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Unfortunately, they can’t all be winners. Monkey Brain Comics has been having what can be called, by my assessment, a record year. Over the last couple of months they have introduced a handful of new runs, all original and by relatively unknown creative teams, which defy genre expectations. The result, for the most part, has been an unrelenting barrage of gripping introductions to potentially great stories.
Perhaps, due to the above stated praise, my expectations going in were far too high. Whatever the reason, Captain Ultimate #1 turned out to be a bore in the most ultimate sense. It bated me with a potentially interesting thread that they then proceeded to flush down the toilet, where it can never be salvaged. I’ll have to provide SPOILERS to explain why.
The “interesting thread” of which I speak is the state of things when the story opens up. Captain Ultimate was a traditional do-gooder superhero. He saved cats from trees, foiled robberies, and upheld the common good in ways Batman and Superman did in the very earliest days of their inception; he was a family values kind of hero, wholesome. Only, Captain Ultimate left one day and never returned. That was decades ago. Now, a giant octopus is attacking the city.
Then we meet Milo, a little boy who is enamored with Captain Ultimate while everyone else has grown disillusioned (of course we do, right?). When the octopus monster shows up, everyone runs, including a newer group of heroes that the stereotypical bully characters emulate (they’re too cool for Captain Ultimate). That is, everyone runs but Milo, who pushes the bully out of the way just before he’s crushed, and throws rocks at the monster only to be saved at the absolute last second by none other than—you guessed it!—Captain Ultimate.
This comic feels more like the fantasies of a little boy than the writings of an adult man. After Captain Ultimate dispatches of the monster, he hoists Milo up on his shoulders and calls him the “real” hero for not running away. Oh, and it’s stated that Milo is to become “Kid Ultimate.” The Captain can fly, has super strength, and apparently doesn’t age. Milo’s super power is that he doesn’t realize when his life in danger. Luckily that was the end of the issue, because I had had enough.
Benjamin Bailey, who as far as I can tell has no other credits to his name, cowrote this underoos-clad adventure with Joey Esposito. Esposito authored a comic called Footprints, and has others in the works. Captain Ultimate #1, in attempting to evoke a traditional and classic hero, deals exclusively in clichés and is predictable where it really ought not to be. I really liked the idea of a city abandoned by their superhero. Instead it was more about a little boy with a conservative taste in heroes whose dream comes true.
The artist, who goes only by Boykoesh, won’t get any complaints from me. The illustration mirrors the story well, as I believe comic book art should. It’s wholesome, and the colors are bright. It looks like a Saturday morning cartoon, which is perfect because it reads like one too.
In wrapping up, there are a couple of lingering thoughts I’d like to lay out on the table. I acknowledge that this is most likely a story for children (Although Joe Esposito might claim it’s for “all-ages”), and that I’m reading through the lens of a critical and grumpy college graduate. Secondly and lastly, there is a sense of humor about this story and it didn’t go unnoticed. There’s a self-awareness in the hammed up campiness of Captain Ultimate’s doings and, of course, the octopus monster. Still though, it was a bit of a chore to get through and there’s not much here that would convince me to pick up issue #2.