The third issue of All-New Ultimates is the best one yet, but it's still got a long way to go before it's worth your time. Spoilers ahead.
The first two issues of All-New Ultimates weren't very good, but I really like the characters they've selected for the team, so I've been willing to stick with it so far. Hopefully sticking with it through a rocky start will be worth it, because this issue definitely showed improvement.
At the end of my review of the last issue, I said I wanted to know more about the vigilante who appeared in #2, and who appears on the (very nice) cover for #3. While we don't know a ton about him yet, he seems to be named Scourge, and on further examination of his outfit, I feel good saying that it's the first design I've seen out of this book that actually looks pretty great.
Scourge is apparently a vigilante who wants the world to know his name. Early on we get a brief glimpse of him in his civilian life, face obscured off frame, lamenting that the paper hasn't spoken about him taking down several gang members. He's later outraged when it does, but misattributes the killings.
While we don't get to see a ton of Scourge in this issue, he's already a more interesting antagonist than the Serpent Skulls have been, who make a token appearance here. I suspect that the Serpent Skulls might all share a secret superpower to confuse the reader, because that is, ultimately, what they're good at here.
Other than that, the plot of this issue is mostly fine. Last issue's cliffhanger with a technicolor skull explosion is resolved very quickly, and then forgotten about, which is pretty frustrating. When we do get to see Black Widow again later on in the issue, it appears that she's ditched the incredibly silly pillow vest!
Without that dorky vest, the outfit doesn't actually look that bad. Very much reminiscent of the black Spider-Man suit, with a domino mask rather than a full face mask. I still very much prefer Spider-Woman's original costume, and there still hasn't been a reason given for why the costume/name change happened other than "editorial mandate," but at least they're realizing their mistakes and correcting for them pretty quickly. On the other hand, I think her vest might have been shredded during a fight last issue, so there's always a chance that it could resurface. Let's hope it doesn't.
Most of the issue focuses on Bombshell, in her civilian life as Lana, reconnecting with her boyfriend she's been out of touch with for a while, and learning that he's become a drug dealer once again. Some of her actions don't make sense, but I was pretty confident that I could at least follow most of the issue, so, hey, improvement.
It's good seeing some character development for one of the characters. I like Bombshell, I liked her back in Ultimate Spider-Man, and I like seeing her here. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the actual development here was all that well handled. This issue just sort of seems to happen, and it doesn't feel like much was learned, or even set up. Bombshell finds out her boyfriend is dealing drugs, and takes it... Really well. It's more of a nuisance than anything. This feels like something a villain-turned-superhero should really struggle with, realizing that she's going to have to leave these people behind her if she wants to go straight, but instead she just treats the whole thing like it's mildly amusing.
Unfortunately, while the writing showed minor improvements over the first two issues, the art has taken a turn for the worse with this third one. It's drifted between good and bad quite a few times in the first two issues, but it really seems to stick toward the bad end of the spectrum in this issue. I hadn't realized until now, but Amilcar Pinna, the artist for this series, doesn't seem to have a ton of variation on his female faces.
(Note: Formatting went wonky, see images on the left.)
Those images are of Jessica, Lana, and Kitty, respectively. Hair length aside those could be the same character. Maybe it's just me, but I honestly had to keep checking who was wearing what in order to tell which character was talking at that moment, and that's not good. Not to mention, Jessica and Kitty are both fairly unrecognizable compared to how they've been drawn in other series. Lana might be as well, although I've read relatively little stuff with her in it, so I'm more forgiving there. In any case, when three of your four female leads look almost identical, it's time to mix things up with some variation, I'd say.
I'm even more confused by this, because I just went to Pinna's website, and while it's not the most mind blowing art I've ever seen in my life, it's certainly better than the one-dull-surprise-face used for the women of this issue.
This series has been a mess, a hugely disappointing mess. This issue wasn't exactly good, but it was at least better, if only by virtue of being comprehensible, and ditching that ridiculous pillow vest (I will never let this go). The choices and mistakes made with this series have been baffling thus far, showing just enough promise in between the cracks for me to keep an eye on it, to see if it'll get better. That said, next month's cover looks like this:
(Note: Bottom image on the left.)
So I'm not holding out much hope.
(Note: This was originally posted to whereinirant.com, head over there to find more content like this.)