For all the delays that blighted it, there's little doubt that Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's The Ultimates was sharp, good looking and enjoyable. The characters were well written and believable, the action was always spectacular but never muddled and the political edge to the book made it feel relevant in a way that Marvel comics should but rarely ever do.
It's clear that the book has become one of the jewels in Marvel's crown, so it's a shame that the powers that be have seen fit to hand it to a team who look like taking it off in a new and frankly unwelcome direction.
Jeph Loeb made no bones about the fact that he was going to ditch the politics and turn the Ultimates into an action comic. That made me wary straight away, but while I don't think the tone needed to be changed I have nothing against straight up action per se, so I was willing to give the book a chance. I wish I hadn't bothered.
Loeb and Joe Madureira's first issue is a confused blur of a comic. The keenly observed dialogue of the first two volumes has been replaced by hackneyed old trash talk and a slew of in your face sound effects. There's little in the way of a plot, and the characters so carefully fleshed out by Millar have been rendered two dimensional by Loeb.
The art is horrible. The pages look like a strange hybrid of graffiti art and manga overlayed with neon pastels. Where Hitch's drawing was clean and well proportioned, Madureira gives us a set of anatomically muddled michelin men. Captain America is a blob, Wasp who was (as far I can recall) asian in the Millar Hitch run now seems to be, well...W.A.S.P.! and Hawkeye, who was stripped down to his basics and done as a dead eyed hitman has now acquired a distinctly 90's looking leather number complete with unnecessary pockets and rubber mask. Taken as a whole it's a distracting, ill proportioned mess that makes the story even more of a chore to follow.
In all I spent approximately five minutes on the comic. That's all it's worth. There's nothing that makes me want to go back and look at it again, and it's highly unlikely that I'll be back for issue #2.
The Ultimates RIP.