Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ultimate Avengers 2 (2010) # 1

Cover Artist: Marc Silvestri
Published: June 2010
Original Price: $3.99

Title: "Crime & Punishment", Part 1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Colorist: Laura Martin
Assistant Editor: Sana Amanat
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor-In-Chief: Joe Quesada

Frank Castle, the Punisher, is on a killing spree - murdering criminal after criminal over a span of two months. Most of the criminals he's killed were part of an Eastern European people-trafficking business, which is led by Joseph Petrenko, a.k.a. Russia's "Red Hammer". Unwilling to believe that his men are being killed by a lone vigilante, Petrenko is coming to America to have a sit-down with other mob bosses. Punisher raids another of Petrenko's outfits and takes one of the men to "Baby Guantanamo", his own personal torture chamber. Castle finds out everything he wants to know about the sit-down, including the time and place. Frank visits the graves of his wife and children, praying to the cross around his neck, as preparation for what he plans to do.

That night, Castle has taken the place of Petrenko's limousine driver and is ready to ambush the Russian outside his hotel. When Castle pulls out his pistol, however, Petrenko easily disarms him and slams is face into the car window. Petrenko pulls off his mask and reveals himself as actually being Captain America, who is arresting the Punisher for the murder of over two hundred people. The real Joseph Petrenko was arrested by SHIELD the moment he stepped off his plane.

Later, at SHIELD's hospital one mile beneath the Bronx, Castle is interrogated by Nick Fury and the Black Widow. When Castle asks about Petrenko, Fury tells him that the Red Hammer was sent back to Russia. That, Frank says, is the answer to their question of why the Punisher does what he does. Fury tells Castle that the only way to keep him off death row is to join his Avengers, a secret black-ops unit that handles the job the Ultimates wouldn't touch. Now they're after a Captain America of their own...and later, Castle is outfitted in a mock Captain America costume (one that incorporates his own personal skull image on the chest). Fury and Black Widow then say that War Machine is en route to meet up with the Hulk - but when Castle asks how they expect to put the Hulk on a top-secret wetworks team, Fury explains that they're not recruiting Banner. They're after Banner's mentor, the first Hulk...

Though he appears on the variant cover of this issue, Ghost Rider doesn't make his first appearance until the end of Ultimate Avengers # 8.

This issue was released with a Ghost Rider variant cover by Marc Silvestri.

Though the cover says "Ultimate Avengers 2 # 1", the indicia labels it as "Ultimate Avengers # 7". 

Cover Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
This second story-arc of Ultimate Avengers not only introduces Ghost Rider to the Ultimate universe, it also gives Mark Millar his long-standing wish to write the Spirit of Vengeance. Unfortunately, neither of those things happen in this issue, which is taken up totally by the Punisher's recruitment to the squad.

Mark Millar is a writer that I usually avoid, for the reason that I find his over-the-top, shock tactic writing to be the opposite of what I consider good storytelling. That being said, though, I was a big fan of his and Brian Hitch's Ultimates series. I can't really offer up a reason for liking it, other than being impressed by Hitch's highly-detailed artwork, but it nevertheless has been the only Millar project that I've enjoyed on any level. Due to those fond memories of the Ultimates, I picked up the first story-arc of his Ultimate Avengers series and was pleasantly surprised by the story that Millar and Carlos Pacheco produced. I don't know if I would have stuck with the series, however, until I learned that Ghost Rider was to be the villain of the next arc.

I'm honestly surprised that it has taken this long for Ghost Rider to be introduced in the Ultimate universe when seemingly every other Marvel character had already been farmed out. I wasn't surprised that Millar was the writer responsible for Ghost Rider's introduction, though, as the writer has expressed his love of the character in numerous interviews. In fact, every time the Ghost Rider series has been relaunched I expected Millar's name to be attached. So I am curious to see what Millar does with the character.

This issue is more concerned with the Punisher, who seems to be the exact same character as his normal Marvel Universe counterpart. I question the logic behind this, I mean what's the point of having an Ultimate Punisher if there's no difference between him and the MU version? There's not much going on plot-wise here, as most of the pages are given over to the Punisher's murder spree. I see the Ultimate books are still heavily padding issues for the eventual trade paperback, which was a policy I hoped I'd seen the last of.

This does give artist Leinil Yu the opportunity to show off. I've never really been impressed with Yu's work; I've found his art to be boring at the best of times and flat-out ugly at the worst. I'm not sure if it's the presence of inker Gerry Alanguilan or something else entirely, but Yu's art seems much tighter and straight-forward than normal. I like this change in style and I hope he continues with it. I couldn't help but laugh, though, at his "Captain Punisher" design. If the point was to keep people from knowing the Punisher is an Avenger, why did they put a huge honkin' skull on his chest?

If it wasn't packaged for the trade, I'd believe this issue was intended as a stand-alone interlude story. It's decent enough for a Punisher story, but I'm looking forward to Ghost Rider's appearance much more than I was Castle's.

Grade: B