One thing that can be said about the Ultimate Universe is that its heroes are forced to deal with an even heavier dose of misery than those of the regular Marvel Universe. Currently, Ultimate America is in shambles, with soul patch-wearing robots ruling the Southeast, various states seceding from the union, and Texas primed to drop a bomb on New York City.
That’s the situation the Ultimates are struggling to deal with in this second chapter of the Divided We Stand arc. And it’s that sense of scale and sheer desperation that helps the book stand apart from the umpteen other Avengers-themed titles on the stands. Sam Humphries is finally able to write the Big Three in action as they team with Hawkeye and Black Widow to prevent Texas unleashing nuclear armageddon. Thor isn’t given the chance to do much, although this issue does hint at ties between current conflicts and the Asgardian material that Jonathan Hickman dealt with in his issues. But Cap and Iron Man have some solid material. In terms of both the team roster and their personalities, this is a series that should appeal very much to fans of the Avengers movie.
In addition to the main cast, there’s also a healthy dose of political conspiracy and maneuvering by the current villains. This material helps spice up the conflict and lend an air of unpredictability to the conflict. Unfortunately, these scenes don’t always integrate that well with the Ultimates-focused ones. In particular, the final sequence reaches an awkward and unfulfilling conclusion.
Also disappointing is the return of multiple pencillers. I had hoped the series could avoid that for a while given how prevalent fill-in art was on Humphries’ early issues. Billy Tan’s pages are generally sound, though his facial work is pretty bland. Timothy Green tackles the remainder. As much as I’ve enjoyed Green’s recent cosmic Marvel work, his pencils are too flat and rushed in appearance here. This series really needs to find a greater level of consistency and regularity when it comes to the visuals.
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