Ignore the cover with its big “Death of Spider-Man” banner and the action shot of Nick Fury’s Avengers fighting against the Ultimates, because neither apply to this comic yet. Picking up where “Ultimate Comics Avengers 3” left off, this series could have easily been called “Ultimate Comics Avengers 4” and looks to be not just a culmination of the plot threads begun in the first “Ultimate Comics Avengers” series, but also some of the ideas and character bits first seen in “The Ultimates.” It’s a slow start to the big concluding story/half of a big crossover, but that quiet way of easing into the story is very effective, giving a steady rise as the comic goes on until it hits the cliffhanger finish.
Unlike the first three series, “Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates” puts the focus squarely on the Ultimates right from the get-go. Nick Fury’s black ops group is only alluded to, the secret force that the Ultimates know are there, but are usually off dealing with problems they never find out about. That focus is on the Ultimates as they deal with the consequences of Captain America teleporting the Triskelion to Iran to defeat the vampires laying siege to it, and Tony Stark almost dying as a result of his brain tumor. More than anything, this reads like “Ultimate Avengers” #19, but does an adept job at also acting as a jumping-on point.
The transition from cleaning up the last story arc to developing this one is abrupt and doesn’t flow out of what came before except to begin to show how the titular conflict will happen as the Ultimates work to stop stolen super-soldier research and technology from being sold to China. The resulting confrontation with one of the test subjects is anti-climactic, while also very touching, as Millar undercuts the idea that ‘Mimic’ will be a danger by presenting a man so altered and changed that he’s insane and terrified by his lost humanity. It’s a scene that shows genuine humanity and warmth as the Ultimates do what they can to comfort the pained man as he dies, which also gives them the necessary emotional motivation to go after the people responsible.
Joining Millar for this arc is his “Ultimate Comics Avengers 2” and “Superior” collaborator Leinil Francis Yu, whose work here already blows away his previous stint with Millar on these characters. Part of the change is Sunny Gho handling the colors. Gho’s work on “Secret Warriors” has helped give that book the darker visual edge that suits its tone, and that’s the same here. With subdued, darker colors, Yu’s art looks crisp and clean, the line work standing out in a big way. While Millar’s Ultimate work has always had that big blockbuster action feel, it was meant to also be rooted in something reflecting the real world; Gho’s colors capture that feeling. This issue probably has the best art of the four “Ultimate Avengers” series.
It’s a slow, quiet start to the finale of Mark Millar’s work on the Ultimates and its large cast, and to “The Death of Spider-Man,” but it’s also a good start. With a traitor inside SHIELD exposed, there’s sufficient cause to begin five issues of mayhem and carnage. With Leinil Francis Yu’s art looking better than ever, this could be one hell of a mini-series.