About the Author:
Warren Ellis lives in southeast England, UK with his girlfriend and daughter.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.7 out of 5
(Art by Colleen Doran)
Ten years after it disappeared, and five after NASA cancelled manned spaceflight, the space shuttle Venture crashlands back on Earth. Only one of the crew has survived, seemingly insane, there are traces of Martian sand in the landing gear and the entire ship is covered in a mysterious skin. A team of scientists is assembled to try to discover where the Venture has been and what happened to it during the missing decade.
At first, particularly with the missing crew, the insane pilot and the coating of living skin, I thought this was going to be something of a science fiction horror story, much like the movie 'Event Horizon'. However, Ellis takes the book in a surprising direction.
We're introduced to a cast of characters who each, in their own way, lament the decline of manned spaceflight and are reinvigorated by the return of the long-missing space shuttle. As the mystery unfolds, the author gives us a story which is actually about restoring the hope of discovery and excitement of exploration at a time when, instead of exploring the stars, mankind has turned its gaze inward. The book ends of a note of anticipation and genuinely captures your interest to discover exactly what it is out there, beyond the stars.
It is particularly poignant that Ellis and Doran dedicate the book to the astronauts who died when the space shuttle Columbia exploded, an event which led to the grounding of the space shuttles and the sad end to a significant chapter in space exploration.
4 out of 5
The Invincible Iron Man: Extremis
(Art by Adi Granov)
As Tony Stark is forced to reflect on his career as a weapons designer, an old friend call on him for help. He is then forced to confront a vicious xenophobic super-soldier who is empowered with a new treatment called Extremis, making him stronger and faster than Iron Man. Badly beaten, Tony creates a fundamental new redesign of his iconic armour.
When this book came out in 2007 I imagine it had a huge impact on Iron Man fans, updating and overhauling the, at the time, B-list character for the 21st Century. Unfortunately I've got to reading it in the world as it is thirteen years after the release of the Iron Man movie in 2008, which means nothing here feels fresh now. The rehashing and updating of Tony's origin unfolds largely as it did in Iron Man and most of the main points of the Extremis storyline feature in Iron Man 3. Sure, there are differences and fans of this book can rightly claim it was all done here first but that doesn't mean that anyone reading it now will find anything they haven't seen in the movies.
For such an iconic and renowned Iron Man storyline, I was very disappointed by this book; admittedly through no fault of its own - blame the MCU. If you've not seen the Iron Man films but want to read Iron Man comics (statistically, there must be someone who falls into that category, right?), then this would be a good place to start.
3 out of 5
Ultimate Comics: Iron Man - Armor Wars
(Art by Steve Kurth, Jeff Huet, Allen Martinez and Scott Hanna)
Following the events of 'Ultimatum', Tony Stark's finances are in freefall and his problems only get worse when the secrets of his Iron Man technology are stolen. He then has to track down all those who have illegally reproduced his work and catch whoever was behind the theft in the first place.
'Armor Wars' is one of the most iconic Iron Man stories in the main Marvel continuity and it was only a matter of time before the Ultimate universe had its own version. I have to say that I found it rather disappointing. This book isn't bad, but there also feels like there's very little impact or importance to what's going on here. There's no sense that this technology could destabilise the world and instead we just get a series of encounters with different individuals who've built a suit because they're a bit mad. The exception is when it turns out the British government have used the technology to create a police unit armed with Firepower Riot Suits but this otherwise intriguing idea is undercut by how easily the situation is resolved and by the fact that the British suits inexplicably all look like Spartans from the Halo franchise. Was anyone really clamouring to see Iron Man fight Master Chief? If you were, then this is for you. Weirdo.
The version of Tony Stark we get here has mixed results too. We're told he's broken by having to kill Wolverine in 'Ultimatum', but there's very little evidence of that in the story. However, the final pages of the book do a lot to redeem this as Tony's 'victory' sees him sat in a room full of corpses, including that of his romantic interest. It makes for some pretty powerful imagery.
3 out of 5
(Art by Brandon Peterson)
The conclusion to the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy. With Gah Lak Tus rapidly approaching Earth, the Ultimates and the Fantastic Four work to understand and counter the threat. Nick Fury then enlists Professor X and his X-Men to use an enhanced version of Cerebro in an attempt to make telepathic contact with the entity. Meanwhile cyborg PI Misty Knight encounters a suicide cult led by a mysterious being with silver skin who seems linked to the approaching apocalypse.
I really enjoyed this book. It is a perfect conclusion to the Ultimate Galactus storyline, with a great feeling of impending doom and a perfectly pitched 'heroic last stand'. I also liked the way it draws together the disparate super teams, forcing them to set aside their differences in the face of something that can only be stopped by their cooperation. Even the fact that so many 'Ulimate' versions of beloved heroes are horrible people in this universe, something I've never enjoyed, is muted.
I have to admit that I'm something of a traditionalist when it comes to my superheroes but despite that, I actually like the new concept they went with for Galactus here. As much as I love the classic character, it has to be said that a giant man in a funny purple hat just wouldn't sit right in the grittier and more realistic Ultimate universe. This new interpretation of the character is a masterstroke and should Marvel ever decide to add Galactus to the MCU, I hope they go with this version. I don't want to reveal too much about it because discovering what Gah Lak Tus is here is part of the fun of the book, especially for anyone who grew up with the OG version.
If there is one downside to the book, it's the weird cult of cloned bald women. I never really understood who they were and why one minute they're trying to kill the Silver Surfer and the next they're seemingly fighting on the opposite side. They felt like they were just there to give the ground-level heroes like Captain America and Wolverine something to punch in the final conflict.
5 out of 5
(Art by Trevor Hairsine and Simon Coleby)
Book one of the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy. Deep in the wastes of Tunguska a mysterious individual begins broadcasting a signal that interrupts television broadcasts with scenes of alien genocides, simultaneously sending out nightmares of the same through psychic powers. The X-Men and the Ultimates each send a team to Russia to investigate and discover an abandoned Soviet research base with a dark secret at its heart.
What I liked about this book was the small teams that undertake the mission to Tunguska. For the X-Men we get Jean Grey, Wolverine and Colossus and for the Ultimates we get Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury and new member Sam Wilson. These small groups have interesting dynamics that provide much of the drama of the story. I also enjoyed seeing the horrific denizens of the research base, created as the U.S.S.R.'s response to Cap.
One of the main problems with this book, however, is that it is just the opening chapter of the trilogy and by the end of it not very much of significance has actually happened. That said, we do get a first mention of the threat on the horizon; Gah Lak Tus. The other major problem I had with this book is more of a problem that I have with the Ultimate universe in general; everyone's an asshole. I just can't ever get used to seeing beloved superheroes acting like total bastards, be it Cap gunning people down or Wolverine expressing just how much he hates the X-Men.
3 out of 5
(Art by Steve McNiven, Tom Raney, Mark Morales and Scott Hanna)
The second book of the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy. With humanity about to enter a new era of space exploration, a new alien threat arises to prevent it from happening; the Kree. One of their number, Mahr Vehl, defects and reveals that the Kree plan to trap the human race on Earth to prevent them from escaping the coming of Gah Lak Tus. Mahr Vehl teams up with the Ultimates and the Fantastic Four to defeat the Kree invaders.
I found this to be a much more enjoyable read than the last one, with Mahr Vehl adding a degree of levity that has been missing from many of the Ultimate universe stories I've read so far. On top of that, the grim and unlikable nature of the Ultimates (well, with the exception of Tony) is nicely balanced here by the more positive and hopeful attitudes of the youthful Fantastic Four. In fact, there's a brilliant scene where the Invisible Woman calls Hawkeye out over him being a mean-spirited arsehole.
The impending threat of Gah Lak Tus also continues to build nicely as we discover that the antagonist Yahn Rgg was driven insane by full access to the Kree's database about the world-ending threat. The book ends on a perfect note of 'something very bad is coming, but maybe we've hot a chance'.
4 out of 5