Digital Time Machine: ULTIMATES
This past week, Marvel ran a terrific sale on ComiXology, offering every issue of their landmark ULTIMATES series for only $.99.
With Marvel Studios AVENGERS soon to be released, and ULTIMATES having served as a proving ground for quite a number of the concepts that have made their way into that film (i.e. Samuel-Jackson-as-Nick-Fury), giving this seminal work a re-read seemed like a great way to pass some slow hours at the old cube-farm.
Being a bit of a skinflint, I decided that I would just pick up the first four. Having read them before, I was intrigued to see how they held up over the last decade and how the reading experience translated to the digital medium.
It can be hard translating classic works (for which ULTIMATES definitely qualifies) to updated mediums. It can be frustrating watching a classic TV show like Star Trek: TNG on HDTV, for example, because the effects were never designed to be viewed in that resolution and the resultant image seems muddy in comparison to what viewers have become accustomed to.
With ULTIMATES, this is most definitely not the case. Bryan Hitch’s cinematic style translates beautifully to the panel-by-panel viewing format that has become commonplace for digital comics. If anything, the use of the new technology actually enhanced my appreciation of the detail present in each panel, since viewing each one individually on my Kindle Fire allowed me to examine the fine details tucked away in the art.
As a result, Hitch will likely be one of few artists from the last decade of the 20th century whose art stands the test of time. As more and more new readers come to comics digitally and consume their content primarily in that form, there are artists whose work will simply not capture the imagination in the same way it did on the printed page. Frank Millers DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, for example, seems small and rather puny when viewed in this manner, with the squared panels failing to pop outside of the context of the complete page.
This is not to say that more traditional artists who still devote a great deal of time to panel layout and page cohesion will fall completely by the wayside as the digital revolution progresses. There is likely to always remain a segment of comic book fandom who prefer their reading experience to include crisp new pages and the smell of newsprint. However, it may be fair to say that what Jack Kirby is to comic book fans who grew up in the 80s and 90s, Bryan Hitch may well be for fans who start reading in the next twenty years.
Time will tell, of course, but this writer was pleasantly surprised to discover that even ten-year-old, politics-and-entertainment-reference-laden work still reads just as enjoyably as it did those many years ago.
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