Ultimate X-Men Annual 2005

Reviewer : Tim Byrne
Title : Ultimate Sacrifice

Writer : Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils : Tom Raney
Inks : Scott Hanna
Colors : Gina Goung-Raney
Letters : Chris Eliopoulos
Editor : Ralph Macchio
Publisher : Marvel Comics

Let me just say initially that ANY other comic this week or last week is going to suffer by comparison with the Ultimate Spider-Man Annual, which I consider to be one of the best single issue stories I’ve read in recent years.

Having said that, let’s have a look at what Brian Vaughan has managed to do with this resuscitation of the ‘Annual’ concept.

Annuals have always sat uneasily among the ‘regular continuity’ titles. Should they tell stories within the existing story-lines? Should they be ‘outside continuity’ one-shots? Should they only be reserved for special events?

Vaughan splits the difference somewhat by revisiting a number of characters which we haven’t seen in some time, telling a self-contained story involving Rogue, Gambit and Juggernaut, and a quest to obtain / steal a priceless artifact.

I thought it would have been a no-brainer, in putting Gambit in the middle of Vegas, to actually show some gambling and card-play, but not so much. Rather, we get an extended and flashy fight-scene between Gambit and Juggernaut, with Rogue doing her best to lend a helping hand (or foot) as the occasion requires.

The characterisation of Juggernaut doesn’t end up having the depth that Vaughan seems to be trying for, with the story even resorting to the tired cliche of the ‘evil laugh’ at the heroes attempts to stop the onslaught.

Rogue and Gambit fare somewhat better, although Gambit teeters on the edge of caricature, with his sardonic remarks and faux French one-liners.

The conclusion is interesting because, if that events stays put, it certainly alters the dynamic of the Ultimate Universe in a significant way from the main-stream universe. And heck, a change is as good as a holiday.

The art is patchy, with the fight scene generally standing up well. The irregular use of backgrounds can be a distraction, and the use of different backgrounds by Goung-Raney doesn’t add significantly to the effect. The age difference between Rogue and Gambit is emphasised to a noticeable degree, placing the couple more in the realm of a charming ‘older man’ and his paramour.

In terms of impact on the overall story of Ultimate X-Men, there’s little here that can’t be summarised in a few sentences.

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