, unseen.
The first six issues of this series along with “Ultimate Hawkeye” set up these two opposing groups so well, drawing out any conflict would have been a mistake. The stakes are already high enough and the tension is at its peak. The issue begins with the Ultimates discussing their options and realizing only the charity of the People is left — a doubtful charity at best. Why would the People wish to engage the Children in conflict? It’s only when their attempt at communication to broker peace is seen as an attack in and of itself that things escalate to the surprising concluding words of the City: “The Children of Tomorrow are dying.” You know that things are just getting started.
Since relaunching “Ultimate Comics Ultimates,” Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic and Dean White have produced one of the best comics at Marvel. Free of continuity concerns, it’s been a comic where boundaries are pushed and the unexpected happens every issue. Issue #7 begins a conflict between two advanced groups, both with abilities and resources that dwarf S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates. The Children killed the Asgardians, while the People toppled a nation and installed themselves as rulers in the span of a month. Now, they begin a war to kill one another. You’re a fool if you’re not reading this comic.