The Ultimates 2 4

ultimates-2-4

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Ultimates 2 4, originally released February 15th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. […]

Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. […]

Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question.

Aristotle, “Rhetoric”

Drew: I’ve never studied philosophy, or even public speaking, but even I’ve heard of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the three modes of persuasion Aristotle describes in the excerpts above. Obviously, “heard of” is a pretty far cry from understanding, but to my lay mind, Logos — the mode that relies on logic — is often held up as the purest form of persuasion, as it hinges on facts rather than our emotions or faith in whoever is making the argument. But, of course, it’s difficult to truly ignore the impact of Ethos and Pathos — we’re emotional, social beings — so it’s possible for something to feel like Logos when, in fact, it isn’t (a phenomenon we call “truthiness”). Moreover, dubious Logos may shore up its logicalness by being distractingly lacking in Ethos and Pathos (a phenomenon we might call “fuck your feelings”). This is all very messy, and is threatening to turn into an essay on political discourse, but I brought it up to address the appeals characters make to one another in Ultimates 2 4 — all modes are on display, including a “logical” argument built on such shaky ground that its arguer feels compelled to call itself “Logos.”

This issue starts and ends with Logos, who clearly believes in the logic of their actions, but we get plenty of evidence to the contrary. The most notable is probably the dismissal of the Never Queen:

Never Queen and Logos

The lettering here makes the sequence somewhat hard to follow (Logos’ departure in that central panel really doesn’t come across), but Logos’ general attitude regarding the Never Queen couldn’t be clearer: he doesn’t need to worry about what might be, because he gets to decide what is. But, as the Never Queen points out, what might be could undo Logos’ plan entirely.

I’m absolutely loving the survey of cosmic, metaphysical-embodiments-of-abstact-idea characters that this volume has become, though I may be particularly partial to the Never Queen. Both volumes of this series has established scale by placing a tiny thing in frame with a gigantic thing, and I think they may have managed something similar with the scope of Logos’ plan, here, dwarfing it with some even larger plan the Never Queen is deploying. It’s exciting, mind-bending stuff, but I mostly can’t fathom where it might be going at this point.

Elsewhere, the interplay between Ethos, Pathos, and Logos is a bit clearer. As a team full of scientists, the Ultimates have always relied on Logos, but as a team also full of iconic heroes, it’s hard to deny the strength of their Ethos, as well. But that leaves Pathos — the mode focused on emotion — largely by the wayside, which is where the Troubleshooters come in. Writer Al Ewing goes to great lengths to emphasize the emotional basis for almost all of that team’s powers:

Mood Indigo

Ewing lays it on thick (indeed, “Mood Indigo” may be a shade too thick), but it drives the point home: the Troubleshooters are the emotional antithesis of the Ultimates. It’s hard not to read this as an oblique commentary on the state of political discourse, but I’m struck by the thought that Logos may not be entirely reliable, at least not without acknowledging Ethos and Pathos. That is, while the Ultimates are our heroes, they may suffer from the same blind spots (if not necessarily the same dubious motivations) as Logos — that is, the character.

(Boy, naming a character after one of the central themes of an arc sure seems messy, doesn’t it? Maybe I should have cooked up a convention for dealing with that sooner, but here we are.)

Spencer, I spent a lot of time with the themes of this issue, but ignored a lot of the actual events of the story. Did you have any favorite moments from the fight? Or from Logos’ opening scene? Or that ending? Maybe we should talk about that ending.

Spencer: Man Drew, that ending — it’s heartbreaking to see Galactus once again reduced to a devourer of worlds, not only because it undoes the hard work of both the Ultimates and Galactus himself, but because it strips Galactus of any control over his life. That’s actually what strikes me the most about Logos — it seeks complete control over the universe simply because it believes that’s its always in the right, that its word is absolute law, and that it knows better than any other figure in the universe.

taunting-galactus

That’s scary for a few reasons. That makes it extraordinarily easy for Logos to demonize, or just wipe out completely, anything it doesn’t approve of, but it also creates a world where nothing is capable of changing, evolving, or growing. If Logos’ way is always right, then growth would be going against Logos’ will, its law, and as we see with Galactus, that’s something it has no trouble punishing.

Essentially, that makes Logos a Cosmo-Dictator, a being that thinks its every thought is irrefutable gospel, and has the power to enforce its deluded logic and absolutely no oversight. Hm — who does that remind you of? Drew mentioned how easy it is to read the interaction between the Ultimates and the Troubleshooters as commentary on political discourse, but Logos seems like an even more overt and obvious political allegory, one that practically leapt off the page at me on my first read.

Yet, there’s another allegory you can build around Logos as well.

dead-is-dead

An issue from the first volume of The Ultimates played the trial of Galactus — and the arguments between Order and Chaos, the Tribune, and even the Molecule Man — as commentary on the nature of superhero comics as a whole. I see some of that with Logos as well, especially when it decrees that in its Multiverse, “dead is dead.” That’s a phrase with special meaning to comic fans, a promise both Marvel and DC have made before that’s never been kept. In that sense, Logos comes across as a new writer/editor/publisher who thinks they have all the answers, and disregards the contributions of those who have come before (as Logos does in the scene above with the Celestials, who, as the in-universe architects of the Marvel universe, clearly represent its real-life architects as well) in order to pursue their own interpretations. The fact that Logos is also fiercely conservative/anti-progress just reminds me of the writers whose ideas of new stories are bringing back characters and concepts we’d long since left behind (Hal Jordan or Barry Allen, for example), but it also again goes to show that Logos’ head isn’t quite screwed on straight — for all its talk of order or law or justice, it’s clearly following a very personal, selfish agenda.

Drew, I really appreciate your analysis of the Ultimates vs. Troubleshooters sequence, especially the way emotion plays into their confrontation. Looking at those scenes myself, it almost looks like Ewing is proclaiming emotion as the enemy (of discussion and debate, if nothing else), no matter which side it comes from. Tensen is the reasonable — and, thus, “good” — member of the Troubleshooters because he keeps his head on straight and wants to talk things out, but it’s Rodstvow’s act of aggression that kicks their entire fight off. Carol and T’Challa, meanwhile, can’t be in the same room for five seconds without resorting to petty sniping, and Carol and America’s indignance towards Tensen only perpetuates a battle he’s eager to end peacefully.

I haven’t been able to draw any concrete conclusions yet, but I can’t help but to think that this might be related to Galactus’ observation that the Troubleshooters don’t fully know what they “may be agents of” — and that sounds like it may be related to the “origin” of Rodstvow.

moral-imperative

It’s hard to follow exactly what Rodstvow is trying to say, but if the Ultimates’ world is his utopian parallel, it’s easy to imagine that he came from some sort of uber-dystopia, some horrid, all-corrupting universe. Is he having some sort of influence on the Troubleshooters, or perhaps even on the Ultimates or the Marvel Universe itself? It does seem clear that his ruthless hatred is setting him up as the ultimate foe to Blue Marvel, one of Marvel’s most moral and logical heroes, which is essentially an exaggerated version of the Troubleshooter v Ultimate conflict back home. Perhaps more importantly, it seems clear that Rodstvow’s evil is a direct result of the dystopia he calls home — a dystopia much like what the entire Multiverse could become if Logos reigns on unchallenged. Rodstvow may very well be the final result of the oppressive, retrogressive Multiverse Logos is building.

Man, this is all pretty dark, isn’t it? Let’s end this on a lighter note! Drew, you asked me what my favorite moment of the Ultimates/Troubleshooters fight was: I’d say it has to be America’s teleportation trick.

thats-thinking-with-portals

There’s a lot of clever uses of abilities in this issue, but I love using these portals (and the heightened gravity of an alternate dimension) to pack extra momentum behind a hit. Ultimates has departed a bit from Young Avengers when it comes to America’s portals — in YA we only ever saw her use them to open portals between dimensions, not travel between two points in a single dimension — but I love how Ewing and Foreman have used the portals to expand America’s skills within battle and make her a more essential member of the team. And Ewing and Foreman don’t neglect their multiversal aspect either, using them to open their story up to a bevy of creative new environments. That’s exactly the kind of move a book like The Ultimates should be making.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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14 comments on “The Ultimates 2 4

  1. I would really love a Ms. America series. Seeing her bounce off of all of these big personalities in team books is fun, but I’d love the opportunity to get inside her head a bit to see what makes her tick.

        • A Ms America book had been requested so often that I believe, quite hilariously, that someone announced a Ms America ripoff to try and capitalise on it, until Marvel finally announced one (and I have to say, I love that it is simply called America). I’m a little nervous of Marvel’s future, as the rumours are suggesting they are moving in a Rebirth direction and they seem to be stating similar half truths as DC did (I’m honestly shocked that Marvel appear to be doing this, since Marvel has been doing so strongly, and Rebirth’s sales figures, after their initial spike, are very disappointing, to the point that I’m actually kind of worried about what DC is going to do next. What do you do when ‘back to basics’ fail?)

          But damn, have I been looking forward to the Ms America book since it has been announced. She is such a great character, and I can’t wait to see what they do with her. And yeah, ti will be fantastic to see what sorts of dimensions we learn about her when we get to see inside her head, instead of having her be just one of the team. Especially as she’s always enjoyed being enigmatic

        • I suspect those rumors aren’t credible for the very reasons you’re so shocked to hear them: they straight-up do not make sense from a business standpoint. I think it’s just wishful thinking on the parts of some fans. Decisions at that level are made entirely by what they think will sell, and Rebirth’s sales should be more than enough to deter that line of thinking.

          What’s frustrating is that anyone who believes these rumors will find “confirmation” in the inevitable returns of Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, non-Hydra Cap and so on — we all knew these characters would return to form eventually, but now those changes will be seen as some deep indication of a change of direction at Marvel.

        • My worry is more about timing. The fact that these rumours came out shortly after a Marvel creative retreat, which occurred just before it was released to the public that Rebirth is suffering a record level of returns and it was the latest sales figures showed just how worrying DC Rebirth’s sales figures are. I believe Marvel (and every comic publisher) have much better ways internally of measuring the competition than what we have access to, but it is worrying to see these rumours happen just after a Marvel Creative Retreat, and just before we learn the full problems of Rebirth. They are frustratingly timed. Especially with some of the lines Marvel are saying with respect to the post-Secret Empire status quo etc. The timing of when the rumours appeared and when the Rebirth sales data was released is enough to make me slightly panicky

          On the other hand, if Marvel had all the data before their creative retreat, which is intellectually what I think, Marvel wouldn’t go down the Rebirth rabbit hole. They don’t need to do so, and it is quite clear that it is not a good path to go down. They may be just doing the Rebirth Dog Whistles because that is what good marketing is at the moment – committing to a Rebirth is a terrible marketing decision, but Rebirth’s catch phrases were truly fantastic marketing. The catch phrases stuck, even when the comics didn’t.

          The hard thing about the point about the inevitable returns of characters is that they kind of are true unless Marvel finds replacements. That is going to be the very interesting thing. I believe a big reason that Kate Bishop, Ms America and Riri Williams are being pushed is that they can be permanent in a way that Jane Foster can’t be (Clint Barton will become important again, but after Fraction, Kate is a permanent part of the Hawkeye mythos). But I think it is important that we don’t let the inevitability of the return to status quo let Marvel off the hook, and make sure they provide replacements. There needs to be something that replaces those stories, something that pushes Marvel forward in brave ways. HYDRA Cap is the sort of interesting idea that Marvel needs to be releasing. It doesn’t have to be political or controversial (though what isn’t controversial? I’m still surprised how much hate the reveal that Tony Stark is adopted got), but there needs to be a continuous push to be adding new and fresh stuff like that. Make it so that when Secret Empire is over and Steve Rogers is a good guy again, there is an idea just as ambitious waiting in the wings, to push forward what superhero comics can be.

          Because I’m actually a bit worried about DC at the moment. Yeah, I don’t like Rebirth, but I don’t think Rebirth’s failure will lead to DC correcting itself. Or, at least, I don’t think this is the right type of failure. Is DC really in a position to want to take the sorts of risks that Marvel made to become a success? I believe that such risky moves are the solution, but I’m sure they would want to take those risks from a position of safety like Marvel did. And that was what Rebirth seems to prove that DC don’t have a position of safety. Hopefully, the failure of their core audience will make them more receptive to reach out to new audiences. But the last thing we want is for DC to have to Rebirth again in an attempt to grab back that core audience who isn’t buying their books. Because regardless of your opinion on Rebirth, it will not be healthy for DC to have to do another Rebirth in an attempt to fix their problems

        • Even before those return numbers came back, the raw sales numbers (even the limited ones the public has access to) revealed that whatever boost Rebirth gave to DC’s sales was gone within three months — long before the creative retreat. Without a VERY strong financial incentive to change direction so abruptly, I can’t see Marvel forcing anything so drastic. It goes against every creative philosophy I’ve seen espoused by their editors over the last five years, and while I think economic concerns could override aesthetic ones, it would need to be for something with a lot more promise than Rebirth.

        • Rebirth’s sales were always going to fall, that was to be expected. The incredible spike it had can only happen through a high profile relaunch and quickly disappears. The real measure of Rebirth’s success was where the sales stabilized. And I believe we have had a lot less information about that until recently. It is only with the recent information released that I feel it is really clear that Rebirth is doing worse than the New 52 and not stabilizing. That Rebirth’s falling sales are beyond natural attrition.

          Ultimately, I’m using this as a reminder to be critical. I’m approaching Marvel’s future as I did Rebirth itself. Excited, but cautious. As a reminder to always think critically, and not ignore problems because I’m a fan.

          It doesn’t make sense for Marvel to do a Rebirth, but it isn’t the worst thing to have a reminder to think critically. So that’s what I’m using these rumours for

  2. Since I’ve seen some here mention the possibility of Marvel doing a rebirth or something just like it. My concern about that is Marvel would end up giving the more extreme voices in the fandom they would want. Which would be besides Thor, Steve and Tony going back to their status quo,It would also men Sam Wilison going back to being Falcon and Carol going back to being Ms. Marvel, not only that they want legacy’s like Kamala, Sam Alexander and many other to just disappear.

    • Again, I really think these fears are unfounded — publishers listen to sales WAY more than they listen to fans (or, at least, way more than they listen to fans whose tastes don’t line up with what sells). Kamala Khan isn’t going anywhere. The individual issues of Ms. Marvel may not pull the best numbers, but its collections are consistent top-sellers. No company on Earth is going to walk away from that money to appease a handful of idiots on twitter.

    • The Captain Marvel legacy is secure. What is important to realise about Captain Marvel is that Carol is the first time Captain Marvel has worked. And even more importantly, they have Brie Fucking Larson playing Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. They aren’t going to give that up. And Kamala has been such a big success that they have no reason to throw her away, especially when there is no need to make Carol Ms Marvel again.

      Some of the others are worrying. Sam Alexander will likely stay as Nova, the nature of the Nova mythos means that there are supposed to be multiple Novas. But he could easily find himself placed into the sidekick role, and Richard Rider becoming the ‘true’ Nova again (kind of like how the true Green Lantern isn’t the black guy, the Middle Eastern or either of the Hispanic Green Lanterns, but Hal Jordan). Sam Wilson could turn back into the Falcon, which would be a shame as there is no superhero franchise where multiple people holding the same title would be more meaningful than Captain America. Riri Williams could just fade into the background when no one cares to make an Ironheart book, as could Laura Kinney the moment she becomes X-23 again. And people like Jane Foster are non-negotiable – there has to be a restoration of status quo with her. Which is why Marvel needs to make sure that these characters don’t disappear. Or, if they do, Marvel respond to it in such a way that provides sufficient replacement

      Because Rebirth is proof about how easy it is to sweep a lot of those characters under the rug when you make the decision to listen to those fans. Rebirth kept Geoff Johns’ and Scott Snyder’s babies, as well as the two characters (Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown) infamous for their connection to the New 52’s attempt at the same, but every other diverse character was fair game and DC went hunting.

      Luckily, Rebirth is also proof about why it is a bad idea economically, so I hope that Marvel won’t follow the same path. It doesn’t fit their current publishing philosophy, but it wasn’t that long ago when they cancelled X-23’s book and then changed their entire publishing philosophy when they realised they man no female led books. They may have a similar panic when they make the realisation that the comics are too different from the movies/TV or some other reason. Though honestly, the real risk, I feel, is of apathy. Of accepting that Steve/Tony/Odinson had to return to their roles, and as they return focus to those characters, forget to do what is necessary to keep the Marvel Universe diverse (There isn’t space for both a Wolverine book and an X-23 book… Her stint as Thor is proof that Jane Foster is a valued supporting character… There are a hundred lines that can be used that are technically true, but whose end result is a less diverse Marvel)

      I’m not in panic mode yet, but I do think it is worth keeping an eye on. Don’t get complacent with the way things are, and instead make sure we hold Marvel accountable for whatever happens next, both positive and negative. Books like America and the newly announced Luke Cage series are proof that Marvel is continuing to move in the right direction. But it will be very interesting to see what happens to Sam Wilson’s status quo after Secret Empire…

      • I’m honestly not worried about any of these things. Laura only became Wolverine after Logan had already returned (albeit in “Old Man” form), and Jason Aaron introduced a second Mjolnir at the end of Thors (establishing that Jane Foster and the Odinson could both be Thors simultaneously). Riri Williams is still new enough that her staying power isn’t guaranteed — if her sales don’t justify keeping her on her own solo series, she’ll almost certainly be relegated to the background like so many other false start characters, but that’s always been the case (and will always be the case for new characters). So our behavior doesn’t need to change at all — just keep buying the books you like, and Marvel will keep chasing those sales.

        • The problem with just saying ‘buy the books you like’ is that it is providing an individual solution to a systemic problem. Buying the books that you like is a great individual solution to tailoring your reading experience to stuff that you like – which is why I don’t read Rebirth, Waid or Lemire. But the systemic problem of the lack of diversity in comics, especially superhero universes, requires a solution that’s more than just ‘buy the stuff you like’. A major reason Marvel is so diverse is that, when they realised the market forced them to cancel their last female led book, they made a point to push towards correcting the problem. At the moment, Marvel is still doing great. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be ready to speak up if things change. They probably shouldn’t – DC’s sales are terrible and Marvel’s are fantastic at the moment, but if they do change (and we are in the latter half of Spencer and Aaron’s runs on Captain America and Thor, and the Weapon X series sounds like just the sort of thing to bring back Logan), we should be ready to speak up.

          Because honestly, we don’t know what is going to happen. Jane Foster’s story has been so closely associated with Mjolnir (to the point that he gave an issue dedicated to Mjolnir’s origin) that maybe Aaron doesn’t want to end the story with Jane getting a discount Mjolnir – which I will be very happy with if the ending is strong. Maybe Laura’s circumstances will be different when the ‘true’ Wolverine comes back, instead of the dystopian alternate reality one, and when Laura isn’t Wolverine but X-23. And that’s ignoring characters like Amadeus Cho

          Let’s keep our eyes open, and see what happens next. Marvel has done a lot of great stuff, but they are approaching a point where they actually have to have to address Steve Rogers, Odinson, Tony Stark, Logan etc. These are going to be important tests of Marvel’s commitment to diversity. In fact, Secret Empire is the first of these flashpoints. If they continue as they have been acting, we won’t have too much to worry about. But it is worth acknowledging the challenges that Marvel are about to face, and be aware that they may not necessarily succeed.

  3. I saw 13 comments, and was excited to read about more of the New Universe appearing in the 616. Excuse me while I go to my basement to find my old Spitfire and PSI Force comics. So excited!

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