The Ultimates #12
The Ultimates #12
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Sam Humprhies
Pencilers: Luke Ross, Ron Garney, Butch Guice

I will always wonder, but will probably never get to know, just how much of the last three issues of this story deviated from Jonathan Hickman's original plan, given his choice to leave the title and co-write the final three issues of this arc with incoming series writer with Sam Humphries. Knowing what I know about Hickman, I'd say a lot. And while I see nothing but bright things ahead for Hickman, this run, in particular this and the previous two issues, will always remain a blemish on an otherwise impressive record, and a poor beginning to Humprhies' Marvel career.

True to his promise several issues back, Tony Stark executes his plan to enter the city and bring down the megalomaniac that used to be Reed Richards. While parts of Stark's plan are clever, the Children had been built up as such a great, unmatchable threat that the relative ease to Richards' defeat feels very anticlimactic.

While it's unclear how much of the plot was devised by Humphries, it is very clear that Humphries is handling the dialogue now. Unfortunately, Humphries just doesn't have the same skill with words that Hickman has, especially when it comes to writing super geniuses and beings from other worlds. Richards lacks the menace and detached condescension from earlier issues, while Stark lacks any real wit, and shows intelligence merely by talking about how intelligent he is.

The art is competent but disjointed. Three different artists collaborate to bring this issue home, and while their styles mesh well enough, the changes are apparent. The visuals feel very safe, and traditional, and not at all on par with the stunningly gorgeous work of Esad Ribic who was to be the regular series penciller before exiting the title as well. The fight between Hulk and well, let's call him Iron Man 2, in particular fails to convey the grandeur and power that is called for.

I don't think it's fair to really fault Humphries with all of the shortcomings of this issue, as he was, most likely, given the unenviable task of wrapping up a Hickman plot, which tend to be lengthy intricate tomes. Given Hickman's penchant for far reaching plans, the deus machine solution to the threat of the Children as well as the dangling plot threads left by the end of the arc (The People, Director Flumm etc.) it's hard to imagine that Hickman's plan wasn't abbreviated in favor of giving Humprhies free reign on the title rather than having to sort through months and months worth of Hickman's outlines.

It's a shame because the opening arcs of this story felt appropriately epic and intelligent to be published under the banner of The Ultimates. Hickman finally made this title live up to it's own reputation again, only to have the whole thing fall apart at the 15 yard line. It's sad to say, but the first twelve issues of this title will forever be a testament to the promise of greatness left unfulfilled.

Grade C-

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