Good afternoon, true believers! I thought I'd wax lyrical again about my love of comics - mainly, what the first of a list of things you should be getting your grubby little hands on, if you haven't read it already..
Ultimates Volumes 1 & 2
Reading more like an excellently crafted billion-dollar budget Hollywood film than another take on one of Marvels oldest superteams, "The Ultimates" is the genius creation of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. This great comic takes the classic supergroup "The Avengers" (Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, etc) and throws them up against world-devastating threats, all to the accompaniment of the some of the best dialogue and artwork in modern comics.
Until you've seen the Hulk make mincemeat out of an alien invasion force because he mistakenly belives they've called him a sissy, or seen Captain America refuse to surrender against overwhelming odds whilst pointing to the 'A' on his mask and asking, "Surrender? What do you think this stands for? France?!", you've never lived.
The beauty of this (and all of the other "Ultimate" stuff that Marvel have done) is that it is essentially a "reboot". Many of the Marvel titles (the X-titles in particular) are so bogged down in a level of continuity that beats most soap operas, that it's difficult to pick up new titles. The "Ultimate" universe is effectively a new take on all of the characters - Indeed, the first volume of "The Ultimates" concerns itself with the supergroup being established - there is no need to know anything about Captain Americas background - and indeed you could get by with not even knowing who he is.
Millars writing and ear for snappy dialogue is easily matched by Bryan Hitches art. Some of the work in this, especially some of the single or double page spreads is absolutely stunning. There is the odd problem towards the end of volume 2 where it would appear deadlines meant the work appears more rushed than usual, but thats a very minor criticism.
The only warning I'd give you is to avoid anything past volume 2 - Neither Millar or Hitch were involved after these and it's no longer the essential reading it once was. Poor script and confusing art simply remind you how much better its predessor was. Both Millar and Hitch are now doing Fantastic 4 - In their hands it's becoming as good a read as Ultimates ever was.