Graphic Novel Review: Ultimate Avengers 3: Blade Vs The Avengers

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WHEREAS staplemate Jeph Loeb has repeatedly failed to grasp the tone and themes of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Mark Millar contrarily produces story after story which not only succeeds in promoting the originality of the line, but also expands and redefines its characters with each successive issue.

After creating a team of black op “Avengers” to work in conjunction with the publicly accountable Ultimates, Millar and artist Steve Dillon now create an extinction-level threat which not only threatens to tear the Avengers apart, but also sets events in motion for a final reckoning between the two teams.

With the supernatural vampires of the mainstream Marvel Universe enjoying a recent renaissance in the pages of various X-Men titles, their Ultimate counterparts are introduced here as a genus of humanity mutated by their exposure to a virus so powerful it can even convert superpowered victims.

United by a mysterious new leader clad in an old Iron Man outfit, the world’s vampires begin targeting the superhero community, taking out the new Daredevil and the Hulk’s intelligent clone. The consequences of this new change in strategy lead to an all-out assault on the Avengers’ base, and various members of the team falling victim to the vampire hoard, including team leader Captain America. With the odds stacked against them, could this be the Avengers last stand?

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Unlike Loeb’s meaningless shock tactics, Millar knows to make every scene count, and even the most unexpected plot developments have a purpose in his overall plot, paying off further down the line and setting up events for his planned conclusion. Dialogue is realistic and purposeful, rather than simply macho posturing straight out of an ‘eighties action flick, and highlights his strong grasp of the characters he created.

Even the introduction of new players like the Ultimate version of vampire slayer Blade conveys a better understanding of what makes this title work than anything Loeb has achieved with The Ultimates, new or otherwise.

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The difference between Ultimate Avengers and New Ultimates is impossible to ignore, as not only do the same characters come across in markedly different ways in each book, but the writing in one is superficial and lightweight whereas the other is grounded and insightful. Fans of the Ultimate Marvel Universe may decide they need to read both books in order to keep full abreast of continuity, but if you’re looking to make a choice on the grounds of quality alone, my money’s definitely on Millar.

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