WARNING – CONTAINS SPOILERS
Things are not going well in the Ultimate universe. Jonathan Hickman broke things pretty good, and it’s up to Chris Humphries and Captain America to fix it.
America has splintered in the wake of catastrophic attacks perpetrated by Dr. Reed Richards, the former leader of the Fantastic Four.
Wyoming, one of the largest bastions of the real-world American militia movement, has become the new home of Hydra.
California, which has declared itself sovereign, is being terrorized by swarms of robotic wasps who gun down refugees as they attempt to break free of the camps that have been set up to hold them.
The book does an excellent job of showing exactly how bad the situation has gotten, setting up for the ending’s big reveal of who will be stepping in to provide solutions.
Captain America is anything but a “good soldier” in this issue. He questions the wisdom of the President’s decisions and outright defies him. He disobeys direct orders from his Commander-in-Chief, venturing into sovereign California to stave off drone attacks against civilians.
Humprhies does fine work in setting up a Steve Rogers who has gone beyond being a soldier, and even beyond being an obedient citizen, and hearkens back to some of the great stories in years past when Cap would openly disregard what the leaders of the nation want for what he felt it needed.
The role of media has been a staple of the Marvel books in recent years, particularly in the Ultimate line. Great attention has been paid to how mass media shapes societal perceptions of their heroes, making or breaking them in the court of public opinion. This book is no different, taking that convention and employing it to great effect.
The story is told largely through the lens of 24-hour news coverage. As emergency Presidential elections play out, the media becomes enthralled with Cap’s defiance in the face of authority, transforming him into a television superstar seemingly overnight.
There have been concerns that Sam Humphries was venturing a little out of his depth in writing a story with this much weight and real-world media attention. The script is excellent, and the story moves along at a rapid pace, so much so that when the issue concludes, so much action has whipped by that a second read is almost necessary to determine how we got from point A to point B
The art is another story. While Billy Tan’s pencils are admittedly quite dynamic, the detail work vacillates between overdone and underwrought. Characters’ anatomy is not entirely consistent, and the lack of distinctive facial features often makes his characters seem indistinguishable outside of the clothing that they wear or the color of their hair.
In all, it’s a good beginning to what should be an interesting arc. When the story broke, Marvel’s Axel Alonso said that they do have an opinion on the nature of the division in this country and what to do about it and that this opinion would be on display in this story.
Is Captain America up to the task of not just defending the nation from outward threats, but leading it back from the brink of collapse?