There are a handful of books at Marvel on a bi-monthly schedule, presumably to give their artists the time needed to finish the art without resorting to fill-ins. When the books are as gorgeous looking as “Ultimate X” and “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” well, it makes a strong case for all books to adopt this scheduling policy.
I don’t think anyone would argue who the creative star of “Ultimate X” is, and that’s Arthur Adams. He and inker Mark Roslan put an immense amount of time and care into every single image in “Ultimate X,” from individual bricks on the wall of a building to desk lamps in the corner of establishing shots. Looking at each page, it’s easy to see why this book only comes out every other month, because the two of them must take a small eternity on each panel.
But of course, there’s more to good art than just fine detail. Adams’ pencils have always contained so much more than that. I love how he draws the expressions on characters, from Jimmy Hudson’s sidelong glance into Jean’s cleavage to the struggle on Derek’s face as he tries to retract his wings. Everyone looks real under Adams’ pencils, from something as simple as Derek squatting on the edge of a rooftop, to a mid-air struggle. They move gracefully around the page, and it’s a strong reminder on why Adams is one of the modern masters of comics.
Jeph Loeb has had each issue of “Ultimate X” narrated by a different supporting character connected to the main character under the spotlight. With the first two issues, the narration boxes felt intrusive and unnecessary, so imagine my relief that in “Ultimate X” #3, it feels like Loeb is making it work much more smoothly. Derek’s brother Joe doesn’t feel like he’s drowning out the plot, and I feel like Joe’s narration is giving us important information instead of just filling dead air. It’s exactly what the narration should be doing, and it’s nice to see it finally snapping into place. As for Derek himself, he’s a completely new character added to the book, and he’s an interesting addition. It feels like all of his story hooks are centered around his brother and the city of Chicago, both of which appear to be getting left behind after this issue. It’s hard to say how he’ll work in the mix (especially since we’re still seeing new additions down the road), but it’s hard to not wonder a bit.
This is probably the best issue of “Ultimate X” to date; the art is gorgeous as always, and the writing is definitely improving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if this is a side effect of not forcing the title onto a strict monthly schedule, well, more power to Marvel for agreeing to a timetable that works. The readers are definitely getting much more bang for their buck as a result.