Previously in Ultimates 3: A leaked sex-tape of Tony “Iron Man” Stark and Natasha “The Black Widow” Romanova was leaked to the media and aired un-edited on ABC and CNN, Venom attacked The Ultimates’ mansion headquarters and was ultimately melted by Thor, The Wasp revealed to Captain America that brother and sister Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are indeed fucking, Wasp then discovered that Hank “Giant Man”/“Ant-Man” Pym was either dead or unconscious from having taken a bunch of pills, and someone killed The Scarlet Witch using some sort of special Quicksilver-dodging, Scarlet Witch-seeking mini-missile. (Much more detail here).
The second issue of Ultimates 3 is much better than the first, which probably isn’t saying too much, considering that it wouldn’t have been possible for it to be any worse. Still, as I sat down to write-up my synopsis of and thoughts on this issue, I realized I had hardly scanned any images from it, so there were relatively few “Oh my God you need to see this to believe it!” type of scenes.
Perhaps that’s because this second issue is pretty much all fighting? And while the dialogue is unbelievably bad and the action uninspired, pointless and occasionally incompetently conveyed, it’s at least better than all the attempts to advance a plot that occurred in the previous issue.
As in the previous issue though, Jeph Loeb displays an disturbing lack of understanding of either the way linear and non-linear narratives work or what it’s like to live in the fourth dimension. Perhaps a combination of the two?
The first panel of the first issue opened with a caption informing us that the very first scene of the comic was occurring “last night,” while the rest of it occurred “today.”
The first panel of this second issue opens with a caption reading “Twenty-two minutes ago.”
So, the first scene of this book occurs “twenty-two minutes ago.” Got that? You probably assume that means that it takes place twenty-two minutes before the last panel, the dramatic full-page splash at the end of the first issue, in which Dr. Blake declares Scarlet Witch dead.
But no, that’s not the case. A few panels later, we see a couple of New York police officers getting a call over their scanner about the shooting, so this is happening around the same time as the previous scene, not actually twenty-two minutes before it.
Later scenes in the book also use weird captions to designate the time as being in the recent past. For example, the next one we see is “seven minutes ago,” and finally “two seconds ago.”
The best I can come up with to explain this is that Loeb saw another comic book where it was used right, thought it was cool without really understanding it, and tried to replicate it here. How would it be used right? Well, I imagine if a comic started in medias res, with some crazy situation, like Superman leading an army of Kryptonian centaurs who are about to execute the members of the Justice League. Then the next page might say “22 minutes ago,” and the rest of the book would slowly unfold how we got from the strange “now” situation.
But Ultimates 3 #2 doesn’t do that. Like the first issue, it is a perfectly linear narrative, with one scene leading chronologically to the next, with noting but the little dateline captions saying otherwise.
The lesson? If you’re reading a Jeph Loeb comic, never read any of the captions. Trust me, they’re much better that way. It’s really the only way to read Superman/Batman, in which the two characters narrate the exact same events in every single panel, deviating only to let the reader know in no uncertain terms that they are actually madly in love with one another but are too afraid to just come out and say it, because what would Lois and/or Robin think?
Okay, so we know the when is “twenty-two minutes ago,” whatever on earth that means. The where is Central Park’s southwest entrance. (Just in case you want to take an Ultimates 3 tour of the city at some point).
There we see Spider-Man, that is, Ultimate Spider-Man swinging around on a web line, narrating out loud to himself like Stan Lee was still writing the poor sap: “Bad enough I went out this morning to school without a jacket… …whe knew I was going to need thermal underwear?”
Indeed. When he over hears the police scanner saying a woman was shot in the vicinity of Radio City Music Hall, he jumps on top of a police car and shouts “Oh, No! Aunt May said she was going to see the Christmas show at Radio City…”
All of a sudden, a BLAM rings out, and Spidey is down, a tranquilizer dart in his shoulder. What could this mean?
It means we need a double-page splash panel, showing Hawkeye jumping at Spider-Man and firing more darts, saying, “You should’ve stayed down, kid!”
Here’s what the spread looks like, without the dialogue and sound effects added:
(You know, if the whole book was free of dialogue, it might have been a much better read. It certainly wouldn't have made any less sense, and every reader could imagine their own dialogue, which would be better than what Loeb came up with.)
Why has Hawkeye ambushed Spidey? As he told Captain America and Wasp last issue, after their chat about the Maximoffs incestuous relationship, that he was going to track down Spider-Man to see what he knew about Venom attacking the mansion.
He is apparently planning to literally shoot first and ask questions later.
Their fight lasts three more pages, with Hawkeye saying things like, “Maybe I have gone a little crazy. Maybe every time I hear a gunshot it takes me right back to when my family…” and Spidey saying thngs like “How’ bout you go cry your eyes out on Oprah…” and “Eat web, cowboy!”
Before long, the dart takes effect, and Spidey is down for the count, with Hawkeye pressing a gun to his head and threatening to kill him if he finds out that Spidey had something to do with Venom attacking. Apparently he’s not going to just shoot first and ask questions later; he’s just going to shoot, and then threaten to shoot.
Suddenl, a shield dramatically KLANKs the gun out of Hawkeye’s hand, and Captain America says the deranged purple enthusiast must return to base with him “A.S.A.P., priority one.”
The pair leave Spidey laying in the snow, still paralyzed from the dart. That is the last we’ll see of or hear from Spider-Man for the rest of the series. The first third of this issue? Completely irrelevant. (Well, it did give Joe Madureira a chance to draw Spider-Man, which I imagine is why it was included at all).
Suddenly, it’s “seven minutes ago.” Seven minutes before the last twenty-two minutes ago? Or 15 minutes later? Damn, I forgot I’m not suppose
d to bother with captions.
Whenever it is, the place is the Ultimates mansion. Hank Pym is alive after all, as he’s lying in a hospital-style bed, a tube in his nostrils, and Wasp at his bedside pleading with him to regain conscious and tell him what pills he took, as “there were dozens.”
That’s when Pietro VOOOOSHes in with Wanda’s body, and starts explaining what happened in super-speed.
I was going to point out how ridiculous it is that Pietro was expecting his radio signals to reach Wasp and for her and/or the Ultimates respond in the space of a few split-seconds, but let’s be generous to Loeb and assume Pietro’s in shock over his sister’s death, and he’s forgetting he’s the only one who has super-speed.
Wait, Wasp is saying she didn’t get any message…? So she’s assuming she should have received it as well…?
Fuck, I can’t make sense of this stuff. Four editors! They could have drawn straws, and who ever had the short one would have to call Loeb and be like, “Hey, this scene on page eight and nine? What the hell’s going on here man?”
Suddenly the power goes out! The door is blown open! And five villains pose in a full-page splash panel, little pink-ish boxes identifying them.
Mystique! Sabretooth! Blob! Madrox! And Lorelei! I remember the first four from various Ultimate X-Men stories (well, I think Mystique was just the name of Professor X’s cat during Mark Millar’s run on the title, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of the later UXM writers introduced her in this form). As for Lorelei, I don’t remember seeing her in an Ultimate Universe story, nor a Marvel Universe story, but her name and power are pretty self-explanatory; she seems to function like The Enchantress, and she fights Thor in a few moments.
Drunken Tony Stark is struggling to put on his armor when Natasha appears in his room, but Wasp “stings” her somewhere inside her head, revealing her to be the shape-changed Mystique.
Thor and Valkyrie had been cuddling in bed, and Thor explained why he started talking like Marvel Universe Thor.
“For the year past I struggled to prove my identity to the people of Midgard,” he says, “Now, I have no such conflict.”
So you see, he was trying to prove he was really Thor by talking like everyone else, and now that everyone knows he’s Thor, he can talk like Thor. Yeah, I don’t understand that explanation either. But who cares, for no sooner does Valkyrie get her Red Sonja-style chain mail bikini top on then Lorelei appears and tells Thor to kill Valkyrie in a special font, his eyes start glowing, and he attacks her.
Blog, meanwhile, attacks the Ultimates’ refrigerator, and when Wasp confronts him, letting us know that she’s struggled with bulimia for years (Hey, a relevant issue! So tastefully addressed!), Blob responds, “Wasp! Gonna eat you up!” Iron Man saves her this time, but Blob apparently gets his wish in Loeb’s series Ultimatum (Click here to see a gross panel of Blob eating Wasp. Or at least part of her).
Elsewhere, Cap is asking Hawkeye to save at least one Multiple Man to interrogate, when Sabretooth attacks Cap from behind, his claws raking against his back and summoning a splash of red blood. In the next panel, we see Capt’s wound-less back…his costume’s not even torn, and he hits Sabretooth with his shield, saying “I want you out of this house, Creed.”
This leads to what may be the most representative panel of the whole series. This, by the way, is a full-page splash:
Oh man. I’m not sure how comics writers get paid these days, but does Jeph Loeb get a page rate? Like, doe she get $30 or $100 bucks or $250 for each page worth of script he writes? Whatever the amount, I kind of hope he does.
Because I really like the idea of him giggling to himself and simply typing the words “Suck it” on a page worth of script and thinking, “There, that’s $50 (or however much) Quesada owes me.”
Or did Loeb and Madureira use the old Marvel method when creating this, wherein Loeb gave Madureira a basic plot outline to break down and drawn, and then he returned to dialogue based on the final art? Like, did Loeb give Madureira a synopsis for this scene saying “Sabretooth and Captain America fight,” and Madureira just decided to draw a huge, one-page image to cut down on the work? And Loeb had no choice but to insert a single line of stupid dialogue.
I want to know how this page came to be. I am honestly fascinated that this was published in a Marvel comic book, that Marvel paid professionals to write, draw, color, letter and edit this page, and then they charged people money to buy a comic book containing it.
That is 1/22nd of this issue. If you bought this comic book, you paid 13 cents for this image.
The fight continues for three more panels, while in the infirmary Quicksilver is ignoring the battle, and staring intently at his sister’s dead body. Is he waiting for his father to show up, as he knows he will, or is he imagining what sexual act could be even more edgy than incest, now that his sister is dead?
No sickos, he was waiting for his father, who he knew was there the minute the lights went out, he says.
Magneto and Quicksilver exchange a few words, and when Magneto asks who his estranged son thinks will have a better chance of solving his sister’s murder, Quicksilver grabs all the Brotherhood villains and disappears—with Magneto and his sister’s body.
As Wasp explains what just happened to Hawkeye and Cap, a dialogue bubble spoken from someone off-panel gets their attention: “I know you think you’ve got a murder to solve, but, believe me—“
And then it’s time for another full-page splash! This one features Wolverine, wearing a belt full of pouches around his right thigh, and dramatically popping his claws, while saying finishing his dramatic entrance line: “--You’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands!”
This image, by the way, is the one that takes place “two seconds ago.”
And thus concludes Ultimates 3 #2.
Tomorrow: Hey, it’s Wednesday tomorrow, and there will be new comics to read. Will Ultimates 3 week pre-empt the usual Wednesday night Weekly Haul feature? No, no it will not. I should have two posts tomorrow. First, we’ll examine Ultimates 3 #3, the issue containing two gross sex scenes, and then I’ll have the usual reviews of the week’s new books that I’ll read. See you then! Well, I won’t actually see you, I guess…unless you have live webcams and stream yourself reading my blog…but you know what I mean.