Jonathan Hickman… you bastard. Why are you this good at what you do?
With how tight-lipped Marvel has been about Ultimate Invasion, it’s almost impossible to talk about it without spoiling it. With just how good this book is, I don’t want to ruin that experience for you, and I’d rather you check it out for yourself, so this review will try to be as spoiler-free as possible.
First things first, this book is not very accessible to a new reader. You will be lost if you haven’t been keeping up with Hickman’s work, especially Secret Wars. It’s dense, it’s lore heavy, and it expects you to have kept up. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, given the advertising, it’s been clear that this is what it’s about, and it fulfills that.
Ultimate Invasion #1 itself perfectly plays out like a Hickman comic usually does: a big scaled blockbuster epic, opening with a bang, followed by a series of damn good character moments – the kind he’s the best at. There are dramatic monologues, big reveals, and new concepts and mysteries that are introduced, but never in a way where there’s boring exposition. It’s a natural flow, all of it is, and he gets it. Even the data page here is COOL in classic Hickman fashion. Some of the information you’ll understand, and some you won’t make sense of yet, but you know for sure it will have some part to play in the story.
Even when there’s a different character in the narration box, you can immediately tell who it is just based on the way they’re talking, their tone. If you’ve done the Hickman homework prior to this, you’ll know the lexicons he has of these characters like the back of your head, and even if you don’t, the art is there to guide you and serve as a reminder.
Speaking of art, as someone who’s usually not big into Bryan Hitch, he kills it here. Hitch’s art is so integral to that 2000s widescreen comics push, and he’s the architect of the visual style of the Ultimate Universe as the artist for The Ultimates (with Mark Millar on writing), that it’d feel wrong if anyone else did this book. Unlike his work on the ongoing Venom run, here it looks and works a lot better, and I’m glad that he’s illustrating the book. Miles’ hairline needs work, though.
There’s a very subtle lettering choice in this book that – knowing Hickman, is probably another piece of the story he’s crafting here, and at risk of not spoiling it, all I’ll ask you to do is pay close attention to the capitalization of words in the characters’ dialogue. Other than that, I do wish that the narration boxes had a different visual look for the different characters, but also given how it works in tandem with the panels, I also feel like the current style fits. It’s going to be something that will depend on person to person.
If you’re a Hickman fan, you’re getting this. I don’t have to convince you. But if you’re a Marvel fan who has yet to read Hickman’s work, please do. At least read his Fantastic Four -> Avengers -> Secret Wars saga, and then jump into this. He’s crafted one of the best sagas in this wide-encompassing narrative, and I think it’s safe to say that with Ultimate Invasion, we’ve got another banger on our hands.