After the first two issues of “Ultimate Comics Avengers 2” left me wanting, with Mark Millar stretching out the recruitment of the Punisher and the first Hulk, the third issue finally kicks things into gear and gets the story going with the introduction of the bad guy that the Avengers have been brought together to take down: Ghost Rider. With this issue, the story seems back on track and heading in a direction that will promise lots of fighting and big explosions.
The issue begins strong with a cynical (yet, oh, so true) joke and revelation as to what the Ghost Rider has done to warrant the black ops wing of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s superhuman division’s wrath. After killing three very rich and very powerful men for no apparent reason, the US government wants Ghost Rider dead. The explanation is intermixed with scenes of him doing it, while Johnny Blaze does a crossword, and the visual storytelling is strong. It’s an entertaining and engrossing way to introduce the character and the reason for the Avengers being tasked to take him out.
With the team in place, Millar dives into how they interact with one another, including the Punisher refusing to go after the Ghost Rider, saying “Why should I protect the government’s rich friends? These punks probably just got what they deserved,” setting this Punisher apart from the regular one somewhat. Despite using some existing code names and back stories, Millar seems intent on making the Ultimate Avengers its own group that only uses the regular characters as jumping off points. That gives the book a fresher feeling than it might otherwise have.
Despite setting up a confrontation with the Ghost Rider, the second half of the comic moves too slowly. For this series to be half over already is hard to believe, since the enemy has barely been engaged. What does help the slow pacing is the increased release schedule this series has had. With a new issue every two or three weeks, the decompressed story seems to move along a lot quicker.
And, of course, there’s Leinil Francis Yu on art. He makes the Ghost Rider’s attacks on his victims look terrifying and brutal, as well as the Black Widow’s actions against the Punisher. There’s a harsher edge to his line work here than on previous books. He’s definitely drawing in a style reminiscent of his work on “Wolverine” since these characters have the same vicious, violent streaks to them. While not as crazed as Logan, that same undercurrent of violence comes through in his art.
After three issues, the second “Ultimate Comics Avengers” book is finally heading in a direction. Two issues of recruitment was a bit much, but this issue introduces the enemy well and sets up the fight for the next three issues well.