Ultimates 2 #8

Reviewer : Tim Byrne
Title : Born on the Fourth of July
Story : Mark Millar
Pencils : Bryan Hitch
Inks : Paul Neary & Bryan Hitch
Colors : Laura Martin
Letters : Chris Eliopoulos
Editor : Ralph Macchio

What Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch have done with this series is to create something similiar, yet distinct, from almost every comic creation out there.

Their achievement is in building, from the ground up, a world in which the idea of ‘super-powered people’ is a part of everyday life, and then giving serious thoughts on how such a framework would impact upon the world and civilizations that we live in. This is more than just how Spider-Man’s double life affects his aunt and girlfriend. This is attempting to throw the powderkeg of turbo-charged humans into today’s political structure.

Having said all that, this issue was only brilliant, rather than super-finger-lickin brilliant. This is partly due to its main focus on only one of the ongoing sub-plots within Volume 2 of the Ultimates. Essentially we follow Captain America as he confronts his romantic partner about her lunch-dates with her ex, visits Bucky, and is taken down by Nick Fury and his reserves. This is interspersed with Fury doing his ‘spy stuff’ deadpanning about how he has cameras ‘where you wouldn’t believe’.

I very consciously didn’t provide a spoiler warning about Cap’s fate because THE FREAKING COVER IMAGE OF THIS COMIC IS A PICTURE OF CAPTAIN AMERICA IN HANDCUFFS!

Sorry, but given the structure, wherein we are not sure that Cap has been fingered as the traitor until part-way through the issue, the cover removes any dramatic tension in the scenes with Nick Fury.

In any event, Millar is in usual fine form in this issue, particularly when dealing thoughtfully with the ‘fish-out-of-water’ concept so central to the character of Steve Rogers. The scene with Bucky, and with Bucky’s wife watching from inside, had a real emotional resonance brought out by the reluctance of grown men to admit their feelings of helplessness.

The issue doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger as such, but more with a feeling of unfulfilment. It seems pretty certain that things are not settled, and that the accusations of Fury have not been fully resolved. The nous and intellect of Fury (as previously shown) means that any explanation for a wrong accusation must be sound and coherent, in order for dramatic credibility to be sustained.

And as for that art….wow. Just wow. Reading this comic, as I do, next to the rest of my weekly ‘pull’ list makes the detail and love that goes into these pages that much more apparent. Not only the backgrounds, but so many of the facial expressions are nothing less than superb.

This issue, after several that left me gasping for breath, is more of a place-holder, but one which leaves me eagerly reaching for the next piece of the puzzle.