Graphic Novel Review: Ultimate Avengers 2: Crime and Punishment

Black ops superheroes take on supernatural assassin the Ghost Rider.

(Panini Books �12.99)

IN the wake of Project: Avengers’ successful strike against the terrorist Red Skull, wielder of the reality-warping Cosmic Cube, Nick Fury has a new mission for his team of black ops superheroes…

After recruiting brutal vigilante The Punisher to their ranks, the team of Hawkeye, War Machine, the Black Widow and the first Hulk (an English powerhouse who was Bruce Banner’s mentor) are tasked with taking out the mysterious Ghost Rider, a devil-spawned biker with a flaming skull for a head who has been systematically eliminating some of the richest men in America.

Despite questioning the Rider’s supernatural origins, the Avengers learn he was originally John Blaze, who was sacrificed along with his fianc�e 20 years previously by the men he has now come back to kill. But with the Vice President of the US one of this satanic cadre, the team is torn over its nationalist loyalties and thirst for justice…

This is another in a series of titles set on a different Earth to the conventional Marvel Universe, one struggling to rebuild in the wake of a devastating global attack by mutant terrorist Magneto, who sent the so-called Ultimatum Wave to wreak unprecedented destruction upon New York.

The Ultimate Universe is Marvel’s reimagined take on their familiar characters and concepts, as popularised in the long-running Ultimate Spider-Man series, but also in spin-offs like The Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men.

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Creator Mark Miller teams up with a different artist for each Avengers storyline, here joining forces with Leinil Francis Yu, having handed over the reigns of the Ultimates to Jeph Loeb. The overall arc of the series seems to be Nick Fury’s determination to return to his previous position of power at the head of super-intelligence organisation SHIELD, but Miller is also obviously having fun playing in the sandbox of the Ultimate Universe, free of the continuity shackles of the conventional Marvel reality.

At times reaching ridiculous levels of blockbuster violence, there’s still enough in the way of characterisation and plot development to ensure readers are not overwhelmed by the bloody brutality of the fight scenes, and the constant black humour will keep a wry smile on your face throughout.

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