There are few things I love more in life than a meaty drop of exposition. I don’t know how to say that without such sounding sarcastic, but it’s as sincere a statement as every I’ve spoken. My favorite chapters of The Lord of the Rings aren’t the battles of Helm’s Deep or Pellenor Fields; give me Return of the Shadow any day. Or The Council of Elrond. Or The Grey Havens. Or the Appendixes!
The Ultimates #2 is one huge exposition dump, and it’s glorious! T’Challa teleporting before Galactus is used as a pretense to revisit the origins of one of Marvel’s most iconic villains. The Devour of Worlds has been a frequent presence in many of the best stories put out by the House of Ideas in recent years, particularly Millar’s Fantastic Four run, and Hickman’s following him, even showing up in this week’s Secret Wars #8 by the same. But often he’s portrayed as a force of nature; here he’s Galan, infused with history, and as a result, personality.
Likewise with the few brief panels of “fighting.” Blue Marvel, Carol Danvers, and Spectrum all shout out their stratagem, less so for the benefit of each other than for the reader on the far side of the fourth wall. Ewing even coyly flirts with breaking such in the recap page, with Blue Marvel summarizing the event of the first issue both to the reader and, in the context of the fiction, the whole world, citing accountability and transparency, apparently making good on his resolve to not act as another Illuminati.
Also per the first issue, Ultimates continues to be of major consequence to the greater continuity. Whereas issue #1 has been the clearest follow-up the the fallout of Secret Wars, issue #2 sees significant alteration to the status quo of Galactus, and consequently, to the Marvel omniverse, as know it’s known. While I’m normally a vocal opponent of the creativity-stifling concept that is continuity (an editorial mandate which robs auteurs of their authorial authority), Ewing feels fully in control of the story, which requires no prior knowledge of the characters and concepts contained within.
Unsurprisingly, Rocafort has no trouble translating the dialogue and narration heavy script into a visual treat. Though their styles are lightyears apart, it reminds me greatly of Watterson’s approach to illustrating Calvin and Hobbes; whenever the precocious philosopher would ponder or pontificate, the cartoonist would send him barreling down a hill in a sled or wagon, adding much needed motion and dynamism.
I came away from issue #1 unexpectedly impressed. Such could have proved an aberration, especially given the sorry state of nearly every series out of the All-New, Marvel Now initiative thus far. While never quite reaching the highs of the debut issue, The Ultimates easily remains Marvel’s strongest offering without the words “Star Wars” in the title.