When people use the word “Ultimate” you know they are talking big, brassy and bold, you hear of the “Ultimate Warrior,” an “Ultimate Party album” or if you visit my local take away the “Ultimate Kebab.“ But can this definition of the word Ultimate apply to Ultimate Captain Britain, and is he even deserving of such a title?
To help you understand a little more about Ultimate Captain Britain let me try to explain about the Ultimates comic book series, and the Ultimate Marvel Universe in which he appears.
The Ultimate universe is not really part of current Marvel Comics continuity.
The Ultimates were created by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.
The Ultimate team are like the Avengers on crack.
Anyway moving on, I’m not the greatest Mark Millar fan, but his “Red Son,” “Swamp Thing“and “Old Man Logan“ are among some of my favourite comics. However, when we take a look at Millar’s Ultimate Captain Britain we shall see why I feel he is anything but.
(Please excuse the quality of this post’s scans, my copies of the Ultimates don’t seem to have worn well, but clicking on them makes them a bit better.)
Ultimate Captain Britain saw his comic book debut in Volume 2 issue 2 of the Ultimates series, written by Millar and drawn by Hitch, Cap went on to make sporadic appearances in the rest of the second volume of the Ultimates and other related titles. But just how does Ultimate Captain Britain differ from his regular Marvel universe counterpart, and why does this as I said earlier make him anything but Ultimate?
Well the first difference that comes to mind is Ultimate Captain Britain’s costume…
…the overall look is quite good and I feel Bryan Hitch’s design is excellent and pays homage to Alan Davis, but I’m not loving the – to me – out of place gloves and “flying helmet” head piece. Also as you can see in pictures with his helmet off Cap actually looks a lot younger than we might expect, almost a teenager.
The most radical difference between the Caps though is when Millar tells us about Ultimate Captain Britain’s background/origin and we see he has stripped it of any Arthurian element that forged the original Marvel Universe’s Cap. This Ultimate Cap is a man of pure science, and he has used his physics knowledge to design the exo-suit he wears, while working alongside a European task force run by his father. While I love to see an intellectual Cap the lack of Merlyn and the “Britain” of Captain Britain leaves the character a little flat, and removes anything that lends itself to the title Captain Britain. Hell, Brian Braddock might more accurately call himself Captain Exo-Suit or Captain Big Brain as there is little to lend himself to taking up the title of Captain Britain other than he is from there, and has a red, white and blue costume.
However in some ways the grounding of Captain Britain makes sense as later in the Ultimates Thor brings a dimension full of Nordic folklore and kick ass to trouble all the heroes. The shock value of this in the story might have been diluted if we learnt the Ultimate universe wasn’t as rational as we had been lead to believe via the supporting character of Captain Britain.
Millar stripping Cap of his essential qualities carries this forward into his super heroic exploits. No Loch Ness Monsters or rescuing the Queen; instead this Cap aids stricken Submarines, or disarms Middle Eastern nations.
Worthy yes, fun no. Four words that not only sum up Ultimate Captain Britain, but also to me could be applied to the Ultimate universe as a whole.
Ultimate Captain Britain swings between being unlikable as when we see him here kissing Captain America’s arse…
.. to thoroughly fantastic as we can see in this brilliant image of Cap doing his best Superman impersonation.
But sadly an ignoble fate awaited Ultimate Captain Britain once Millar had finished with him. In Jeph Loeb’s Ultimate Universe crossover –the imaginatively entitled Ultimatum – Cap is blown up during an attack on the Houses of Parliament. Weakened, he succumbs to cancer caused by the very suit he designed and new Ultimates writer Jonathan Hickman has his brother Jamie takes on the tights of Captain Britain. A rather inglorious end really for Ultimate Captain Britain, but an oddly fitting one for the brash Ultimate universe.
Sadly the Ultimate Universe version of Jamie Braddock is nowhere near as mental as the regular Marvel Universe one – this might be due to regular Jamie’s lack of clothes?
So there you have Ultimate Captain Britain, an example I feel of how super heroes were supposedly made more real in the nineties, and while some of the changes worked, a lot more didn’t. Now I always love a Cap story that acknowledges he is a genius but the lack of originality to Ultimate Cap’s origin seems to me to rob him of any identity that links him with actually being Captain Britain, and just makes him Captain Anybody.
However, you cannot deny the massive impact Millar and Hitch’s two Ultimate series had upon Marvel. Without them there would have been no Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in an Avengers movie or three great Iron Man films with Robert Downey Jr, and super hero cinema would have been much poorer without these. So Marvel let’s cut a deal, if Captain Britain is in the next Avengers movie I’m willing to forget all about his Ultimate persona.