Sam Humphries and Luke Ross bring their contribution to United We Stand to a close as things heat up between the Ultimates and Modi. How will the Ultimates overcome the mind gem? Will America live to see another day? Find out in Ultimates #18!
end of spoilers
-Modi takes over Cap's mind to distract him from the battle at hand.
-He sees through the dream and wakes up to a chokehold from Thor.
-Thor struggles against Modi's control and Cap breaks Modi's staff, making him lose control of the Mind Gem.
-The Hydra agents that were mind controlled wake up and help the Ultimates fight back.
-Thor strikes Modi down with lightning, burning his body (but he's not likely dead).
-The Ultimates take control back from Hydra.
-Triskelion scientists are working on figuring out the Mind Gem, and a face is seen outlined in stars through the portal they have open.
And so Divided We Fall/United We Stand comes to a close for the Ultimates. Thank goodness. This was a really, really bland event. And this chapter may be the worst offender. This book has truly fallen from greatness over the past few months.
Once again, Humphries seems to have a decent handle on the main characters, but his dialogue is just so weak, and his character development couldn't be more lacking. What should have been a huge moment of confrontation between Thor and Modi ended with a crappy fight scene. Modi is just a diet version of Loki, bringing absolutely nothing new to the table. And I'm still not feeling "President Cap," as they keep calling him (or, even worse, "President Captain America"), though I did enjoy his brief exchange with Peter in his dream. The big problem with the characterization here is that no one else gets any kind of focus. Cassie Lang is still as out of nowhere as she was last issue, and several characters show up, once again, out of the blue to help fight, but say nothing (Spider-woman, Sue Storm, Falcon). There's nothing of substance here. Even in the post-fight team meeting, we learn nothing except that Thor is a bit depressed.
Luke Ross is the one saving grace of this book, but it's not enough to actually save it. His art has really gotten a lot better. I still wouldn't say it's the right fit for the Ultimates, but it works. However, while nothing stands out as bad, but nothing's really stunning, either. His fight scenes aren't particularly dynamic, but I think that has more to do with the poorly scripted fight. Each character, though, looks just fine, and the book at least has a consistent aesthetic.
As for the story, I'm not sure there was one. This is just a bad - and much less exciting - rehash of the battle against Loki in Ultimates 2. Modi even used the same mind trick on Cap that his uncle used on Thor. Neither Humphries or Ross is really suited to this big blockbuster kind of story, but that's what they were going for here. Modi was one of the few elements of Loeb's Ultimates that I really liked, and he was wasted on this dud of a story. Between the weak uses of Hydra, the Mind Gem, Modi, the Wasps, Tony's stupid tumor, Cassie Lang, and the Ultimates themselves, I really can't think of anything that stood out as a good idea in this arc. The only thing that I can single out as a positive is the fact that the Mind Gem will clearly be used again, which means the possibility of the other Gems showing up. Other than that, though, this arc was just boring. Maybe Humphries will do a better job when he's fully on his own - not part of a crossover, and not having to finish Hickman's story.
I still have hope for this book to get better, because I remain a huge fan of the Ultimate Universe. But if this was my first exposure to the team, rather than Millar's Ultimates, I wouldn't still be reading these books. Fortunately, Ultimate Spider-man is getting better, and Wood's X-Men is amazing. Hopefully the Ultimates will follow suit soon. Otherwise, I'm worried for the future of this book.
Unless you've really liked the other issues of this crossover, just wait until #18.1 to try it again. This conclusion adds very little to what came before.