One of the most interesting and fun parts of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is the chance to see different versions of familiar characters. In “The Ultimates,” Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch presented a version of Thor that had a few of the familiar elements, but also differed greatly with the questions surrounding his sanity, legitimacy, and the relationship between Asgard and Earth. A series developing and exploring the character’s past was inevitable and, thankfully, Marvel waited to find the right creative time. Jonathan Hickman and Carlos Pacheco deliver a debut issue that mixes three timelines to present differing perspectives on the thunder god and his fellow Asgardians, while playing with elements from the regular Marvel universe in unexpected ways.
Beginning with hints of things to come, including RagnarÃ¶k, the issue quickly jumps to the Ultimate Thor we first met in “The Ultimates”: a superhuman thought to be the product of the European Super-Soldier Initiative that claims to be the real Thor. That perception of the character made him distinct from the regular Thor and Hickman adds an unknown to the situation that will have readers guessing: Dr. Donald Blake. Presented here as a psychologist and seeming expert in Norse mythology. He’s only introduced in this issue, but it’s enough to whet the appetite.
The other two timelines offer up different possibilities. The first, 1939, has Baron Zemo preparing a Nazi invasion of Asgard, while the second takes place ‘eons ago’ in Asgard, showing younger versions of Thor, Loki, and Balder. The Zemo plot sounds good on paper, but doesn’t necessarily jump out as a logical plan for the Nazis to get behind. It comes off more as ‘cool idea’ than something that shows immediate benefits to the Germans.
The Asgard part of the issue offers up some surprises with Loki standing beside his brothers without any hint of deceit or trickery. There’s a sense of this taking place before the roles of the Asgardians were completely set in stone. Carlos Pacheco throws in a nice touch by having this depiction of Thor wear an outfit resembling his regular costume with the added red cape. The three songs of Odin fighting against Frost Giants gives Pacheco a chance to show off his action skills, creating energetic and linear visuals. The Frost Giants come off as imposing, while the Asgardians use their agility and fighting ability to best them. Pacheco does a very good job at presenting the characters as the Hitch-designed versions and not the regular Marvel designs.
“Ultimate Comics Thor” #1 sets up the remainder of the series with a Nazi invasion of Asgard in 1939, while also delving into Thor’s early days on Earth after seemingly being created by Professor Braddock. Hickman drives the plot using the differing points from the regular Thor, while Pacheco’s visuals are dynamic and fit the look of the Ultimate Universe.