Comic Book Review: Ultimate Origins #4

Ultimate Origins has been a decidedly average read. This story had some potential, but Bendis has failed to tap into it. And that is no surprise since I have never viewed Bendis as a writer whose talents lie in world building. Still, there have been enough aspects to this title that are interesting that keep me coming back. Hopefully, Bendis is able to deliver a stronger read with Ultimate Origins #4. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Butch Guice

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin years ago in Kuwait with Wolverine carrying a badly injured Nick Fury through the desert. We slide to Nick in a hospital bed with General Ross in the room questioning Nick. Ross asks why a filthy mutant killing machine like Wolverine would carry Nick on his back across the desert. All Wolverine is programmed to do is kill and yet he saved Nick.

Ross has done some investigating on Nick and states that Fury has been around for longer than he claims. Ross says that in World War II, Nick was not the war hero that he is now. Ross pulls out Nick’s World War II file and asks that this is Nick’s file and not his daddy’s or his granddaddy’s, correct?

Ross says that Nick should be close to ninety-years old. And that Nick entered the hospital with his guts torn out and a day later he is all healed up except for his eye. Ross then says that Nick’s World War II file is a red file and is stamped and sealed top secret.

Ross then asks Nick if he has ever heard of Project: Rebirth. Ross asks if Nick was the one who got away. And if he was, then why did he return to the Army after all these years. And why would Nick use his real name?

Nick responds that it is his name that his momma gave him and that it is the only thing that they could not take from him. Ross responds that deep down inside that Nick wanted to get caught. Ross asks Nick why he returned to active duty.

Nick responds that Ross has got everything right. That Nick was a part of the super soldier program and was the one who got away. Nick says for a while he blamed everyone for what the government did to him. However, eventually, Nick realized that he had no one to blame but himself. That Nick put himself into the situation that allowed the government to make him a part of their tests.

Nick continues that he acted like an idiot and got himself arrested during World War II. That Nick was the only one who set this entire event in course and no one else. Nick said that he swore to serve his country and then he went and screwed it all up. Nick said that he went back on his word. Nick then decided that he would re-enlist and do his best every day to do better than he did before.

Ross states that the President wants to re-instate the Super Soldier program. Ross says that the next war will be a war of genetics. Nick responds that Ross is right. The next war will be against the mutants. Ross then asks Nick to be Captain America.

Nick responds that there is only one Captain America and that he died during World War II. Nick says that he is not Captain America. Nick says that it takes a certain type of man to represent an ideal to a nation and a world. Nick says that he is not that kind of man. Nick says that he is the man who ran away.

Ross then asks Nick if he is going to run away now or if he is going to offer his country something. Nick thinks for a moment and then gets a sly grin across his face.

We zip forward one year later in Dover, New Jersey. We see that Nick is now heading a committee to create a new super soldier. Nick has assembled the greatest scientific minds: Franklin Storm, Richard Parker, Bruce Banner and Hank Pym. Pym is a young slacker dude who just graduated from MIT for the second time.

Nick tells the scientists that the original notes on the super soldier program have been destroyed. Nick then produces a vial of blood and instructs the scientists to reverse engineer the sample of blood in order to create a new super soldier serum. The doctor’s asks Nick where he got the blood sample from. Nick doesn’t answer. Nick then tells the scientists that there will be no human testing. Period.

We slide forward to the present day with the Fantastic Four still examining the strange obelisk with a glowing red eye. Reed says that he thinks the structure wants to communicate with them. Carol Danvers states that it has been sitting in SHIELD storage for decades and that she wants files searched to find out who put it here and what they know about it.

We cut back to fifteen years ago with Parker, Banner and Pym working on the super soldier serum. Nick is talking with the President and is upset that the President let the Army poach Dr. Franklin Storm from Nick in order to use him over on the Baxter Building Project. The President replies that Nick has all the money he needs at his disposal to go and get another scientist. The President suggests Howard and Tony Stark.

We shift to Banner telling Pym and Parker that he thinks he has got the super soldier serum perfected. Parker tells Banner that he is wrong and that he does not have the perfected super soldier serum. Banner snaps that he does. Parker tells Banner to show it to Fury then. Banner replies that if they give it to Fury then he will turn it over to the Army who will then never let them see the end of this and that they will never get the credit for it.

Parker leaves the room. We see Banner taking out a bottle of alcohol. Pym then tells Banner that he can test the serum on Pym. Banner says no that he will test it on himself first.

We cut to Richard Parker outside of the facility meeting with his wife and their young baby, Peter. Richard coos over Peter. We cut back inside of the facility where Pym injects Banner with the serum. We see Banner’s eyes turn green.

We cut back outside of the facility where the Parkers are sharing a family moment. Suddenly, they hear a boom. Pym then comes running out of the facility and tells the Parkers to flee the area. Richard tells his wife to take Peter and go to the car.

Richard heads back to the door to the facility. Suddenly, the facility explodes. The Hulk comes rampaging out of the facility. Richard and his wife are dead. Their baby son, Peter, is lying on the ground crying. The Hulk roars and then spies the baby. The Hulk stares at Peter. The Hulk then looks around and says “No.”

The Hulk then reverts back to Bruce Banner. Banner is horrified and says “No…I didn’t mean to…” Nick Fury arrives on the scene and takes down Banner. Nick yells at Banner “What did you do?!” Nick then sees baby Peter. Nick picks up the baby and comforts him. Nick then states that Peter is lucky that he is so young that he won’t remember any of this.

We zip back to the present time. The Fantastic Four are still working on the obelisk. Reed contacts Tony Stark to tell him about the alien obelisk. Tony responds that they are also investigating one. Tony says that Thor hit the obelisk and nothing happened. Tony says that he did a full scan and it simply bounced off of the obelisk.

We see Sue staring at the red glowing eye on the obelisk. Suddenly, Sue goes into a trance and her eyes glow red. Sue then murmurs “It watches. It is the Watcher.” Sue says that it is a part of a hive culture that is here to observe and record the significant events that shape their civilization.

Sue states that the obelisk is here to witness the most important event of this generation. That it is here to witness the coming devastation. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Ultimate Origins #4 was another average read. This mini-series has hardly been anything incredible. Bendis does pull off some solid dialogue. It does get a bit stiff and generic at moment, but for the most part, the dialogue is well constructed.

The best part of Ultimate Origins #4 is the enjoyable character study on Nick Fury that Bendis delivers in the first half of this issue. Bendis does a nice job giving more depth to a character that has been up to now just a shallow Samuel Jackson rip-off.

I enjoyed how Nick describes the soul searching that he underwent after the government used him as a lab rat. Nick’s realization that he was responsible for his own fate and that he accepted his own responsibility rather than playing the victim and blaming everyone else immediately made Nick a much more appealing character. It also showed Nick’s toughness and accentuated his blunt realistic view on life that has guided him as the Director of SHIELD.

Bendis has Nick give an excellent speech on what it takes to be Captain America and how Nick is not that type of man. This was a rare moment of self-loathing that we see from a character that is normally incredibly confident and emits the aura of always being in control. This also re-enforces Nick’s view of himself as not being a great man. That Nick is simply trying to be a good solider and serve his country to the best of his abilities.
Bendis continues to fill in the gaps in the Ultimate Universe’s history. The reader learns how Nick started out working for the government that started his path to eventually becoming the Director of SHIELD. Bendis also establishes a connection between Parker, Storm, Banner and Pym.

Of course, the biggest reveal in this issue was that the death of Peter Parker’s parents is on the heads of Pym and Banner and, ultimately, also on Nick Fury. I am curious to see how Peter will react if he ever finds out this information.

Bendis ends Ultimate Origins #4 with a standard issue hook ending as he reveals the alien obelisk to be a Watcher. We learn that the Watcher is here to witness the “coming devastation.” The Watcher must be referring to the upcoming big event in Ultimatum.

Guice supplies plenty of serviceable artwork. Personally, I much prefer Guice’s artwork when he has some else ink his pencils. Guice’s inks are too muddy, sloppy, and thick lined and they lack detail. Still, the scene with the Hulk bursting out of the facility, seeing Peter and then reverting back to Bruce was very well done and quite powerful.

The Bad: Ultimate Origins #4 crawls along at an excruciatingly slow pace. And this has been a continual problem with this mini-series. Bendis has a knack for taking a story that is really designed only for two to four issues and stretching it out over the course of four to eight issues.

Ultimate Origins simply did not need to be five issues long. And if Marvel was determined to keep this title at the length of five issues, then it was incumbent upon Bendis to deliver a much more substantial story than what we have gotten up to this point.

All of the plotlines have progressed far too slowly. A good example of this is the appearance of the obelisk which occurred in Ultimate Origins #2. We have to wait all the way to the very last page of Ultimate Origins #4 to finally learn what the obelisk is. In between those issues we got nothing but the same repetitious and dull dialogue between Carol and the Fantastic Four about what the obelisk might be and where it came from. It really acted as a drag on the story and practically lulled the reader to sleep.

This was also way too long of a wait for a “surprise” reveal that many readers probably already figured out. I know that most people immediately figured after Ultimate Origins #2 that the obelisk would somehow be tied to the Ultimate Universe version of the Watcher.

Ultimate Origins #4 also suffers from the fact that it is crammed full of dull dialogue heavy scenes with practically zero action. If a writer is going to eschew delivering action to the reader then it is imperative that the writer deliver a story that is much more intriguing than what Bendis delivers in Ultimate Origins #4. The lack of action makes this slow moving and dull issue that much more boring.

Another continuing flaw of Ultimate Origins is the Bendis has failed to give the reader enough new information to make this mini-series something special. The reader already knew about Banner becoming the Hulk due to a flawed version of the super soldier serum.

And the new information that we do get is either not that interesting or is simply way to convenient and inbred. Bendis goes too far in tying together practically ever major character from Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimates and Ultimate Spider-Man.

The team of scientists that Nick assembles consists of two members of the Ultimates in Pym and Banner. The other member is Franklin Storm is Sue Storm’s father who heads up the Baxter Building project in Ultimate Fantastic Four. The other member is Peter Parker’s father. This also establishes Peter’s connection with Nick all the way back to him being a baby. And Nick Fury also served with Wilson Fisk which completes the triangle over on Ultimate Spider-Man between Nick Fury, Peter Parker and Wilson Fist.

Bendis then ties the Hulk into the super soldier program which is already tied to Nick Fury and Steve Rogers. Wolverine is then tangentially tied to the same super soldier program since he is the test subject of the Canadians attempt to mimic the U.S.’s super soldier program. Bendis also ties Nick Fury in with Wolverine since they served together.

This approach by Bendis makes the Ultimate Universe way too interrelated and far too convenient. It is believable that there will be some ties and connections between the different characters and plotlines. However, Bendis takes it to such an outlandish and ridiculous extent that it no longer becomes believable and just seems like lazy writing by Bendis in the reliance on too many convenient plot connections.

I dislike it when a writer so closely ties every single plotline to just a small core of characters. This move by Bendis of making the major plotlines in the Ultimate Universe so incestuous between a few select characters only serves to make the Ultimate Universe seem that much smaller and more provincial.

This is the exact opposite approach that I would take when conducting a world building exercise like Bendis has been doing with the Ultimate Universe. There is no grand scope to Ultimate Origins like it should have given the type of big event story that it is.

Ultimate Origins #4 just felt off to me. This issue continues the trend of this title being a bit of a boring read. Part of the problem with this title has been the plotting. It feels that Bendis simply cobbled together a collection of unrelated plotlines in order to form Ultimate Origins. At no point does this title ever feel like it is its own cohesive fully contained story. Ultimate Origins continues to move along in a rather clunky fashion.

Bendis’ take on the Ultimate Universe version of the Watcher did little for me. It just was not that creative or surprising. Making the Ultimate version of the Watcher a hive culture form was just too close to what we got with the Ultimate version of Galactus. Gah Lak Tus was just a hive minded group of robotic drones. I would have much preferred Bendis not copy the same general concept for Gah Lak Tus for Marvel’s other major cosmic entity in the Watcher.

Overall: Ultimate Origins #4 was a bit of a dry read. I enjoyed the bit of character work that we got on Nick Fury’s character in the beginning of this issue. And I enjoyed the dramatic first appearance of the Hulk. But, beyond that, this issue was a dull read.

Another problem with this title is that outside of Bendis’ fantastic Ultimate Spider-Man, the Ultimate Universe is currently on life support. I think that Ultimate Origins is a case of being a little too little and a little too late. Marvel probably should have delivered this title several years ago when the various Ultimate titles were hotter.

2 Comments

  1. Lovely art from Guice.

    The Ultimate U has been on a downward slide in the excitement department for a while; clearly they’re hoping that Millar’s new “Ultimate Avengers” project following “Ultimatum” (which Loeb is writing, so expectations are low) for a jolt of interest, which Millar can usually be counted on for.

  2. Common, Guice’ art is phenomenal. Only 6 points? I think your dislike of Bendis’ writing clouded your judgment here.

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