Ultimate Doom #1

Background

Ultimate Doom is the third part of a 12-issue maxi-series that is pretending it is a standalone, four-issue mini-series in order to keep sales juiced. The first two parts of the maxi-series were Ultimate Enemy and Ultimate Mystery. In those books, a mysterious force launched stealth attacks on the American scientific establishment and on particular members of the New York superhero community. As a result of these attacks:

  • Ben Grimm metamorphosized into a conventionally human form, albeit one that glows purple;
  • Spider-Woman went undercover at Roxxon Industries to determine the extent of that company’s complicity in the attacks. Her cover was blown almost immediately, and she was captured by Roxxon security; and
  • Sue Storm and Rick Jones made an unexpected trip to Project Pegasus, where they came face-to-face with the person responsible for all of these goings-on: Reed Richards!

Story Details

  Ultimate Doom #1
Summary: Ultimate Spider-Woman appears
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Rafa Sandoval
Inker: Roger Bonet
Lettering: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Matthew Wilson

Flash back to the confrontation between Reed and Sue at Pegasus. Thanks to Ultimate Mystery #4, we know how this will turn out: an injured Sue’s gonna escape back to Manhattan. But how did she get injured, and what did she learn? Let’s find out.

Sue is understandably upset to learn that her ex-boyfriend has done so many horrible things, not limited to faking his death, killing his family, and attacking “the world.” She’s forced to conclude that this is not actually Reed Richards she’s talking to.

Reed begs to differ. “What kind of man am I, Susan? You being the expert on all things me!! [sic]. You dont know how I think and you have no idea what I have discovered!!” [again, sic].

Apparently Reed has learned so much super-science since he and Sue broke up, he’s... what? Gained a new perspective on life? It isn’t clear. What is clear is that he holds a grudge against Sue for the way their relationship unfolded, a process he characterizes as “you emotionally tortur[ing] me until you were bored of it...”

Sue isn’t interested in doing an autopsy of their time together just now: she prefers to take Reed into custody. That’s tricky, because her forcefield power isn’t useful in this situation: she can’t use it on defense, because Reed has built weapons that can pass right through it, and she can’t use it on offense, because Reed’s flexible body can bend around it. She gives it her best - she even tries to explode his head! - but all this does is make Reed mad. Mad enough to smack her around, with the result she gets all of the bruises and cuts we saw last issue.

Finally, Rick Jones intervenes, because he’s certain that stopping Reed is the reason the Watchers gave him the Power Cosmic. Accordingly he fires off a big blast of energy, which Reed easily evades; Reed’s machinery isn’t so agile, and the blast destroys it. Rick just manages to teleport himself and Sue back to the Triskelion as the damaged equipment explodes.

Now we’re back in the present, as Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew awakes in the basement at Roxxon. She’s pinned to a super-science examining table, with all sorts of ominous machinery looming around her. Watching her is the Roxxon brain trust, all of whom are looking pretty pleased with themselves... they look pretty malevolent, too. The expressions on the faces of Layla Miller and Misty Knight are easily the best art in the book. (Not that that’s saying much, unfortunately.) Miller explains that, thanks to Misty’s aptitude for security, the brain trust knew that someone would try to infiltrate Roxxon after the attack. This explains why they all tumbled to Jessica so quickly back in Ultimate Mystery #3: they knew any newcomer was very likely a spy.

Well, that’s one mystery solved. And now for another: who is pulling the strings at Roxxon? Why, it’s Otto “Dr. Octopus” Octavius, the mad scientist who created Jessica in the first place! Oh, dear, this doesn’t look good.

This would have been a great cliffhanger ending to the issue. Instead, we’re gonna fill five more pages with not much. Back at the Triskelion, Sue, who’s lost consciousness, is being attended to by a squad of doctors and nurses. The sight of his sister fighting for her life is too much for Johnny to take, and he can’t help but flame on, turning on the overhead sprinkler system... which doesn’t help the doctors, who are trying to use electrical defibrillators on Sue. Grimly, Johnny, Ben, Fury, Jones, and Captain Marvel watch the doctors do their work. Wait, weren’t our heroes just torturing Marvel last issue? Don’t they hate his guts? Why are they letting him walk around free?

Whatever the doctors are doing, it doesn’t seem to be working. Sue’s pulse and respiration have stopped.

General Comments

As is par for the course with this maxi-series, Ultimate Doom #1 hardly moves the story along at all. We already knew that Reed Richards is purportedly behind all of these goings-on, and that he beat Sue Storm up, and pretty badly too, so no news there. We already knew that Jessica Drew was in durance vile at Roxxon; the only news is that Dr. Octopus is her captor, and that he purports not to know why Richards attacked the company. That’s pretty thin story for $3.99. About the only interesting thing here is the battle between Sue and Reed: it’s interesting to see what happens when forcefield powers go up against stretchy powers. But we only get about three pages of that, and it’s pretty poorly drawn, too.

Nine issues down, three to go, and we still don’t know what Reed (if it is Reed) is doing, or why, or even how, which has been a plot point - see Ultimate Mystery #2. We also don’t know how any of this ties into Roxxon, or what Roxxon is up to. Or what part Spider-Man has to play in all of this, and how he’s going to get to go home again: as per Ultimate Enemy #4, he can’t be with Aunt May while the Ultimate Enemy knows his identity, but how do you make the Ultimate Enemy forget?

I have little confidence that all of these questions will be answered, sadly.

Overall Rating

The story barely moves; the dialogue is pale; and the art sucks. The only interesting thing is the Sue vs. Reed duel, which is only a handful of panels (but still merits a half-web bump-up to the rating). The whole thing is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

I’m still buying these issues because I agreed to review them for SpiderFan. What’s your excuse?

Footnote

Cover accuracy check: I can barely figure out what the cover depicts at all, it’s such a mess. Seriously, what am I looking at here? Where is my eye supposed to be focused?

To the extent that I can decipher this image, it seems to show Nick Fury using a robot gun to fight a bunch of Reed’s pink alien minions. Needless to say, this scene appears nowhere in the book: you’d need to replace Fury with Susan, and the gun with some force bubbles, for it to approximate a fair advertisement. But I guess market research shows that Nick Fury and guns have a higher Q-rating, or something. This cover is Totally Inaccurate, and is a painful eyesore to boot.