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Welcome to My Nightmare

 

Ultimate Galactus Book 1: Nightmare

Warren Ellis, Trevor Hairsine, Steve Epting

Marvel, 2005

Rating: 3.6

 

Posted: June 4, 2005

By The Gentleman (exclusive to Shaking Through)

The title of this collection kind of gives away what will be the real payoff for most readers -- in the story's original serial form, the title Ultimate Nightmare hid the fact that it basically sets up the coming of the Ultimate Universe version of the world-devouring giant Galactus. A surprise is spoiled, but otherwise this collection holds up well, with Warren Ellis cleverly setting most of the action in a de-commissioned Russian military base whose purpose was once to churn out Soviet super-soldiers.

The setup for the setup: A large-scale psychic freakout leads Nick Fury to assemble a team of operatives (including Captain America and the Ultimate version of the Falcon, a pretty savvy scientist who for some unexplained reason carries around a flight suit with wings) to trace the psychic broadcasts to their source at the base, even as Charles Xavier dispatches three X-Men (Jean Grey, Colossus and Wolverine) to stage a "rescue mission" of what he decides is obviously a powerful mutant mind crying out for help.

As usual, Ellis displays a fine mind for science-based adventure (dig those Russian experiments with their cannibalized alien technology), but his basic contempt for the superhero genre is all too clear in Xavier's transparently nave assumption. That the X-Men "got so sweaty about rescuing some poor little mutant that you just didn't think twice," as Wolverine sneers at one point, doesn't ring true; Ellis saddles the X-Men with a suspect motive just so that he can a) shoehorn them into the story and b) shower them with disdain.

That stumbling block aside, this is an agreeable adventure tale that picks up steam once both teams are fighting their way through the installation toward an Ultimate Vision who's been scavenged for parts by the base's inhabitants. Ellis knows that it's those kinds of touches -- the fun of unveiling different and more modern versions of favorite Marvel icons like Vision and the Falcon -- that are arguably the Ultimate line's biggest attraction.

It could be argued that this is all pretty much window dressing, that everything that transpires on the base happens basically to fill up five issues. The psychic broadcasts, the introduction of the Vision, the first warnings of the coming of Galactus -- all of these could be gotten out of the way in an issue or two of a larger story. But of course, a protracted introduction sells more copies than if we get to Galactus arriving at our doorstep too early (Nightmare is the first installment of a trilogy, so rest assured there's plenty more space to fill).

But leaving such speculation aside, and overlooking the contrivance that allows Ellis to introduce the X-Men into his plot while painting their leader to be a touchy-feely idealist somewhat lacking in common sense, Nightmare is an enjoyable read, solidly sketched by two talented artists (Trevor Hairsine and the underrated Steve Epting). If the subsequent installments in the Ultimate Galactus series can sustain its level of diversion, the trilogy should prove to be quite an event.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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