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Ultimate Comics Avengers by Mark Millar Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Read our review of The Avengers here. And because it’s release day in the rest of the world, here’s a second Avengers-related review. And it’s a long one.

They say you can’t go home again. The Ultimates was easily one of the best comics of the past decade, and perhaps the comic that really got me into the medium. A clever, timely, astute and well-considered exploration of the superhero in the twenty-first century, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch undoubtedly had a massive influence on everything that followed. Of course, all this would seem to be for nothing when Jeph Loeb took over the franchise for Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum, two stories that were very poorly received and damaged the franchise quite considerably. So Millar’s return to write four six-issue miniseries of Ultimate Comics: Avengers seemed like a breath of fresh air. Critical and fan reaction to his twenty-four issue run has been somewhat muted, and there’s no denying that a lot of the magic from that origin story was lost. That said, I’ll concede to finding it an interesting, complex and occasionally compelling examination of Millar’s views on superheroes.

Not quite the ultimate Avengers comic…

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The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

The Ultimates got me into comics. I’d read a couple beforehand, of course, and picked up a stray issue in the nineties, but it was The Ultimates that convinced me that superhero comic books could be something bold and innovative and clever, rather than generic and plain. Looking back, I think that The Ultimates stands as one of Marvel’s crowning accomplishments of the last decade, with only New X-Men and Daredevil ever really coming close. A lot of people argue that it’s the cynical world view that sets Mark Millar’s origin story apart, and gives it a broad appeal, but I’d disagree.

I think that Millar’s story doesn’t work because it dismantles the conventional superhero narrative through glib nihilism and cool apathy, but rather because it vindicates that ideal by passing it through a crucible. In many ways, The Ultimates is perhaps the most optimistic superhero story I’ve ever read, if only because the idealism is truly earned.

Holding out for some heroes…

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