Ultimate End story has delivered the crossover between the 616- and Ultimate Universes that we’ve wanted for a long time. Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley have delivered on what I wanted from such a crossover during the course of the first two issues. Those two issues have set-up a strong foundation for what the rest of the series can be. Will Ultimate End continue to live up to expectations? Find out with this review of Ultimate End #3.
Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Mark Bagley
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
The Good: Ultimate End #3 is the first issue of this mini-series that I felt the weight of the story becoming too much for it. At times the confidence in telling the final Ultimate Universe story was clear. Then there were even more moments where Brian Bendis seemed to wandering in circles as he held back from what Ultimate End could really be.
Where Ultimate End #3 finds its greatest success is in how Bendis is able to jungle the multiple versions of these iconic characters he has working together. It is not surprising that Bendis would understand how to write each character differently given the fact he has written all of them in at least one of his comic books at one point or another. It’s in that clear understanding of character voices that makes Ultimate End #3 enjoyable, even with all its faults.
The argument between 616-Tony Stark and Ultimate Nick Fury was a highlight of this issue. It’s through this argument that we are able to see one of the core differences between the 616- and Ultimate Universe. While 616-Universe heroes have on occasion answer to or work with their world’s government for the most part they have been independent figures who protect Earth. The Ultimate Universe is a completely different animal. In the Ultimate Universe everyone from Spider-Man to the Ultimates has had to answer to some sort of government official through SHIELD.
That key difference in the inner workings of each universe was made clear in Tony and Ultimate Nick Fury’s interaction. Tony putting his friend’s safety and rights as priority over how much of a danger he poses was a good way to show this. Unlike Ultimate Nick Fury and other Ultimate characters, Tony and the Avengers place a stronger value on friendship than following rules. This made Tony going against Ultimate Nick Fury’s will at the end of the issue by breaking out Bruce Banner a much more effective scene.
While the argument could be seen as a way to paint the Ultimate Universe as the bad guys of this series Bendis did a nice job balancing things out so it doesn’t completely look like that way. Instead Bendis presents Ultimate Nick Fury’s argument in detaining Bruce Banner as a logical one. At the end of the day as the Hulk, Bruce was responsible for the breakout of all the villains in both universes. This action has now placed this location in Battleworld in much greater danger and Bruce should have to answer for that. And the way Ultimate Nick Fury contained Bruce was logical.
Mark Bagley continued to provide this series the consistency it needs in the face of having to draw multiple versions of the same character. Bagley makes sure that as a reader we are able to tell who is who throughout Ultimate End #3. He is also able to get across how intense the argument between 616-Tony Stark and Ultimate Nick Fury became.
The Bad: The biggest problem Ultimate End is that it does not have a true villain to pit our heroes against. Instead Bendis has been completely reliant on the heroes of the 616- and Ultimate Universe butting heads over clashing views. While seeing this may be fun for one or two issues after a while it grows old and that is exactly what happened with Ultimate End #3.
While I enjoyed how Bendis wrote Tony Stark and Ultimate Nick Fury’s argument after a while I was just hoping some villain would storm in to cause the characters to act like heroes. Instead all we got was two characters trying to figure out who had the biggest male body part. And when the conflict becomes an argument between characters over and over again how can we actually get behind any side. There was no one to actually root for since no character was acting like an actual superhero.
This is a complete failure on the story part of this issue. Instead of using the potential of two universes clashing all we are getting characters having a battle of ego. This aspect of the story becomes even more disappointing when you take into account Bendis did build an avenue to involve the various villains of both universes in the previous issue. But that potential of a big conflict between hero and villain is non-existent, even though Ultimate Nick Fury states that villains are running around the city.
This lack of involvement from the villains of both universes also caused Punisher’s role to feel less important. There’s a big disconnect between Punisher’s story and the rest of the characters in this story that makes this sub-plot feel disjointed. It’s in Punisher where Bendis loses the difference in voice as it’s hard to tell which version of the character we are seeing taking the lead. This lack of clarity in the voice of each Punisher caused the decisions he made less effective.
Overall: Ultimate End #3 was a very disappointing issue. After spending two issues of building up different layers in the conflict between the 616- and Ultimate Universes there was very little in the way of intriguing plot development. Instead of using the prison breakout to show us how both universes heroes dealt with the problem at hand Brian Bendis spent this entire issue having two characters having a dick measuring contest. Even though that argument between Tony Stark and Ultimate Nick Fury started off fine it was not enough to carry a story that is lacking someone to get behind. If things don’t pick up in the next issue I fear that Ultimate End will be a lackluster end to the Ultimate Universe.