Captain Ultimate is a comic book that is clearly meant for parents to read with their children. For those unfamiliar with the book, it is a classic, old-fashioned super-hero story; a young boy, Milo, discovers the stories of a noble super-hero of years past: Captain Ultimate. The Captain is an archetype of the good-guy super-hero: noble, kind-hearted, strong.
When a seemingly unbeatable monster attacks, Milo bravely distracts it before it can hurt a classmate of his, thus gaining the attention and appreciation of his hero. Captain Ultimate then offers Milo a job as his sidekick, which the boy enthusiastically accepts.
The book can seem simplistic from this description, and it would probably seem that way to younger readers, who tend to only take things at face value. However, the book’s writers, Benjamin Bailey and Joey Esposito, cleverly craft the tale as a deeper statement on the state of comic books and their readers these days, and indeed an expression of a longing for the innocence of childhood in general. Milo sees the current crop of heroes—overly dark, cynical and self-absorbed—and wishes to bring back the long-absent Captain Ultimate, the old-time hero who you can trust. Captain Ultimate’s extreme nobility and old-school good-guy persona (Milo states at one point regarding the Captain: “He’s a good guy. He doesn’t kill anybody“) seem to represent Esposito and Bailey’s nostalgia for the innocent times of childhood, when the labels of “good” and “bad” were easy and simple. Milo’s ability to bring back his hero through his courage and selflessness seems to indicate that the writers themselves would perhaps like to do the same.
These strong undertones don’t make the book feel sluggish or morose, as Bailey and Esposito craft the story as a light-hearted and humor-filled tale. What is most impressive about the book, when the target audience of parent-child teams are put in mind, is it’s ability to appeal to both young children and adult comic book fans through it’s clever use of winks and nodes at classic comic book tropes, characters and situations.
The latest issue is no exception. “Captain Ultimate #4” is a Halloween-themed story, giving us a glimpse of Milo and the Captain’s adventure’s trick-or-treating. Again we see winks at the older readers (this time through Captain Ultimate’s Halloween costume), as well as some good fun with the Captain’s trusty dog, Ulti-Mutt. The Captain’s gentle nature is once again on display (he doesn’t seem to like scary movies), and the writers make an entertaining theme out of which characters can recognize him in his Halloween costume.
The book’s art, drawn by Boykeosh, is expressive and elegant. The art’s style assists the overall feel of the writing by being somewhat reminiscent of children’s cartoons, with even the complex panels being clear and easy on the eyes. Ed Ryzowski’s coloring complements Boykoesh’s art very well, bringing out the light-hearted and lively nature of the book.
“Captain Ultimate #4” is, in the end, a successful attempt at appealing to children and adults alike through a classic, feel-good holiday story. At 14 pages of content it is quite short, but the book’s low price of $0.99 makes it more than a fair bargain. If you’re a parent seeking to introduce your child to the wonderful world of comics, this book is one you can both enjoy.
Asaph Bitner is a staff writer for Capeless Crusader. His other activities include studying for a college degree and dreaming of visiting the Song Of Ice And Fire universe as a future-tech wielding jedi secret agent. You can follow him on twitter at @AsaphBitner.