Ultimate Power #1-2
June 15, 2015
Ultimate power must be what Greg Land has considering he still gets work.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (throws arms out excitedly) IT'S THE 350TH EPISODE!
(To his surprise, however, there is no fanfare, no graphics, no text, nothing. He looks around in awkward confusion)
Linkara: Really? No fanfare? Nothing? Nobody cares about hitting 350? It's like fifty more than 300! (shrugs) Well, in any case, 350 episodes of a comic review show is a pretty long time to go without talking about Greg Land.
(Shots are shown of a Fantastic Four comic by Land)
Linkara (v/o): I've no doubt mentioned him on occasion in passing, yet have never reviewed any of his work, giving me the opportunity to yell the major problem with Greg Land and his artwork...
Linkara: (yelling with his hands cupped over his mouth) HE TRACES!! He wholesale traces photographs and artwork! I'd say at least Rob Liefeld does his own crappy artwork... but actually, Rob is guilty of tracing at times, too.
Linkara (v/o): Now, some of you might be thinking, "Well, it's not too terrible in the grand scheme of things." Photographic references are common in artwork, almost necessary for many artists, who have a difficult time visualizing poses and rely upon the visual in front of them.
Linkara: Well, that would be fine if he was just referencing photographs and poses. He's not, though; he's tracing them. (holds up two fingers) And two, if he actually owned the art and photographs he was tracing.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, no, my friends, he will trace from whatever he feels like tracing. Though, one of the most mobbed things he's traced from – and even admitted that he's traced from? Porn!
Linkara: I'd be more shocked by that, but I've said it before on this show that clearly, some creators just want to make porn, so (gives a thumbs-up) good job going that extra mile there, Greg.
Linkara (v/o): And even now, I'll bet some of you are going, "Oh, really? What's the harm in that?"
Linkara: Well, if you are thinking that, (points at camera) you're a dick! Aside from stealing the work of other people, there are creators out there who strive for (holds up index finger and thumb close together) a fraction of his career without resorting to theft! But you want to know what the other harm is in it? (scowls) Sequential storytelling!
Linkara (v/o): See, the thing is, it's not just that Greg Land traces, it's that he's so lazy with his tracing. Someone who actually gave a damn about sequential storytelling would make sure that the art was consistent from panel to panel, but a lazy artist, who just traces from five different sources, ensures that a character won't look like the same person from panel to panel. Suddenly, a character is off-model in every shot, their hair changing its style wildly, and implying that it doesn't even matter what they look like.
Linkara: Which would be a searing indictment over interchangeable character types and storytelling and the lack of well-rounded characterization, if that was the idea. But no, it's just laziness.
Linkara (v/o): And what's more, Greg Land has this terrible habit of using the same artwork over and over and over! Enjoy this little sample of the portfolio of Greg Land.
(A montage of Land's recycled tracings are shown, all set to Fucik's "Entry of the Gladiators", in "Captain America", "Spider-Man", "Birds of Prey", "The Fantastic 4", etc.)
Linkara (v/o): So, is the art the only reason we're doing today's comic? Well, not exactly. See, a lot of people have been asking me lately what I think of the Marvel event "Secret Wars".
Linkara: I love "Secret Wars"! Changing allegiances, heroes fighting villains, the introduction of Spidey's black costume, the Beyonder, "Beneath 150 billion tons stands the Hulk, and he's not happy!" One of the best and first companywide crossovers back in 1984 to '85.
Linkara (v/o): Crappy and repetitive naming trends of the Big Two aside... yyyeah, I'm not reading the new "Secret Wars". It didn't look interesting to me, and it was difficult enough for me to actually care about DC's own series, "Convergence", which ended up being okay, with some damn awesome tie-ins. I'm more of a DC than Marvel guy anyway, so really, I'm just reading Deadpool's tie-in issues and waiting for the event to be over with so I can go back to reading "Ms. Marvel". However, one of the parts of "Secret Wars" that is being talked about is the death of the Ultimate Universe, which I have talked about before, particularly in "Ultimates 3" and "Ultimatum".
Linkara: Supposedly, this also heralds the end of the old Marvel Universe... (rolls eyes) Yeah, we'll see about that... At the very least, "Renew Your Vows" came out and confirmed that, indeed, they didn't even mention the deal with Mephisto, so even if this was the new status quo for Spidey after "Secret Wars" is over with, they're ignoring the problem instead of addressing and solving it, so yeah, Peter Parker is still dead to me.
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, it seems fairly evident that the Ultimate Universe is done for, so now is a good time to take a look back at one of its miniseries – and a bad one, at that. It takes place shortly "Ultimates 3", so I'll give any additional backstory to you as we go along.
Linkara: We're not doing the whole series right away. We'll be coming back to it over time, but for the moment, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Ultimate Power #1" and "#2".
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "The Show Must Go On" by Three Dog Night playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): I shouldn't be looking at the cover since this is a trade, but hey, the first issue also has the trades cover, so we'll do it this time. And our first cover is just BAAAD. This has been a real problem with all the Ultimate Universe covers we've seen so far. It's just a crowd of people shoved together. I at least admit that it's a bit more dynamic than just a bunch of people standing around doing nothing, but it ends up not having a consistent mood as a result. In this book, Susan Storm will be happy and not giving a damn about anything! In this book, Wolverine will be yelling in pain! In this comic, this guy's crotch will emit fireworks! Or it's from his hand. On the other side. When his hand in the foreground is not doing that.
Linkara: Or maybe he's supposed to be holding his dick like a sparkler and Land just didn't get the memo.
Linkara (v/o): Also in this comic, Spider-Man coming out of a woman's neck. Okay, yeah, it's meant to be part of the "disembodied body parts" thing that everyone else has, but at least everyone else's body parts disappear because they've hit a line below them. Spidey's upper body is just flowing against another woman's neck. And as I said, this "clutter of people just standing around" issue is bigger than just Greg Land.
(Cut to the cover of a Fantastic Four comic by Land)
Linkara (v/o): He's done much better and cooler cover art, even if the poses are traced. That's really the disappointing thing about Land in general: he actually could be a great artist. He's done his own original art in the past. It's just at some point, he gave up doing his own work and relied exclusively on tracing.
(Cut back to "Ultimate Power #1")
Linkara (v/o): We begin with a recap of the Ultimate Fantastic Four's recap, that instead of cosmic ray exposure from wanting to beat the Commies into space, the group got their powers from a "dimensional teleporter accident".
Linkara: And it's a good thing that Reed Richards never, ever, ever played around with dimensional teleporters ever again.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, we truly open at a research facility in Wyoming called Project Pegasus, where a group of reptile-themed supervillainesses are all posing around, including this lady [Black Mamba] who has been drawn so that her waist is dangerously thin and her leg placement is quite questionable, since she seems to be arcing her body despite stepping forward. Hell, at first I thought she had only one leg, but nope, she has them both; they're just condensed so that it's only behind the leg of the lady in front [Anaconda]... who is looking in the wrong direction from everyone else. Also, it's a good thing this one woman [Asp] is crouching completely on the ground... and apparently also looking the wrong way, just in the complete opposite direction as the main lady. In any event, they are the Serpent Squad and are after something that's been stolen from them. The Fantastic Four are here to deal with them.
Johnny Storm/Human Torch: And I am soooo turned on right now.
Susan Storm/Invisible Woman: JOHNNY!
Ben Grimm/The Thing: I call dibs on the blonde.
Invisible Woman: What is wrong with you guys??
Linkara: (deadpan) Our heroes, everyone.
Thing: Hey, you got to body-wrestle the half-naked Namor– it's our turn.
Linkara: (laughs) Namor assaulted her when she rejected him and threatened to level New York just to get a long kiss from her. (beat) Go to all of the hells!
Linkara (v/o): They fight, their leader saying that the Serpent Crown was stolen from them and they want it back. During the battle, Ben Grimm gets hit so hard that a piece of his orange, rocklike skin gets chipped off, shocking everybody. After knocking out or detaining them, they begin speculating about what the hell this could mean, especially since there's a layer of exposed muscle tissue that was underneath it. Tabling the scientific talk for a second, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent comes up and explains that the Serpent Crown is an illegal energy source, and the Serpent Squad are some kind of cult. They want to know more, but S.H.I.E.L.D. says that Project Pegasus is classified.
Thing: Just make sure creepy and crawly here stay in whatever freak jail you put freaks in.
Black Mamba: Freaks? You're calling us freaks?
Linkara: Well, to be fair, one of your members has a spine-covered tail and green skin, your leader has scales, you have the amazing shrinking hip, and you think being part of a snake-themed cult equals BDSM leather.
Black Mamba: Look at you!! You're sickening!! You're a horror!!! You'll die alone!!!
Linkara: Sounds like somebody is a (singsong voice) sore loser...
Linkara (v/o): However, the words of a psychopathic, snake-themed, leather bondage gear-wearing supervillainess really hit Ben Grimm hard. Well, probably that and the reminder that he doesn't look normal anymore after part of him was literally chipped away. Later, at their lab, Reed promises Ben he'll find some way of fixing this.
Thing: Well, let's see... Took you a good fourteen years to find a way to mess up my life this bad. Guess I can wait around another fourteen... see if you ever figure out if you can fix it.
Linkara: (waves dismissively) Oh, come on, Ben, he's Reed Richards. It won't even take him that long to screw it up again.
Linkara (v/o): After angrily standing around in front of a giant red vortex from hell... Yes, I know it's a viewer into the Negative Zone. Says so in the corner, but the thing looks like it belongs in Doom... Anyway, after brooding in front of that, he [Reed] smashes a chair, pissed off that he can't figure out how to cure Ben. Inspiration strikes as he looks at a tiny orb on the ground, and we cut to the Triskelion, basically S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters.
Reed: All I need is 22 million dollars. Give or take...
Linkara: (as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) But Reed, 22 million seems a bit excessive for crowdfunding. (as Reed, agitated) Look, this new board game is going to be incredible! I know I don't even have a prototype to show off, but just trust me on this!
Linkara (v/o): Reed explains that he's going to build 4,200 interdimensional data retrieval constructs. The idea is that he'll send them off into as many parallel universes as possible to gather intelligence and knowledge. Considering the amount of crap that they've encountered concerning parallel universes in "Ultimate Fantastic Four"...
Linkara: ...including a zombie plague that a certain ghoul is going to be taking over my living room three months early to talk about...
Linkara (v/o): ...this is, in fact, a profoundly stupid idea. Probing into other dimensions is one thing. Hell, maybe a few probes. Like, three or four maximum, not over 4,000 of them!! And considering how parallel universes are supposed to work, what even is the good of that many? Most of them are gonna be like "Universe where Reed has a different hair color," or "Universe where Nick Fury is played by Denzel Washington instead of Samuel L. Jackson". Speaking of, Samuel L. Fury suggests that he's trying to have them pay millions of dollars in the hopes of finding a cure for Ben Grimm.
Linkara: Okay, I admit that I have not read the initial "Ultimate Fantastic Four" comics, so maybe I'm missing something, but what the hell good does that do him? What information would the probe supply that he didn't have access to already through the normal scans of the Negative Zone?
Linkara (v/o): Besides, at this point, it's a biological problem. Sure, greater understanding of the Negative Zone energies that did this might help unlock a way of reversing its effects, but then, why send so many damn probes everywhere else? Yeah, he said he'd use part of them to chart the unknown regions of the zone, but still, why not all of them at the Negative Zone? Or is he only saying this to sell it to the military? In any event, Nick Fury turns him down. The Ultimate Universe has had too much crap happen lately, including their version of Galactus...
Linkara: ...who, for some reason, not a giant dude in purple armor! Seriously, why are you even doing superhero comics if you're not going to embrace the insanity of them?!
Linkara (v/o): ...the aforementioned zombie plague, an alien invasion or two, and basically just a whole bunch of crap that means people are a wee bit cautious when it comes to poking their heads around places they shouldn't be. Ultimate Carol Danvers then brings up the Butterfly Effect and how their actions could have unforeseen consequences if they try to do what he suggests. And then Reed rightfully points out, "No fricking duh!", and the Butterfly Effect doesn't really have anything to do with what we're talking about. In any case, Reed pleads on a personal level that he made a promise to his friend and he needs more information. And Fury once again says no. And even I have to scratch my head. I'll admit, on a character level, I really do like Ultimate Reed Richards more than the mainstream one from what I've seen, since, honestly, it comes across like he actually gives a damn, and I love how much he truly loves his friends and humanity and is willing to put himself on the line to help them. But on the other hand, even he admits that the friggin' accident that made them the Fantastic Four yielded seven profitable patents for the United States military, and I have a hard time believing that he could do that and yet still not have enough damn information!
Linkara: So, regardless of the universe, Reed Richards is still the smartest and yet dumbest person in the room.
Linkara (v/o): With no options left, Reed decides, screw it, just build about five of the probes by hand, and sends them off through the dimensional portal.
Linkara: Which makes me wonder why the hell they leave that thing on for extended periods of time. Must kill the electricity bill. Or do they just really like the mood lighting it gives off?
Linkara (v/o): Later, we see them overseeing production on their new Fantastic Four toy line, which includes Doctor Doom and Namor. Uh, just FYI – the last we saw of Ultimate Doctor Doom, he had gone off into the Marvel Zombies Universe...
Linkara: Again, just (gestures behind himself with his thumb) wait for the pale guy in the other room next month.
Linkara (v/o): ...so he's not really in any position to be yelling that his figure should be taller than Reed's. Johnny Storm complains that the toys have too many points of articulation... which confuses me. Looking at the toys, they don't look like they have that much more than any six-inch figure. In fact, these ones are twelve-inch figures, so shouldn't they really have more points of articulation? Reed enters.
Reed: Johnny's right. We're looking for a more classic look for the next line.
Linkara: Well, in that case, shouldn't the Invisible Woman toy be rare, hard to find, and with the manufacturer insisting that girls don't like action figures?
Man: No offense, Mister Richards. Kids today like--
Reed: I'm eighteen years old, sir. I was a kid yesterday.
Linkara: You're also not the target demographic, Reed. (gestures toward himself) I've said stupid comments about toys before and then learned to shut the hell up about it since I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. (expression turns sour) You should do the same.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and then the roof collapses... I guess. There's a boom sound and what I think is chunks of the roof falling down. I guess everyone was on the frigging top floor of the place. And so, our issue ends with the arrival of... these people [the Squadron Supreme], traced from other artwork, including this guy [Hyperion] pointing right at the reader.
Linkara: (as this guy, pointing at the camera) You! You're actually reading this right now?!
Linkara (v/o): So... I guess I should give some explanation here about who the hell these people are and why this is significant.
TIME 4 BACKSTORY
(Cut to a shot of the cover of an issue of "Watchmen" called "Before Watchmen")
Linkara (v/o): Before "Watchmen" existed– (stops abruptly and stammers) No, that's not what I meant. Wait...
Linkara: How you people have been able to follow me for 350 episodes continues to amaze me.
(Cut to a shot of the Squadron Supreme)
Linkara (v/o): Erm, anyway, the thing is, "Watchmen" gets heralded as the first major story about a "realistic" take on superheroes, but the truth is, there is another book that deserves credit: "Squadron Supreme".
(A montage of shots of comics showing the Squadron is shown)
Linkara (v/o): The squadron is a group of characters created by Marvel to be representations of the Justice League so writers could do crossovers between Marvel and DC without really having crossovers. Squadron Supreme examined the idea of what would happen if the Justice League took over the world to try to turn it into a paradise. Naturally, things go awry, as they often do, and everyone learns not to abuse their power. Well, except for the ones who die, but I think they got the gist of it anyway. Two decades later, they were rebooted into their own little Ultimate Universe equivalent called "Supreme Power", essentially making the same basic character backstories and giving them a gritty and "modern" makeover.
Linkara: Which essentially means (makes an "air quote") "Everybody's a dick, but we're still supposed to like them for some reason."
Linkara (v/o): Okay, to be perfectly honest, I haven't actually read "Supreme Power", so I don't know how accurate that joke is to the book. I'd like to think J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote the initial story, is better than that, buuut he's also the guy who wrote "One More Day", editorial mandate or not, so nobody's perfect. But anyway, that's why the book is called "Ultimate Power". It's a crossover between the Ultimate Universe and the Supreme Power Universe.
Linkara: And another reason why it took so long to review this thing: we've already gone through a crap-ton of backstory here, and we're not even done yet.
Linkara (v/o): Issue 2's cover is better, but only because the burst-through-a-page thing works for a crossover. What doesn't work is more of Land's traced artwork. Oh, and get used to characters with their mouths open inexplicably, like this woman on the left. Also, get used to Land's squinting woman face. He loves tracing that one. Hell, it was on the first issue's cover, too. Oh, and on a note of laziness with that tracing, that character is supposed to have a golden necklace that he didn't bother drawing. Maybe the necklace is what kept her head and neck from drifting to the left.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, we open with... a traced face of Kitty Pryde, as well as a thong panty shot of her. Yeah, a thong panty shot of an underage girl. Keep it classy, Greg. During this time, Ultimate Spider-Man and Kitty Pryde of the X-Men were dating. They're swinging around New York, and Kitty is running superhero codenames past him.
Kitty: The Cat.
Kitty: The Shroud.
Kitty: If you "meh" me one more time--
Spider-Man: Kitty, those names suck.
Linkara: (incredulously) Um, you suck! What the hell's wrong with any of those names?
Spider-Man: Those names aren't you.
Linkara: Two of them have her damn name in them! That would be a better complaint! Otherwise, they exactly capture her!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, they spot the top of the Baxter Building friggin' exploding...
Linkara: I guess that explains why they were on the top floor last time, then.
Linkara (v/o): ...and naturally, they decide to go investigate. The tracing has reached critical mass, especially when it comes to characters and their wide-open mouths.
Linkara: It's like it's a reaction to the '90s. During that time, everybody was (grits his teeth) gritting their teeth and snarling! But now, everyone is Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Linkara (v/o): The Squadron Supreme are speaking gibberish... and it's here where we especially notice the porn tracing. For example, the guy in red is Hyperion, the Squadron Supreme Superman equivalent. And he's apparently in the middle of an orgasm. And wait, the black guy in goggles is Blur, their speedster... AND HE'S MAKING THE SAME DAMN FACE! Land was so lazy, he did the exact same tracing within THE SAME DAMN PANEL!! Oh, and spread your legs wide, blue lady; that's a natural pose to be making during a fight. Another Hyperion one here as he tries to reach that high note. And here's to guest artist Jim Balent for Blur sticking out his tongue for absolutely no reason in this panel. Hyperion eventually punches Ben Grimm, which is only notable to me because it's one of the rare occasions where Land draws Ben's teeth. I don't know why he doesn't like drawing the Thing having teeth, but there it is. Oh, and one of the more infamous panels from Greg Land: spread eagle, open-mouthed, and yes, most likely from porn. Less talked about is the sound effect, "FABOOM", that's supposed to be from Hyperion punching Ben Grimm... except its placement is right between that woman's legs. And considering her pose, well, I don't usually indulge in this kind of humor, but quite honestly, it looks like she has rocket-powered flatulence. Meanwhile, Hyperion is really, really struggling with holding it in. Oh, and it's that same "Oh" face again. (the next panel shows Hyperion starting to fall while holding his arms out and opening his mouth really wide) And now here he is trying to eat a sandwich THIIIS BIG.
Linkara: Okay, I've gotta be honest with you guys: this whole issue is a fight scene. There's just not a lot going on, so most of this will just be me riffing on the terrible artwork.
Linkara (v/o): I'm not even kidding on how little happens in this. Three whole pages are devoted to Blur trying to catch Hyperion as he falls. And there's just more uncanny valley faces and stuff lifted from porn, and it's just such a mess and so unnecessary! This is why we're covering two issues of this book instead of just going one at a time.
Linkara: Well, that, and because Issue 1 wasn't really all that bad, aside from the art, so if I'm gonna make up for all the good comics I've talked about lately, we need to get some crap in. (holds up comic) And this is the creme de la crap.
Linkara (v/o): The gist of what's going on is that the travel from an alternate universe screwed up the Squadron's powers and language, so eventually, they're able to communicate and fix their powers, while the Avengers
(Editor's note: "'Ultimates,' not Avengers, but who cares?")
Linkara (v/o): ...and X-Men arrive to help deal with the crisis.
Linkara: Because dammit, this is a crossover event comic, and we need to shove in as many characters as possible, even though most of them won't actually do anything in the book!
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, Greg Land, how did this ever look good to you?! How did this look good to anyone?! And really, how difficult is it to fix their mouths? It's not like he lacked any tracings of people with closed mouths. There was screaming porn star Scarlet Witch a second ago, but now here's actual snake woman Scarlet Witch showing off how much she loves the Pantene Pro-V she got in her hair between pages. We see the same face on Hyperion two more times! In their universe, when a mom says, "Stop making faces or it'll get stuck that way!", does she mean it with complete sincerity? Oh, and everybody wave to squinting Jean Grey, dull surprise Storm, yawning Cyclops, and shockingly okay-looking Wolverine, aside from the veins bursting through his shirt. Seriously, man, that's not healthy. I don't think your healing factor is working right. Okay, let's get to the point of all this. The Squadron has come to arrest Reed Richards for crimes against humanity. They accuse him of destroying their entire world.
Reed: I don't even know who you are! I've never seen or heard of you before. What world? How could I have destroyed anything...
Linkara (v/o): Aaand the purple lady, Power Princess, holds up one of Reed's dimensional probes.
Linkara: When people wonder why Reed Richards is criticized so much, it's because he made a tool for purely scientific analysis... and somehow managed to destroy an entire planet with it. That's a bit of a whoopsie.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Hyperion declaring that Reed will answer for what he's done! And also that the sandwich was really this big!
Linkara: (holding up both comics) These comics suck! Admittedly, Issue 1 was actually a decent start. I criticized Reed for his poor decision-making, but you understand his motivations for doing so.
Linkara (v/o): However, the art completely ruins it, especially in Issue 2 when the whole thing is a huge-ass fight scene for no good reason. That is terrible pacing, even at the best of times, made worse when this is a miniseries, meaning that crappy, terribly-drawn fight sucked up time that could have been used for character development. And when there are so many characters in the panels, it doesn't make for the most epic of fight scenes, it's just a big blob of shapes yelling at each other in incomprehensible dialogue. You can get away with this kind of thing when you know the stakes, are invested in the characters, but we don't get explanation for what's going on until the last page, so all we're left with is a bunch of people whom the reader is not necessarily familiar with making the exact same, grandiose poses and faces REPEATEDLY FOR TWENTY PAGES!! It's just awful!
Linkara: Next time, it's back to Patreon-sponsored reviews with... something I really wouldn't normally do: "Homestuck". Yeah. (throws down comics, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I'm just disappointed that we never got Ultimate ROM: Spaceknight.
Thank God they included the critical scene of the Fantastic Four arguing about their Action figures in this miniseries. Because THAT'S what people want to see in a superhero book.
(Stinger: A shot of an open-mouthed Hyperion is shown)
Linkara (v/o): I wonder if Hyperion also serves as the team's bug zapper, considering how long he keeps his mouth in this comic.