After last month’s relaunch of Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line with books written by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar, the primary architects of the imprint, adding a third book by Warren Ellis seems like the logical follow-up since, after Bendis and Millar, Ellis has had the largest impact on the universe writing books like “The Ultimate Galactus Trilogy,” “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” and “Ultimate Human.” “Ultimate Comics Armor Wars” is an added sign that Marvel means business with this relaunch and the first issue is a solid, impressive start.
After the devastation of “Ultimatum,” New York is in ruins, the world economy is in the tank, and Tony Stark is down to his last hundred million. How ever will he go on? Stark is in New York to secure his lab and retrieve any important items, but finds that security has already been breached and those important items may not be in his possession anymore. Not only that, but his Iron Man tech may not be his, exclusively, either. With a title like “Armor Wars,” that’s not surprising as this book looks to be the Ultimate version of the classic Iron Man story.
Ellis introduces two new Ultimate characters, Justine Hammer, the daughter of Stark rival Justin Hammer, and the mysterious Ghost. Both remain ciphers here, though that’s purposeful with the Ghost. Hammer’s lack of any substantial character is the book’s weakest part since she plays the second-largest role after Stark. Despite her weak introduction, Ellis continues to demonstrate his ability to write Ultimate Tony Stark better than anyone -- yes, even Mark Millar —- by finding that balance between alcoholic cynic, flirt, hero, self-loather, and arrogant prick. His back-and-forth with Happy at the beginning of the issue and his dealing with Justine Hammer both show off different facets of his personality.
Steve Kurth’s art matches the content of this series, although his reliance on photo reference makes some characters come off as stilted and static at times, especially Justine Hammer. Kurth is fantastic at drawing the Iron Man armor and the settings of a ruined Manhattan and Stark’s lab. His detailed renderings work best with those inanimate objects, but he does draw Stark’s facial expressions well. Kurth also throws in a few great background gags like a rendition of the Sistine Chapel ceiling portion where God gives life to Adam in Stark’s lab where Stark replaces Adam and holds in his hand an Iron Man helmet.
While the idea of redoing this Iron Man story again may not appeal to some, the writing of Warren Ellis should assuage doubts. His writing of Tony Stark is top-notch and he introduces the plot well, assisted by Steve Kurth’s realistic art. This series looks to be an entertaining read.