From the opening page of Captain Ultimate #1, it’s apparent that this is a book created for comic fans by comic fans. The brainchild of writing duo Benjamin Bailey and Joey Esposito, and artist Boykoesh, Captain Ultimate is part of a new slate of books recently launched by digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics. Gloriously ridiculous yet surprisingly endearing, Captain Ultimate is the rare book that appeals to both children and adults alike. And for 99 cents on Comixology, how can you go wrong?
With its cheesy, golden age idealism, and black and white morality, Captain Ultimate stands apart from the more cynical “dark ‘n’ gritty” books currently on the stands. This callback to days gone by is refreshing, as the creators aim to put the fun back in funny books.The story follows Milo, a plucky young scamp and avid supporter of the long since seen title character. To Milo, Captain Ultimate is the standard to which all other supers are held, and as such he refuses to accept the new wave of “edgy” crime fighters as heroes. In Milo’s eyes, being a hero means doing the right thing, not just being the one who wins.
This belief is met with derision from his peers, as they prefer the darker (yet color-coordinated) meta team, the Super Revenging Society. With names like Blüd Knight (and my favorite, Venus De Muscles), the Society screams of new school cool, highlighting how the changing times can also change fan (and reader) perception. However, when things get bad – I mean, Giant Robot Octopus Alien Monster bad – there’s only one man who can take a hit and keep on coming. Returned at last thanks to Milo’s serious stones, Bailey and Esposito’s take on Captain Ultimate is very reminiscent of the Superman of old, before he got all snappy. He’s incorruptible, inherently good, and firmly believes in standing up for what’s right, no matter the circumstances. Also, he has the most rocking mustache on the rack; even Omni-Man has to respect that soup strainer.
Boykoesh does a great job directing the action of the book, as he and colorist Ed Ryzowski combine for some mightily entertaining pages. Though definitely kid oriented, there are enough creative set pieces and monster battles to entertain readers of all ages. At times the panels are a bit sparse, but given the nature of the book I’m assuming that’s an artistic decision, and it mostly works. I love the nod to the golden age, as Captain Ultimate is always speckled with the familiar vintage comic dotting. One splash page I found particularly inspired, as the theories of Captain Ultimate’s disappearance are rendered in styles from different comic eras. Ah, the 90s and their pouches….
Captain Ultimate isn’t quite a love letter to the way comics used to be, but there’s a definite appreciation for what’s come before. To me, Milo is the linchpin of the series, as his gee-whiz sense of wonderment reminds me of what I felt the first day my older brother lent me his collection. For so long the sense of joy in the medium has been replaced with spectacle and character trauma; the team of Captain Ultimate seems poised to bring it back.
Need more CU? Check out this interview with writers Esposito and Bailey by Comic Attack’s own Drew McCabe.