Let’s get this out of the way: Miles is nowhere to be seen and Spider-Man’s only contribution is that he still thinks that he needs to protect his secret identity in this fakakta world. If you’re looking for Spidey, that’s it.
Remember the Ultimate End #2 cliffhanger, which promised some excitement as the Ultimates and Avengers arrived to stop the rampaging Hulks? The cover of Ultimate End #3 suggests that we’re about to get an action-packed story as 616 Spider-Man and 1610 Captain America stand ready to deliver an epic knockout blow.
So in keeping with the spirit of the title so far, this issue skips straight past the battle and drops us into yet another interminable scene of our mixed-up cast standing around while Nick Fury argues to be in charge.
I wish I knew why this scenario is supposed to be interesting. I’m just not seeing it.
To its credit, this issue continues the series’ attempt to highlight the differences between 616 and 1610 by having two iterations of a character encounter each other. Unlike the Tony Stark mutual admiration society in issue #2, this time we see a deep resentment between the two Bruce Banners. This is potentially very interesting, but we don’t get a lot of time to explore their differences as the Banners’ tension quickly leads to its logical conclusion. Despite its promise, I thought that the payoff was ruined by the unnecessary decision to split six horizontal panels of their battle into thirty vertical ones. It not only detracts from the visuals and kills the pacing, but it looks like a failed optical illusion meant to suggest you’ve somehow gotten more reading content for your spending dollar. There’s no momentum here or elsewhere in the series so far. Instead, it’s a disappointing exercise in wheel-spinning.
I really hate sounding cynical, but this series isn’t doing itself any favors.
Based on the first issue of the series, we know that The Punisher is somehow a key player to Ultimate End’s resolution. Issue #3 takes the opportunity to have Frank meet “himself”, only to immediately throw it away. I think that it’s meant to be shocking, but it had zero impact at this point. The “So What?” factor was sadly underscored by the artwork offering very little visual distinction between the Punishers. If it wasn’t for the lettering (upper-case for 616; lower-case for 1610), I would have been confused and indifferent instead of just indifferent.
Three issues in, and we have no clues as to how this lines up with Secret Wars, no hints as to how or why these characters are here, and worst of all, precious little story and characterization to connect with. Instead there’s more random chaos (this time with Bombshell taking on the Wrecking Crew) that left me shrugging my shoulders. I don’t need everything spoonfed to me, nor do I mind waiting for pieces of a story to fall into place. Still, we’ve now passed the halfway point and this series has yet to deliver anything besides empty spectacle and slight teases of potentially interesting character beats. It doesn’t feel like a farewell or even remotely like a celebration. Instead I just want to get this over with, especially knowing what’s happening later this year for both Miles and Peter.
Even if this somehow clicks into place with issue #5, any satisfaction would be undone by having had to have slogged through three issues (so far) of aimless wandering. Again, I’m very sorry to say this, but there are so many other interesting comic books out there that you could and should be reading instead.
The Banner confrontation is tense, but it’s the one remotely interesting moment and hardly warrants the price of admission. I genuinely feel bad saying this again, but your time and money are better spent elsewhere.