A mysterious alien force has launched stealth attacks on the American scientific establishment and on particular members of the New York superhero community. The Baxter Building and Roxxon Industries lab facilities have been destroyed, or perhaps absconded with. Reed Richards is dead. Nick Fury and Spider-Woman were attacked in their homes. And an alien assassin attacked the Parker home, but was defeated by Iceman, with assistance from Spider-Man and the surviving members of the Fantastic Four. During that battle, the Thing was struck by an energy blast, and now white energy is pouring out from behind his rocky scales...
Ben “the Thing” Grimm is in trouble. His rocky scales are glowing white and falling off of him, one by one. The other heroes and SHIELD agents can do little but watch. The readers, from the Thing’s point-of-view, watch them watch him until Ben passes out.
Cut to the following day, where the alien assassin wakes in SHIELD custody. Carol Danvers wants to know who he is and why he’s attacking Earth’s heroes, but the alien refuses to answer her questions. It’s a useful tactic, because Carol’s not even sure the alien speaks English. We readers know it can, because he made a cryptic remark to Nick Fury in Ultimate Enemy #1, but that is the sort of detail the paranoid Fury would keep to himself.
Speaking of Fury, here he comes. Danvers doesn’t have the spine to torture captives, but she knows Fury does, and she’s enlisted him for the job. He beats the alien with a baseball bat, but to little effect. So Fury, in his turn, delegates the job to Ultimate Hawkeye, who is dropping by to make a cameo appearance. Thankfully, we readers are spared specific knowledge of what Hawkeye does, but whatever techniques he uses, they’re effective. The alien is now ready to talk.
Speaking in a weird font it didn’t use when he spoke in issue #1, the alien explains that it is “the creation of the creator,” and that human society and morals are dysfunctional and corrupted. It goes own to say that “It is your choices that bring this punishment,” that “It has begun and it will see its end,” and that a new, pure world will emerge from the ashes of the old one. With that, the pink guy blows itself up into one of the weird spore creatures that took out Roxxon Industries and the Baxter Building. This one takes out the Triskelion, or a big part of it.
Elsewhere, Sue and Johnny Storm are monitoring the unconscious Ben Grimm, who is being held in some funky future-tech hospital bed. Sue explains to the sleeping Ben that she refuses to accept that he will die like this, in the same ignominious fashion that Reed did. Moreover, while she was scared by Ben’s profession of love (also in issue #1), and said nothing at the time, that was only because she was still emotionally processing it. “I’m going to fix you, Ben,” she says. “I’m going to fix you and I’m going to earn your love. I will.”
At this point, the alien spore creature smashes open the room, and Ben’s snazzy stasis field. Sue is able to defend herself with a forcefield, and Ben and Johnny too, but it isn’t at all obvious what is happening to Ben. He seems to have shed his scales entirely, leaving him with a traditional human body, albeit a glowing purple one.
Finally, at the Parker home, Peter has reached a decision. Given that the aliens know where he lives, Peter can’t stay at home any more. He’s not prepared to let his family – May, Gwen, Bobby – be killed the same way Reed Richards’ was. He tells May to go stay in a hotel under an assumed name. Meanwhile, he’s going to go find out who is behind these attacks and deal with it.
As he swings through the New York skyscrapers, Spider-Woman sees him and catches up with him. I suppose they have a lot to talk about.
But not in this miniseries. Ultimate Enemy is now finished.
The last page says “The End,” but of course it isn’t. Not a single plot thread has been resolved. We’ve only finished the first act of a three-act story. Sure, that first act is being marketed as a four-issue miniseries, but only because it’s easier to entice readers to commit to a four-issue book. Plus you get to sell three different #1 issues. This is comics marketing at its most crass.
So we get no answers, no resolution, and no superheroic action. We do get a pink explosion, but we’ve seen several times before. Big deal. So what do we get that’s new? Why, torture! Yes, if you like seeing American soldiers abuse their positions of authority to torture their prisoners, and have the book take the torturers’ side, you’ll love this issue.
But I sure don’t.
Objectively, the issue gets 1 web only because nothing happens. Something Is Up with the Thing, but we knew that as of the end of last issue. Otherwise, the story doesn’t advance at all. Sure, okay, the pink alien thinks his murders put him on the side of the angels, but every villain thinks that, it’s not news.
Objectively, the Ultimate Enemy mini-series gets 2 webs. The plot threads it establishes are interesting: who are these aliens? Why are they attacking Earth? How are they choosing their targets? How will the Fantastic Four operate, as a team and as individuals, with Reed Richards gone? What Is Up with the Thing? Good questions, these, but Marvel should have given us more in the way of answers in the first four issues, and it should absolutely not have pretended these four issues stand alone in any way.
Those are objective ratings, from your official SpiderFan reviewer. Subjectively, and speaking only for myself, I give this issue zero webs. I don’t think that there are many moral absolutes, but here’s one: torture.
It is wrong, always and everywhere, to torture people. Full stop.
Heroes don’t torture, and so much the worse for Danvers, Fury, and Hawkeye. Indeed, so much the worse for Marvel as a whole. The glorification of torture – the normalization of torture – is abhorrent, and I don’t want to be a part of it.
I heartily regret spending money on this issue. Now I’m part of the problem.
Cover accuracy check: Yes, in this issue the Thing does scream in fear and pain as energy erupts from beneath his skin. Full marks for cover accuracy, at least.