Nick Fury yells! The Punisher punishes! The Hulks smash!
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILER: Mark Bagley
INKER: Scott Hanna
COLORIST: Justin Ponsor
LETTERER: VC’s Cory Petit
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Manny Mederos
ASSISTANT EDITORS: Chris Robinson & Emily Shaw
EDITOR: Mark Paniccia
STORY: Two weeks ago, 616 Bruce Banner wakes up at the Triskelion imprisoned. 1610 Nick Fury yells at him and Banner tells everyone how he came to smash 1610 Hulk into the Raft prison. 1610 Punisher, having freshly escaped the Raft, heads to a safe house, only to be found by 616 Punisher, whom 1610 promptly kills. 1610 Punisher then makes his way to Brooklyn, then snipes out the 616 Wrecking Crew one by one as they attack 1610 Bombshell. Finally, 616 Tony Stark sends his Iron Man armor to break 616 Banner out of the Triskelion Containment Center.
THOUGHTS: I think that when it comes to Secret Wars and its tie-ins, it’s just best to wait for it to all be over to make a judgment. The story is so vast, with a timeline that bounces back and forth at the various authors’ will. The farther we get in the story, be it Secret Wars or Ultimate End, the more answers we are getting for what we’ve missed and the confusion starts to dissipate. Such is the case with this latest installment of Ultimate End as we find out why the Hulks crashed into the Raft and which Hulks they were.
Two weeks prior to the start of the first issue showing us the Ultimate Punisher’s shooting gallery, 616 Banner wakes up to find himself captured and being read the riot act by Ultimate Fury. It’s hard not to hear Samuel L. Jackson’s voice as you read Bendis’ words and in perhaps my favorite part of the series, 616 Spidey points out that he’s a really good yeller. As entertaining as the scene is, it also means that we miss out on seeing the heroes of two worlds try to stop two rampaging Hulks. By omitting that action, I’m guessing Bendis is holding on to a plot point for later.
Much like last issue, a hero meets his doppelganger for a one on one character moment. Unlike last issue, this one doesn’t go so well. When the Tonys met, clearly the 616 version had more wisdom than his Ultimate counterpart, particularly when it came to drinking. For the Hulks, it’s the Ultimate version who has the better understanding of self. 616 reaches out to 1610 with compassion which 1610 meets with cold, hard truth. The Ultimate Banner knows who and what they are, of what their curse really is. 1610 knows that they don’t help, they smash. That’s it. 616 doubts this, and you can see the empathy Bagley renders in his face. This doubt starts to anger the Ultimate version, and you know the 616 version won’t like him when he’s angry. My second favorite part of the issue is when the Ultimate Banner tells the 616 Hulk, “You look insane to me. Like a dog wearing a sweater.” It’s a fair point as the 616 Banner is in Hulk form, wearing clothes, shoes, and a lab coat.
As the conversation gets more heated, 616 tells 1610 that he needs to calm down, to which 1610 asks if that has ever worked. Bendis portrays the Ultimate version as a Banner who has done this dance before and he’s coming from a place of experience and fear, warning 616 that they will hunt and destroy him when he makes things worse. Calling Ultimate a coward, 616 delivers the verbal straw that breaks the camel’s back. Both their eyes seethe gamma green, courtesy of Justin Ponsor.
The Hulks begin their battle and the flashback comes to an end. A crucified looking Banner asks about his Ultimate counterpart and the question gets evaded by Fury, making me even more certain Bendis will get back to this. 616 Banner mentions that he hasn’t hulked out like that in a long time, postulating that it must have been the gamma coming off the other Hulk. Maybe he absorbed either all the Ultimate’s gamma or all of the 1610 Hulk into himself? Fury does want his vitals reported every 15 minutes, so something is up.
Much like Batman, there are those that say the Punisher is insane. Your mileage my vary on that viewpoint depending on the writer and how sociopathic they portray grieving cop/Vietnam war vet Frank Castle. Bendis leans the Ultimate version more to the paranoid psychotic side. From the start of this series, he has had 1610 Castle say things like “there is no other way this could end” and “it had to end this way”. Bendis has Ultimate’s dialogue be very terse, broken thoughts. All the 1610 version needs is the 616 version to confront him and call him a Skrull and the knife flies deep into the 616 version’s chest. Guess 616 Frank prefers his spandex without body armor. Bagley delivers a haunting panel as Ultimate Punisher shrinks away from his handiwork as the startled corpse of 616 Punisher gazes at the reader.
Ultimate Punisher’s spree continues into Brooklyn as he takes out the entire Wrecking Crew. Bagley’s layouts are perfection and when Thunderball is struck down, not only is the image shocking to those around him, but disturbing to this reader as well. Bagley captures the lifelessness in Thunderball’s eyes horrifically and renders the rest of the team’s alarm at their dire situation equally well as they get taken out, one by one. Where Bendis falters is in trying to set up a sense of danger as Punisher seemingly targets Bombshell. All it takes is going back to the first issue to see that two weeks from now she will be part of the charge against the heroes of 616 as the Punisher once again takes aim.
The ending fell flat for me as 616 Tony breaks his Banner out, hoping they can set everything right and no one will remember this. We know something has to set the heroes against each other and I hope it’s something more substantial than a high tech jailbreak.
The miniseries is now past the halfway mark at this issue’s conclusion and we have yet to see Miles Morales. In fact, I couldn’t pick him out in the first issue’s depiction of when the heroes clash either. Despite being on next issue’s cover, I am seriously wondering if he will appear in Ultimate End at all, or if his appearances in Secret Wars will only be relegated to the main series. Bendis hits the mark more than he misses this issue and Bagley brings the story to life masterfully. Hopefully things will start to cohere more next issue as we rocket to the story’s conclusion.
JAVI’S HUH?: So, when the 616 Hulk, he of the facial hair and shaved-on-the-sides haircut hulks out further, he loses the goatee and the hair on his sides of his head grows back?