[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]
Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.
Holy shit. I really am a goddamn fanboy.
This is the realization I came to when doing the prep-work for this week’s Images & Words (see: reading comic books). While I believe in the power of comics as a medium first and foremost, I can’t help but willingly belly-flop into some of its pitfalls. Dudes with capes battling nefarious evil-doers. Womenfolk with impossible boobs and butts. Over-the-top splash pages. It’s all so damn glorious.
And the reigning king, the master of the dominion that is Nerd Manor, is Mark Millar. And that’s why we’ve written about him once or twice at OL. The man knows how to take the time-tested characters and put just enough spin on them to make them interesting again while retaining those properties we fell in love with in the first place. In short, Millar rules.
So I really shouldn’t feel bad about awarding yet another Millar book a spot on Images & Words. I shouldn’t. Seriously. But when I concluded that the pick of the week would be Ultimate Avengers 2 #1 I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just given a Mark Millar comic the weekly feature…oh wait a second…I did…just last week.
Fuck it, this is my post and I make the damn rules. I am the arbiter of the OMEGA-COMIX-ZONE! I rule with a turkey drumstick in one hand and a paneled page in the other! Fear my lack of hygiene! Admire my useless knowledge! Now, step off my Nikes, you’re going to smudge them you prick!
*Ahem* Sorry. It’s been a long day.
Anyways, this introductory issue of Ultimate Avengers 2 shakes the narrative ropes like the Ultimate Warrior. The first caption reads “The Punisher gets busy” and is followed by eight pages wholly dedicated to various murders committed by Frank Castle. While most Marvel readers know that the Punisher’s methods often border on pure sadistic savagery, this first third of the comic takes the uninitiated and throws them into the deep-end without any floaties. “Swim kid, swim for your life!”
Millar’s Punisher is a man whose heart has truly been blackened and swept away by the wind. Without remorse, he guns down not only the targeted criminals but also anyone unfortunate enough to be (even loosely) affiliated with them. It’s unadulterated brutality.
In one instance we see Castle shoot a potentially innocent man. Hoping to be spared, the man pleads, “…I have two young sons. I do not even know these people. I am just their driver, man.” In another scene, the Punisher is reminded that one of his most recent targets, though a criminal, was still only in high school. For all intents and purposes, this is an exaggerated, hyperbolic version of the character. Which is interesting, because his status as a hero (or, I suppose, anti-hero) has to be called into question.
Of course, there’s a sting operation and right when Frank Castle thinks he’s going to nab some Russian mobster, Captain America pops out and fucks his shit up. Ah, good `ole Stevie Rogers, always willing to arrest people convicted of murdering “over two hundred people.” Once in custody, Castle is informed by Nick Fury and Black Widow that the only way he can stay off of Death Row is to lead a black ops team tasked with doing the dirty work that Captain America and his buddies aren’t willing to deal with.
Right now, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this whole bad boy working for the good guys plot. If it turns into nothing more than Frank Castle and Steve Rogers punching each other out in the name of conflicting ideologies, I fear I’ll be a bit disappointed. But if we get to see these two heroes look past their differences for the sake of beating villainous ass, well then I’m all in. Either way, the first issue of Ultimate Avengers 2 instills enough faith to remain optimistic and so I plan on doing so. Remaining. Optimistic, that is.
Thus far, the true beauty of Ultimate Avengers 2 is found in its art. Leinil Francis Yu rocks a pencil with a precision and detail that would make surgeons weep. When Frank Castle brains someone, blood is expelled not in a single horror-movie stream, but with miniscule droplets and tiny rivulets streaming all about. When a body is flung into a car window, it really seems as though millions of shards of glass are going to fly off of the page. Hell, he even makes a black eye fold over with multiple creases the way they actually do.
Another thing I love about Yu’s pencils (and an open source of debate between Caffeine Powered and me) is that not all of the lines are cleaned up or erased. In fact, a lot of them remain and are inked right over. I love this shit. I think it hits the reader’s subconscious, reminding him that what is being experienced is a fucking comic book. Not a photograph. But a comic book, a series of real drawings that were crafted by an artist.
Again, I’m not sure where Ultimate Avengers 2 is going. It has the potential to be campier and more ridiculous than its predecessor, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But so far, the big violent roller-coaster of a sequel has come out of the gate and ascended the first peak. Arms up, motherfuckers.