Page 45 Review by Stephen
From the creators of superb spy thriller VELVET, this is thrilling.
In his very first volume Brubaker has pulled off another unlikely mixed-genre success by choosing his ingredients carefully. Steve Rogers is first and foremost a soldier rather than a superhero, which is why Millar's treatment in ULTIMATES is one of the very few palatable treatments in over 60 years of publication. Just as Brubaker's SLEEPER is really a gripping espionage thriller and GOTHAM CENTRAL is an intelligent precinct drama, so this book is a complex military mystery with emphasis on contemporary anti-terrorist action delivered to your eyeball with incredible beauty by a Steve Epting so transformed from his Marvel days twelve years ago that he is barely recognisable. He's that very rare breed of "realistic" artists to retain a fluid line. Epting has curves and deep, dark shadow which Frank D'Armata compliments gorgeously with his colouring.
It's like 24 - which I happen to enjoy - minus the padding, the overwrought sentimentality and the constant hand-holding. Yeah, you're going to have to read this at least twice, but here are a few clues. When you've been around since World War II, you've a lot of past that can come back to haunt you, and this goes back to an operation on the Russian Front in 1942 - a decidedly unsuccessful one, in spite of the presence of Captain America, Bucky and his other wartime allies, around a small village near Stalingrad called Kronas. The Captain's command, shared uneasily with Colonel Vasily Karpov, results in the destruction of the village by The Red Skull, a Nazi whose face is... a red skull. Five years ago The Red Skull met another Russian officer, General Lukin, near the Kazakhstan Border to buy some... experimental devices from Karpov's inventory. There he sees a bionically enhanced human form in suspended animation - a form the Skull recognises with incredulity.
"Ah, yes. I've been going over the paperwork Comrade Karpov left on this one. He was apparently very useful in the cold war. A secret weapon, of a sort, against the United States."
"How much do you want for it?"
"I think not, Herr Skull. I have my own plans for that item. Unless, of course, you would be willing to exchange it for the Cosmic Cube, as it is known?"
"The Cube? What do you know of that?"
"We know of many things you hold close, Skull. And I would value this Cosmic Cube quite highly if it is what I have heard."
"Oh, it is, believe me. But it's not in my possession. Even if it was, you can't think you'd have anything that would make me give it up. Though I can see why you'd desire it... you'd have the power to rebuild your socialist republic, wouldn't you?"
"That is one possibility, among many."
"Well, you can keep dreaming... My spies are combing the world for signs of it even as we speak. The cube will be mine, and no one else's."
As I say, that was five years ago. Today in New York City the Red Skull has the reality-altering Cube - or a weak, fractured version of it - and has set in motion a series of bombings around the globe intended to reinvest the reality-altering device with enough energy to restore its terrible glory. And it's at that point a sniper takes the Red Skull out with a bullet through his chest. He's dead. As Nick Fury dispatches Captain America across the world in search of the terrorist units still bent on carrying out the bombings, a classified document sits on his desk called "Winter Soldier", and Steve Rogers begins unearthing memories which contradict this final hours of consciousness in World War II before he fell from the rocket and into suspended animation with the loss of his dear friend, patriot and partner Bucky.