So here we are, in the midst of another Marvel crossover event that is meant to shake up the status quo…at least until the next event.
In 2013, during Infinity, Black Bolt detonated a Terrigen Bomb that created a vast cloud of Terrigen Mist that apparently never dissipates giving Marvel a constant and convenient excuse to create new superpowered individuals. This cloud is lethal to mutants, also convenient given the status of the X-Men movie rights.
Enter onto the stage Ulysses, a new Inhuman with the ability to see the future. When the Inhumans alert The Avengers and the mostly invisible X-men to the threat of a Celestial passing judgment (I guess) on the city of New York before it happens, our heroes are prepared and send this extreme cosmic threat packing in a mere eight pages of chaos, the most amusing of which is when Dr. Strange tells the heavy-hitting mystics of Earth ‘As we rehearsed’, casting spells that carry the Celestial into another dimension. I know this was to set up that the heroes have had time to prepare for this, but as far as I’m concerned you can have all the time you want to prepare for the Fifth Coming of the Celestials and not be as ready as they were.
At the world-saving after party, Ulysses is introduced to the main players and the very forced drama of the piece is revealed. Do we use Ulysses’ power to see the future to change the outcome or to ensure it happens? Iron Man is alone on an island believing the future is fixed and they should not be trying to change anything. Captain Marvel, as leader of the Ultimates, wants to use Ulysses as a pre-emptive strike weapon. Be on the scene before something happens. Act, not react. Bendis seems to be arguing with himself about using Tony this way, having Carol remind him that he’s a futurist and he’s supposed to want to change what he can. In the weakest defense in the history of comics, Tony asks Carol if she would do something to Bruce Banner to prevent something he might do as the Hulk, seemingly forgetting about launching him into space himself prior to Planet Hulk.
The Ultimates end up using Ulysses in order to prevent catastrophe and ambush Thanos while he is attempting to recover the Cosmic Cube. They defeat Thanos, but at a heavy price. Stark’s best friend Jim Rhodes, in armor as War Machine, is killed in action and She-Hulk is gravely injured. Tony accuses Carol and flies off in a rage to exact his own brand of revenge while She-Hulk, in scenery chewing dramatic fashion, flatlines telling Carol to fight for the future.
In issue 2, Tony Stark becomes Jack Bauer, raiding Attilan, home of the Inhumans and fighting with the Inhumans before making off with Ulysses in a brazen kidnapping. The Avengers show up too late to stop Stark and Carol tells Medusa, queen of the Inhumans that they will get Ulysses back safely. In what can only be David Marquez’ rendering of an evil Tony’s secret abandoned warehouse lair he prepares to torture Ulysses in order to figure out how his powers work, blaming him for Rhodey’s death.
The Avengers show up just in time to stop Tony from acting more out of character then he’s been depicted so far and Ulysses has another vision of the future, this time projecting it into the heads of our heroes for them to see in all its realistic glory. It’s the Hulk, rampaging and killing everyone. We close on Captain Marvel paying a visit to Banner who has supposedly been free of the Hulk since last years Secret Wars…but not for long.
David Marquez is the star here in these first two issues, depicting epic scenes of larger-than-life superhero battles and also bringing quiet calm to the many dramatic moments. The scene where Jean Grey tries to read Ulysses mind plays very much like a detectives interrogation with the single spotlight illuminating from overhead. The one panel Hulk appears in issue 2 he appears more menacing than he has in years.
Unfortunately, Bendis’ writing lacks here for the story overall. Citing my previous comments above, he seems to be almost writing under protest here. The characters feel very much like pieces on a chess board, needing to be in certain places emotionally for the inevitable conflict in issue 3 where I imagine is when more heroes will side with Iron Man. Currently a team of one, it seems like even he doesn’t want to be on his side. His characterization of Tony is criminal at times, his vengeful grief over the death of his friend while understandable is not how Tony would act. Rhodes went down fighting against the biggest threat Marvel has to offer. Tony would rather Thanos got away with the Cosmic Cube? Remember Infinity Gauntlet? Yes, Tony would mourn but past history proves he would be squarely in the change the future camp. I cite Planet Hulk and Operation: Galactic Storm where Tony leads a faction of Avengers to kill the Kree Supreme Intelligence as proof.
We probably won’t be treated to the X-men’s point of view on characters that can see the future. Destiny from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and Freedom Force was a pre-cognitive mutant and most of the X-men have lived through Age of Apocalypse and Days of Future Past. Dystopian futures are no stranger to books starring mutants hence no wondering where they would stand on any issues. Bendis is probably thrilled to leave them alone.
In the end, if it’s a good story I’ll change my tune. I liked the first Civil War even though it destroyed Reed Richards character in the process. But two issues in, my hope is dwindling.
Writing: 2 stars
Art: 5 stars
Colors: 5 stars
Overall: 3 stars
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: David Marquez
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