If you live in the UK you will have only just managed to get your hands on the final part of Millar’s Ultimate Avengers 1 due to problems with a certain volcano. And if you’re anything like me and a lot of people I’ve heard from you were generally under whelmed by the whole thing (Ultimate Avengers not the volcano!).
The second part of Millar’s ongoing run on the Ultimate Avengers is based around the Punisher’s role in the Ultimate Universe as part of Nick Fury’s black ops team and this introductory issue definitely seems to be an improvement on the first series. I’m feeling increasingly hopeful for this comic, Millar absolutely nails the Ultimate version of the Punisher; brutal, dry, unforgiving yet still human enough to take a beating realistically – Millar wants us to see his Punisher as a flawed person, not some superhero, and does so starting with a simple, effective, single page origin.
One of the problems with the issue is that it does take eight pages before the story actually gets going. Millar uses this opening to exaggerate his Punisher, really emphasizing the brutality and how much of a man on a mission he is. But this is something we’ve all seen before and it just feels like a waste of pages, making the issue seem less than it could have been and focusing more or less completely on Frank Castle / The Punisher. The audience may forget that this is a team book and if it continues some of the other characters may not get their fair share of the page count in the series.
The main reason I bought this book after the let-down of the first series is the art by the unbelievable Leinil Yu, one of only a handful of artists I follow since discovering his work in 2005 in the mini-series Silent Dragon.
I’ve always said that a perfect comic book is an equal mix of great art and great writing. No amount of brilliant writing can save a book if it is drawn terribly and vice versa. And although Millar’s writing is not perfect, Leinil Yu’s art is as close to perfect as you might get. The scratchy style that he excels at is inked and coloured in a way that makes me believe the stuff in Ultimate Avengers is as good as, if not better than his run on Secret Invasion. Yu certainly does not shy away from putting as much detail as possible in his work and he produces some of the best facial expressions in the comic art business.
Yu draws one of the best depictions of Frank Castle that we have seen on the shelf in a long time; cold, calculated, with the classic costume and big guns. To be honest with this character there’s little more you could actually ask for.
This is a good introductory issue and it does what it’s supposed to – which is make you want for more. Hopefully it’s a return to form for Millar and we may get some more of the Ultimate style writing we know and love him for. If things keep up like this then Millar will again be giving us the only Ultimates book on the shelves that’s really worth buying.