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The Ultimates #9 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics Ė Mark Millar (w); Bryan Hitch (p); Paul Neary (i)
Once again, a long wait is met by a solid issue. However, last time I reviewed The Ultimates (two months ago, when #8 was released), I stated that I thought the book was basically always worth the wait, since itís one of the most consistently entertaining superhero book on the market (which isnít that big of an accomplishment, I suppose, when you only crank out an issue about every two months or so). This time around, I have to say that Iím not sure that the wait was necessarily justified.
When last The Ultimates shipped, the issue closed with the promise of the long-awaited throw-down between Giant Man and Captain America, a fight that came hot on the heels of Steve Rogersí discovery of Hank Pymís abuse of his wife. This monthís issue does deliver on that promise and it plays out like one would expect, with the pugilistically (if that can even be considered a word) inclined Captain America taking the fight straight to Dr. Pym, a man that no matter how big he can grow is still just a scientist. As a fight choreographer, Bryan Hitch has repeatedly proven himself to be more than capable and this battle is no exception.
However, the fight between the two heroes doesnít even take up the first half of the issue. Rather, once the pair is back in the custody of Nick Fury and his men, Millar switches gears and spends the rest of the issue focusing on a conversation between Betty Ross and the still-confined Bruce Banner, which is really the highlight of the issue.
Given the fact that last issue showed us in no uncertain terms exactly what The Ultimates were doing to combat the alien conspiracy, to do so again this time around would have been more than redundant. So instead, Millar opts to describe to the reader what has transpired in the interim, via Ross relating current events to the imprisoned Banner. Itís a nice effect, using the charactersí dialogue as plot exposition, but without coming off at hackneyed or ham-fisted.
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The problem, in my opinion, isnít with the issue itself, so much as it is with the effect that the delays cause. If The Ultimates shipped every month, like it was supposed to, an issue like this would stand out as a nice, character-driven piece before a climactic battle (Bendis does is pretty frequently in Ultimate Spider-Man, for example, and Millar himself has done it on occasion in Ultimate X-Men). However, since the appearance of this book on the shelf has taken on the quality of a rare treat, something to be looked forward to and savored (since itís the only taste of it that youíll get for several months), itís sort of a let-down to finally get another issue and basically have nothing substantial happen in it. Sure, thereís the fight between Cap and Giant Man, but itís over almost before itís begun and then weíre left with talking heads for the rest of the issue.
In the end, itís still a good book and a solid issue. Itís just that I think Iíd appreciate moments like these more if I wasnít so eagerly anticipating each issueís release.