Mere weeks after penning the “Ultimate Captain America Annual,” which wasn’t about Captain America, Jeph Loeb has written another Ultimate annual. This time, it’s the “Ultimate Hulk Annual.” Once again, it’s not actually about the title character. The story is actually about Zarda, a character from the most recent Squadron Supreme revamp who was left stranded in the Ultimate universe following the events of “Ultimate Power.”
Even though he sells in huge numbers, Loeb’s track record with the critics has been spotty recently. This isn’t a book that’s going to break that trend. The treatment of the lead character, Zarda, is one-note, and the implication that she has sex with the Hulk at the close of the book is in incredibly poor taste. The plot is paper-thin, as Zarda is challenged by Captain America to learn how to integrate with her adopted society. She ends up fighting the Hulk quite literally over the suggestion that he should wear trousers when she encounters him ordering food naked in a pancake restaurant.
As he has done before, Loeb takes characters from the Ultimate Universe and repositions them to be exactly the same as their 616 counterparts. In this case, the Wrecking Crew — formerly established as members of Ultimate Damage Control — turn up as a group of super-villains identical to their MU counterparts. It’s specifically disheartening because, despite the amount of control Loeb has been given over the Ultimate Universe recently, Loeb’s stories don’t preserve any of the individuality or originality instilled in the Ultimate Universe by previous writers.
It’s not hard to find something good about this book — after all, McGuinness’ opening few pages look great, and the remaining pages of Djurdjevic’s are fantastic, despite the fact that he has to go to some fairly extreme lengths to ensure that the nude Hulk stays work-safe. Unfortunately, good art does not make a good comic, and no matter how pretty it is, there’s nothing so essential that it excuses the quality of the writing. This is one for completists only. Don’t let the “March on Ultimatum” banner fool you; there’s nothing so far that suggests any relation to the crossover, besides the fact it appears to take place before it.