The Ultimates: Start With the Impossible transports a once-potent brand into the mainstream Marvel Universe.
A small team comprising Black Panther, Spectrum, Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel and Ms. America forms to tackle some of the biggest problems in the Marvel Universe. In the opening story, the team “reboots” Galactus, transforming the biggest destructive force in the galaxy. With the fabric of time in disarray, the team travels beyond the edges of reality in an attempt to assess the damage. Along the way a bit of unfinished business from Blue Marvel’s past confronts the group. That sojourn shows the group that Eternity, the personification of all existence, is in chains and also paves the way for the return of a major threat, deadlier than ever. A spotlight on Galactus explores his new nature and its wider implications.
The Ultimates borrows a key franchise title from Marvel’s now defunct Ultimate line and re-defines it for a new era. Writer Al Ewing devises a compelling mission statement for this new team, deploying the considerable power set of these unique, compelling heroes for a reality-bending, cosmic adventure. Some of the concepts involved can be mind-addling, but Ewing mostly does a good job of corralling his Big Ideas into a focused, involving narrative. He also delves into the consequences of the team’s choices and how they impact the rest of the universe.
Ewing gives the various team members some nice moments and effectively contrasts the different personalities against one another. He drops some tantalizing suggestions about the evolution of Spectrum and does some subtle character work with the always intriguing Ms. America. Ewing also has the confidence to present a team of mostly non-white heroes and not make that one fact the focus of the story or to take the lazy route and make this a team of “street” protectors. It’s a nice step in Marvel’s efforts to broaden its character portfolio and spotlight diversity in a meaningful, dynamic way.
Kenneth Rocafort can be a divisive artist. His highly stylized, angular approach isn’t every reader’s cup of java. While his facial expressions can be offputting, his work is showcased to good effect here. He has a facility for intricately composed, widescreen pages that pop quite impressively. Rocafort deploys some imaginative layouts and design work to move the team through its cosmic adventures with a lot of energy. Primary colorist Dan Brown does some really nice work, mixing all sorts of cool effects into a varied palette that adds a lot of depth and momentum to the art. They’re a solid team that’s a good fit for the book.
While not officially an Avengers book, The Ultimates essentially takes the role that New Avengers filled during the Jonathan Hickman era, but charts its own, singular path. The creators forge a strong identity for the series and make it worth keeping an eye on.