The plot of "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" has, across seven issues leading to this one, been jam-packed with action, characterization and consequence. Jonathan Hickman's storyline throughout this run has taken full advantage of the Ultimate brand of the Marvel Universe, creating a new and profoundly different status quo, instilling the feeling in the reader that all bets are off and anything can happen within these pages. All things considered, "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" #8 feels like a comedown, giving the sense that Hickman's plot has been planned for a trade paperback and issue #8 is merely setting up a new act.
However, "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" #8 isn't by any means a bad comic. There are plenty of colorful moments for the individual characters in Hickman's script, even providing a laugh-out-loud moment from Thor amidst the tense politicking of the book itself. Still, politicking and discourse comprise the rest of the issue, to the dismay of readers who may have dipped into the series due to its cover. Kaare Andrews' stunning cover promises the reader a Hulk and the safe assumption the grey giant will be smashing. Sadly, even an enraged Hulk is drawn into the intrigue of foreign affairs in this issue, failing to satisfy the ever-present thirst for smashing we superhero fans are wont to foster.
Even in an issue heavy on dialogue and set-up, the artwork by Esad Ribic and Dean White remains the finest in any superhero title on the market today. I look forward to every new issue of "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" for the poster-worthy pages alone. Ribic & White are the perfect marriage of detail and color, creating a phantasmal tone to the book wherein the impossible seems possible and events that could seem over-the-top under a less-talented team come across as breathtaking. Even an issue such as #8, laden with talking heads, retains the cinematic quality the series has fostered to date, as the fluidity between panels remains seamless. The most impressive aspect of any comic book is how it accomplishes things that no other medium can accomplish; in the case of "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" #8, the dynamic and immersive artwork allows the reader to take in the events at the book's own pace, uniquely letting us linger over moments. Even if a new reader came across the series expecting just another superhero book, Esad & Ribic's pages affirm a sense of importance and tension in each new scene, raising it above the standard.
All in all, the events of "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" #8 needed to take place for the good of the overall plot, but the eighth issue remains anemic on its own. The Ultimates themselves remain woefully unprepared for The City and the response of their own government, which scales back the impact of the team itself to a certain extent. Even Hulk's mission in the text is, admittedly, nonexistent -- these elements may be planted to emphasize the need for a tactician like Steve Rogers on the team, but they also take away from the sense of epic confrontation the series has cultivated to this point. Although a slight misstep, "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" #8 proves that even when Hickman is off, his work remains in the upper-echelon of writing. Thanks to Esad & Ribic, it is hard to fault Hickman for thinking in terms of trade paperback; it is going to be gorgeous.