Friday, June 06, 2008

A pleasant diversion about the end of the world

In discussing the Ultimate Galactus trilogy, I was going call it a graphic novel, but really, it is just a very attractive comic book. Shaun Tan's gorgeous (and wordless) The Arrival, a depiction of the wave of strangeness and confusion in the immigrant experience, is a graphic novel. Ultimate Galactus is a bunch of super heroes fighting a really powerful bad guy. The story is set in the Ultimates universe, a reboot of the universe that moves the origins of heroes up from the 60s to this decade. The battle with Galactus was an early Fantastic Four story, but in this new Galactus trilogy, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Nick Fury and the Ultimates/Avengers battle each other and then Galactus.

The huge number of heroes is one of the problems with the story, there are just so many in there, along with some other cameos, that no character gets much chance to shine. The bigger problem is that the final battle is a bit abrupt. The opening chapters should have been trimmed to allow for more action at the end.

On the plus side, it is an action-packed story that nicely updates a few characters. The old Galactus seems a bit off these days. First of all his name sounds Roman and he is a giant human-looking biped despite being an ancient alien. The new version makes much more sense, and they even make his name more reasonable. They also manage to carry forward elements of the old one quite nicely. The Silver Surfer is quite different, and may displease fans, but I liked it.

The Ultimate universe makes for good reading, and this book is no exception. It is not up to the level of the Ultimates 1 & 2, but those are among the finest super hero stories I have ever read, so that isn't surprising. If you want another take on the superheroes get together and fight an implacable alien foe story, read DC's the New Frontier.

Given the short reading time and the fairly high cost, these sorts of books are ideal for library check-out. At $30 and about one hour of entertainment, the price/time ratio isn't very attractive. For the best ones, of course it makes sense, but you can run out of reading material lickety split if you buy a lot of these.

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