Big Names Meet Big Muscles: Ultimate Power Graphic Novel Review

Everyone knows Uncle Ben’s famous quip, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but what happens when we introduce “ultimate power?” At this point, we can go ahead and dispense with Ben’s folksy wisdom. Ultimate Power isn’t an amped up morality play like those that dominated classic Marvel comics. Instead, this story takes place in the same world of grey matter that we’ve come to expect after Marvel’s Civil War event.

Ultimate Power is a 9 part series from Marvel’s Ultimate franchise. It takes place shortly before the events of Ultimatum. If you’re not already confused, you should know another world of stories plays into this too: the Supreme universe. Basically, what this book is is a meeting of the bulkiest and brawniest dudes of the Ultimate universe clashing with the beefiest of the Supreme universe.

Not only do universes collide, but a few big names join forces to bring us this comic: Brian Michael Bendis, J.M. Straczynski, and Jeph Loeb. If you ask me, those are some of the best writers in the business right now. If that weren’t enough, another force to be reckoned with joins in too: Greg Land, one of Marvel’s most dynamic pencilers. 

The story begins by showing not the proverbial chink in Ben Grimm’s armor, but the literal one. While engaging in a fairly standard fight with so-so supervillains, a chunk of Ben Grimm’s rocky exterior falls right off of him, exposing a pink fleshy side we rarely see. Reed Richards, when he’s merely an 18 year old and not the Marvel patriarch he’s now seen as, wallows in his remorse, knowing full well if not for his intergalactic aspirations, his old pal Ben wouldn’t be a walking boulder.

In an attempt to cure The Thing, what does Mr. Fantastic do? He decides to send probes into a parralel dimension to see if they might stumble on a cure. At this point, the premise makes very little sense. Is he hoping the probes will find a different version of Ben who happens to be going through the same problem? It seems the minds of all three writers involved can’t explain this plot device.

Shortly thereafter, Hyperion, leader of Squadron Supreme, shows up to arrest Reed Richards, and shows him shocking footage of what his scientific meddling has done: large swatches of America (in the Supreme universe) are besieged by weird mold-like organisms that kill millions. The germ from which this sprang was located–you guessed it–in Reed Richard’s probe. “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” (I’ll use any excuse to quote T.S. Eliot).

Reed willingly allows himself to be arrested, but his chums in crime solving don’t wish to see their pal go away, especially Nick Fury. It’s then up to several members of the Avengers to team up with the remaining members of the Fantastic Four to get Reed Richards back, which, of course, means the heroes of the Marvel universe have to fight the heroes of the Supreme Universe…for several issues.

After glancing at reader’s reviews on Amazon for Ultimate Power, I saw the most common complaint was that the fighting went on for too darn long. I’d agree. However, I won’t agree with the angry nerds who give this book 1 star out of 5.

To be clear, Ultimate Power was simply not great. With Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, and J.M. Straczynski attached, you’d think you were about to read the greatest thing ever. “With great power…” Alas, some of this series was an irresponsible use of power. At times, the story was too silly to gain suspense, and at other times the plot was overly convoluted. That being said, there’s definitely positive aspects to Ultimate Power, the biggest being Greg Land’s artwork (to see a large selection of his work on the Comic Art Community site, click here). Greg Land is a fantastic penciler, but I only see his work sporadically. For example, he took over the penciling duties of Uncanny X-Men for a while to let Terry Dodson recharge his batteries, but just for a few issues. It was refreshing and invigorating to see 9 consecutive issues drawn by Greg Land. His style involves full-bodied rounded characters similar to Terry Dodson, but downplays the cartoonish aspect for a more “real” effect. Frankly, after living through the 90s wave of artists, I’m happy to see men and women in capes and cowls who aren’t stick-thin like Calvin Klein models.

Ultimate Power is currently out of print, but Amazon has old copies for sale and so too might your local comic book store. There’s definitely better books out there, but if you’re bored, Ultimate Power will keep you entertained for an hour or two.

—–If you happen to be looking for some regular books to read, why not check out mine? I have two out on Amazon, The Madness of Art: Short Stories and A Rapturous Occasion. Both are available as paperbacks and as affordably priced ebooks.

If you liked Ultimate Power, you may also like The Mighty Avengers: The Ultron Initiative.

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