by Warren Ellis & Cary Nord
One of the many reasons I like the work of Warren Ellis is that he can come up with some topnotch big, dumb sci-fi action thrillers – the sort of thing Luc Besson does so well in movies – and I’m a big fan of them. I know they’re not the most artistic or substantial of things, but sometimes it’s lovely to sit down to takeout pizza rather than a gourmet meal. Although this sort of big dumb sci-fi thriller should be perfectly at home at either Marvel or DC, it’s actually quite rare to see Ellis’ name on a Marvel book – at least not one in the main franchise line. Sure they let him loose with the X-Men, but that’s Astonishing X-Men and out of continuity to some degree (or at least to the level of plausible deniability at least). There was NEXTwave, but that sarcastic assault on the Marvel Universe, brilliant though it was, hardly counts as mainstream Marvel does it? And then there’s his work in the Ultimate Universe on Ultimate FF and the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy where he basically ran around messing about with some big Marvel icons in a safe, self contained environment.
Well, Ultimate Human is basically Ellis’ Ultimate Hulk vs Ultimate Iron Man. I looked at the first issue way back in 2008 but only just got around to reading the whole thing. On the first issue I said:
“…..there’s very little wrong with Ultimate Human. It’s packed with the usual Ellis standards; sharp dialogue, fast pacing and a love of future tech”
And that first issue is still really good. But…. (and I’m sure you can see where this is going)
(Ultimate Human issue 1: Loads of stuff about super-biology, the physiology of transformation, synthetic hormones etc etc. Good stuff in standard Warren Ellis style. It doesn’t get any better than this though. In fact….)
After that the fun wears off rather quickly and we get Ellis by the numbers for another 3 issues pretty much. It’s hardly the most original of ideas and Ellis compounds it by giving the whole solution away in the second issue. Bruce Banner turns to Tony Stark for help controlling the Hulk cells in his blood using something similar to the nanotech processors running through Stark’s blood that control the Iron Man suit. The idea being that putting Stark’s nanotech in Banner’s bloodstream would control the Hulk cells and prevent any more Hulk incidents (which are murderous and very, very messy).
It works a treat, until both Stark and Banner find themselves kidnapped by the Ultimate version of the old Hulk villain The Leader (the one with the huge forehead) and rendered completely helpless as he attempts to get both men’s special bloodwork for his own ends.
Now, wouldn’t it be handy if Stark then had a way of shutting off the nanobots in Banners blood and allowing the Hulk to get them out of the mess?
Oh, hold on a minute: here’s a conversation from issue 2:
(What’s that Tony? – your nanobots can talk to the nanobots in Banner’s blood. Wow, that may well prove really useful in a couple of issues time.)
And just like Ellis’ writing here, where both dialogue and story just peter out as the book goes on, Cary Nord’s artwork just goes downhill as well. I described the art from issue 1 as:
“….Luckily they’re very nice panels; his art does everything you want it to, it’s full of energy but covers basic anatomy and panel design well and, most importantly for this sort of book, moves the action along with style and gusto”
But the further he gets the more rushed it all seems until by the end it’s just a muddy, dull mess of ill-defined figures.
A rather disappointing ho-hum of a book.