After battling the Serpent Skulls last arc, the Ultimates' headquarters has been burned down so they reside in Jessica Drew's apartment. Lana's boyfriend, Poey, was killed by the Skulls, so she's been taking time off from the team to grieve. Last issue, the heroes found the zombified version of Detective Schreck and took him to Detective O'Reilly's apartment.
In Manhattan, Knockout, a rather strong villainess, listens to somebody on her speaker explain that she must be quick about the crime she’s about to commit. Whiplash, whose name explains her appearance, impatiently utters she’s getting “antsy.” When the person on the speaker tells the team to keep the blood count down, Bloodlust, a demonic-like villainess, expounds the will try. Mindblast, a telepathic-based baddie, decides it’s time to depart, and the speaker-person stresses that their targets must be kept alive. The Femme Fatales are aiming to defeat the Ultimates!
At Jessica Drew’s apartment, Dagger is surprised to find Spider-Man hanging in the bathroom. He asks why she doesn’t knock first and enters the main room to find the other Ultimates sitting on the couch. “It’s always pleasant seeing you all while not dodging bullets or certain death,” Miles quips. He comments that the apartment is cool, and Jessica explains S.H.I.E.L.D.’s severance package was “pretty sweet.”
Spider-Man sits down to take “inventory”: “Serpent Skulls: out of commission. Scourge: apprehended. Crossbones: still missing but maimed. Zombie detective: found.” Tandy asks where they’ll establish their new headquarters because they can’t sit around Jessica’s apartment for all their meetings. When Kitty mentions that she’s overstayed her welcome living there already, Jessica explains they’re welcome to stay in her apartment and apologizes for not having more space. After Tandy rather snobbishly seethes she would appreciate more privacy, Tyrone interrupts that she means that they’re happy Jessica’s putting up with them. Tandy is frustrated he’s putting words in her mouth, and the two get in an argument. Jessica feels awkward in the middle of it.
Eventually, Spider-Man decides to get down to business and explains that he has news that would be helpful for them. Kitty playfully asks if he’s quitting the team, and he sarcastically replies, “You’re hilarious.” He brings up how J. Jonah Jameson stated he would help him any way in Cataclysm: Spider-Man. Although, Jameson never explained the “terms and conditions” Miles wonders if he can fund them or build a new headquarters. Tandy asks if they would have to work for Jameson and go on missions he chooses, and Kitty is afraid they may have to do on press tours. Miles yells, “The man’s got money and he wants to spend some of it on us. Why stop him? He owes us his life! --is the way he phrased it.”
Suddenly, Tandy gets up and angrily sneers, “You’re telling me that JJJ could’ve had a secret mansion build for us while I was breathing mold…and ‘showering’ with a busted pipe that mostly ran rusty water!?” Tyrone mutters that she “didn’t seem to mind it too much” and she replies, “It’s called not whining.” They begin fighting again, and Kitty comes to the conclusion that they’ve been around each other too long. Angrily, Tandy orders Miles to call JJJ to get them “condos.” As Tandy, Tyrone, and Kitty bicker, Jessica jokes Lana doesn’t know what she’s missing. Miles says, “I just hope she’s feeling better, wherever she is.”
At the Calvary Cemetery, Lana and her immature friends (whom we met in All-New Ultimates #3) stand of front of Poey’s grave. They recall how Poey used to play Mario Cart while playing heavy metal music on his “crappy boom box.” Lana reminisces how she always watched Poey’s terrible band play. “That alone won me Girlfriend of the Year,” she says. Lana apologizes to her friends for missing the funeral, but she was too broken to attend. Darla explains the funeral was nice, and Butch, to Darla’s dismay, mentions that it was open-casket and Poey looked good. Lana rationalizes that the world was able to clearly see Poey at the funeral, secrets and all. She decides, “I should get rid of all my secrets…before they’re the only things I have left.”
Back at Jessica’s apartment, the heroes, among their requests for Jameson, list dental health benefits, airplane security clearance, and a fighter jet. Jessica frantically writes it all down. Suddenly, they hear an explosion and Spider-Man rushes out to discover it came from Hell’s Kitchen. On the streets of New York, the Femme Fatales, as seen in the first scene, are wreaking havoc. Bloodlust wants to “cleanse” (kill) the “peasants” (civilians) around them, but Mindblast explains they must complete their objective by luring the Ultimates to them. Knockout chucks a newsstand at some innocents, and Spider-Man arrives in time to save them. The others show up and Black Widow quips, “Femme Fatales? They don’t sound familiar to me. And I’ve read up on a lot of C-listers.”
The battling begins and Black Widow runs toward Knockout, jibing, “What’s a strong female lead doing around these parts, terrorizing citizens?” Jessica avoids the villainess’ attack and counters, but has little effect on her. Knockout grabs her by the hands and says, “Next time, put a little more oomph into it.” Meanwhile, Kitty races to stop Whiplash from harming a vulnerable old man. She attempts to disrupt Whiplash’s mechanics by passing through her, but it doesn’t work. The villainess lashes out at Kitty and binds her in her technologic coils.
On another hand, Spider-Man is occupied fighting Bloodlust. He dodges her first attack, joking she needs to get her gnarly nails checked out, but he is cut on the leg by the second assault. The vile woman grabs him by the neck, but explains that she’s not going to kill him (or at least “not in any traditional senssse”). Miles escapes her grip and manages to web her hands. “Too bad. I’m a sucker for tradition,” he jests. Elsewhere, Cloak and Dagger race to combat Mindblast, bickering how to stop her. After she blasts (heh) Dagger’s arm, she grabs Cloak’s head and blazes it.
Soon, Whiplash decides they must “put the kibosh on this here barn burner” (this means “end the fight” for those who aren’t stereotypical Australians) and throws Kitty Pryde at Bloodlust. She manages to ambush and detain Bloodlust. Spider-Man switches over to skirmish with Whiplash and throws her into a tree with his webs. In the meantime, Mindblast punches Dagger, but she responds with a teeth-breaking knee-hit. The villainess decides that she must go against her orders and “terminate” the hero as payback. She sends a powerful discharge towards Dagger, but it accidentally hits Knockout. Black Widow finishes the leader off with a sock into the dumpster. Cloak defeats Mindblast with a blast.
With the clash complete, Miles wonders what color bow tie they should put on the villains when sending them to the authorities. The Ultimate FF (ya know, the ones with the book that only lasted six issues) arrive at the scene, and Sue explains they’ll handle the villains and thanks them for ending the “mayhem.” After thanking them for coming, Miles remarks how “weird” it is that the authorities avoid the neighborhood of the crime scene, but Iron Man says it may be more than a coincidence.
Shortly after the villainesses have been detained, Stark asks if the authorities approve of the Ultimates’ actions, and Black Widow kids they need to “get better at PR.” “It’s not about PR, Jessica. You have to be officially sanctioned by the police department. Or not,” the billionaire hero explains. Kitty asks where the villainesses will be taken, and Machine Man describes that a Vault cell is being arranged for them. Falcon comments that they will be “studying” the villains’ designs before imprisoning them. When Miles asks if the FF could run some tests on Cloak and Dagger, as a “check-up,” Sue explains they could do it in perhaps a week. Miles calls over Tandy and Tyrone, but they’re nowhere to be found.
On a rooftop, Cloak and Dagger talk. Cloak is concerned about his partner because, if she had gotten hit by Mindblast’s rays, she may have died. He only managed to survive it because he was building up resilience, but her anger towards him almost got her killed. “What’s your problem been lately, anyways?” Cloak inquires. “You’ve been snapping at me pretty much since the church burned down.” He figures that they need space after sleeping on the couch in Jessica’s small apartment for so long.
Following a moment of silence, Dagger states, “We have to break up.” Cloak is surprised, but she explains, “It’s just not working. We’re a mess…I’m a mess…and I’m angry and I don’t want to hate you.” The team isn’t the problem, and they can continue being superheroes, but not as a couple. Tandy feels suffocated by her life. “You’re not seriously using the suffocated line,” Cloak jokes, which aggravates her further. “It’s not that I don’t believe you. I just don’t think I’m going to like what you have to say,” he clarifies. Tandy explains that sleeping with Tyrone in All-New Ultimates #5 only served to further deteriorate their relationship.
After another moment of silence, Cloak decides that they can’t continue being a duo if they break up. He expounds, “We’re no longer a duo on or off the team. We’re independent. I can do whatever I want. So can you. I’ll no longer be suffocating you. It’s over Tandy.” As Cloak flies away from his former lover, a villain in a skull mask and hood stares at a computer screen showing the Ultimates’ faces, obviously plotting something terrible.
With All-New Ultimates #8, Michel Fiffe continues the energetic and fresh tone from the last issue and finally writes a team book worth reading. The team is actually working together now, and I am starting to enjoy the characters for once. Fiffe’s book is feels like something that would appeal to the new generation and inspire them to read more comic books. Also, Fiffe is getting a hang of essential comic book storytelling devices such as pacing and transitions. The fighting scenes are probably the best I’ve seen from him so far.
Character interactions take up a good part of this issue and Fiffe makes the heroes’ banter identifiable to teens. I got a few laughs out of some of the jokes. The most interesting character-driven aspect of the story is the splitting of Cloak and Dagger, which is handled very well. The scene is very good at evoking sadness, and the dialogue is masterful. For the conversation, it feels like Fiffe borrowed some pages from the Bendis book of dialogue (or at least the good pages).
With my praise aside, this issue isn’t quite perfect. The Femme Fatales are overall uninteresting villains, and the appearance of the Ultimate FF was a bit odd. It was weird that Fiffe didn’t follow up on the cliffhanger with Detective Schreck last issue. The readers are left wondering how O’Reilly reacted to her undead partner. Also, it would have been helpful if Cloak and Dagger’s break-up this issue had a clear lead-up from past issues. (This last one isn’t a particularly major gripe, though, and doesn’t deduct from this issue’s score.)
Last but not least, Milonogiannis’ art succeeds in all the right places for this issue. The action scene is dynamic and flows well. During the scene at Jessica’s apartment, Milonogiannis’ manga roots are very obvious, as the exaggerated character expressions add tremendously to the humor. When it comes to the Cloak/Dagger discussion, he brilliantly tones down the manga-amplification and uses subtle touches to make the discussion more emotional. Of course, the legendary Jordie Bellaire’s coloring adds greatly to the line work, setting the tone well. The bright oranges in the Cloak/Dagger discussion are excellent choices.
Although I have a few minor gripes with the issue, it is overall very solid and Fiffe's best installment in the series. The Cloak/Dagger scene at the end is well-done, and the Ultimates are fresh and interesting. Milonogiannis' artwork is fantastic.