Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Greg Land
Published by Marvel Comics

THE STORY: The Fantastic Four’s leader, Reed Richards, has accidentally punched a hole into an adjacent universe in a desperate bid to gain the knowledge he needs to cure his friend Ben Grimm—The Thing. But something has come through the aperture from a realm known as the Supremeverse: The Squadron Supreme! They are angry and here to arrest young Reed for high crimes against their world.

I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t little more than an excuse for another Ultimate crossover event that doesn’t want to use the title “Secret Wars” or “Contest of Champions”. Assembled for our entertainment is the Ultimate Fantastic Four, the Ultimates, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men all versus Squadron Supreme.

In other words, it’s a battle of alternate reality heroes (since the Ultimate version of the Marvel superhero universe is free from the constraints of the 40+ years of continuity baggage and the Squadron Supreme storyline takes place in its own “real” universe). Nothing that happens here has any consequence for the main Marvel Universe, so let the havoc begin.

Once again, such a spectacle is brought to us by “he who seems to be writing every Marvel event title” (Civil War, House of M), Brian Michael Bendis. What makes Bendis so great is his dialogue (Powers is one of my personal favorites), so the critics of his “talking heads” style won’t be completely silenced here. However, this book does seem to want to show that he can write the great super-hero conflagration scenario: “Hey! I don’t know you, but you’re here in spandex and seem threatening–I’m sure having nothing to do with the ego of being used to being the head power in charge–so rather than stop and ask questions, allow us to punch first.”

That being said, who doesn’t love reading super heroes fight each other? How often do our conversations discuss what super-hero could beat what super-villain? Never, because the heroes always beat the villains, that’s their raison d’etre. No, our discussions are “Thing vs. Hulk” or “Captain America vs. Batman”. And the Ultimates vs the Squadron Supreme basically allows them to have a Marvel (home of Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America) vs. DC (home of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) fight (since the Squadron Supreme are basically Marvel analogues of DC characters) without the legal entanglements.

If there was a spiritual touchpoint with this comic, it would be unintended consequences of our actions. Reed Richards was unaware of the repercussions of his on-going research. In fact, they were fueled by good intentions, as he was trying to find a cure for his friend, Ben Grimm (the Thing). Unfortunately, ignorance doesn’t excuse the actions, and though it may mitigate them, there is still a price to be paid.

Is there any artistic merit to Ultimate Powers? No. Is there some great moral theme or story being explored? No. Is Brian Michael Bendis going to take too long to tell this story? Yes. Was this contrived more as a marketing idea rather than compelling narrative? Yes (another lesson learned from Secret Wars). Are we going to buy it? Of course – it’s fan favorites vs. fan favorites. Who cares what the set up is as long as we get to the fighting. It’s the equivalent of a popcorn movie – enjoy it for what it is.

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