Michel Fiffe and Amilcar Pinna's "All-New Ultimates" #1 isn't off to a bad start, but it isn't off to a great one, either. Coming after yet another major event, this issue had a lot to cover and five characters to re-introduce; this is admittedly a tall order for any creative team. Unfortunately, despite some interesting character moments, they don't quite rise to the challenge.
The primary problem is that this story reads more like a recap than a pitch for a new series. There's no clear hook, and a lot of the presentation isn't inviting to new readers. Now, it would be one thing if the team had decided to take the series in a retrospective direction, deeply examining the characters' reactions to the events of Cataclysm. However, everyone except for Kitty seems quite unaffected. They don't discuss what happened with one another or seem particularly broken up. There's nothing wrong with the start-fresh approach, either, but to be successful, the series needs to embrace one or the other. Right now, it's doing half the work for both.
The first page opens things on a fun note that initially had me excited for the issue. Four of the title team members -- Cloak and Dagger, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Bombshell -- quickly debate their team name. It's light-hearted and captures a bit of the team dynamic while still getting a quick introduction in for each member.
From there, though, things quickly get bogged down. The plot feels very slow, even though there's a fair amount of action and information in this issue. However, a lot of it doesn't feel connected, and even those threads that do link the scenes aren't emphasized enough. Both Fiffe and Pinna struggle to focus on the most effective or impactful elements of a scene, but I think that relates back to the problem of pitch. Without a clear focus or feel for the series, it would be difficult to edit down to what's important.
The dialogue is also stiff at times; Fiffe is still working out his sense of how this team talks. An exception is the insightful, interesting conversation that Kitty and Jessica have about Kitty's recent rise to fame. When Kitty asks, "The world forgot its hate and I'm supposed to be all smiles?" she sets up a nice character arc and an intriguing question. Unfortunately, most of the other conversations aren't as compelling.
The highlight of the issue is Woodard's colors. He does phenomenal work making Earth-1610 feel like a radioactive urban Wonderland. With everything in harsh greens, light pinks and oil-spill blues, the city looks like exactly the sort of place where mutated gangs and mad-scientists mobsters would be a concern. The palette added so much personality to the world, and it was a pleasure to see.
"All-New Ultimates" is still an exciting concept, and one that many readers (myself included) were looking forward to -- especially after I saw that phenomenal Marquez and Sobreiro variant cover. Hopefully it will take better advantage of its promising premise in the issues to come. There is plenty to work with here, and there are glimpses of a great series in Issue #1. It's just not fully there yet.