Ultimate Power #1

Issue Date: 
December 2006
Story Title: 
Ultimate Power part 1

Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Greg Land (Penciler), Matt Ryan (Inker), Justin Ponsor (Colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer), Brad Johnson (Production), John Barber & Ralph Macchio (Editors), Joe Quesada (Editor-in-Chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)
Special Thank to: J. Michael Straczynski, Jeph Loeb & Axel Alonso

Brief Description: 

During a battle with the Serpent Squad at Project Pegasus, the Thing loses a piece of his rock-skin. The Serpent Squad want their Serpent Crown back which they believe Project Pegasus to have taken. The Fantastic Four meet Agent Wendell Vaughn, but he has no answers for them as everything surrounding Project Pegasus is classified. Mr. Fantastic promises to help the Thing find out what is going, and asks Nick Fury and Carol Danvers for 22 million dollars so he can send exploration devices into all the unknown “zones”. Fury and Carol reject Reed’s proposal as it is too dangerous, but he goes ahead and does it anyway. While the Fantastic Four are examining the new action figures that have been made for them though, the Baxter Building explodes - and the Squadron Supreme appear!

Full Summary: 

Project Pegasus, Devil’s Point, Wyoming. Five women all with some snake-like attribute stand in front of Project Pegasus, and the blonde one, Anaconda, exclaims ‘This has nothing to do with ya’ll!’ A scantily-clad woman with long black hair stands behind her and whispers ‘Ana, you know who that is?’ Anaconda introduces her group as the Serpent Squad, and announces that they are here to take back what has been stolen from them, warning the approaching beings not to get involved. ‘Do you know who that is?’ the other woman whispers urgently.

‘Course I know who that is…it’s the Fantastic Four!’ Anaconda exclaims. ‘And I am soooo turned on right now!’ The handsome Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch exclaims as he flies towards the serpentine women. ‘Johnny!’ shouts Johnny’s sister, Susan Storm a.k.a. Invisible Woman disapprovingly. Ben Grimm a.k.a. the rock-like Thing announces that he calls dibs on the blonde, to which Susan asks what is wrong with them.

The Human Torch unleashes a massive burst of flames, while Reed Richards a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic begins battling Anaconda. As the Thing tussles with Death Adder, he reminds Susan that she got to body-wrestle with the half-naked Namor, so now it is their turn. ‘You all disgust me!’ Susan replies as she pushes an invisible force field around Princess Python. Reed winds his elastin body around Anaconda and informs them that he must ask them to surrender right now, adding that with the pressure he is exerting on her, she will only be able to breathe for another 55 seconds. Anaconda simply replies ‘They stole the Serpent Crown from us! They stole it!’ to which Reed asks them who they are.

The sultry dark-haired woman in black approaches the Thing and introduces herself as the Black Mamba, boasting that the Thing cannot hurt her, nor can he win. ‘Oh I’m pretty sure I can hurt you’ Ben replies. ‘You actually can’t’ Black Mamba replies. ‘You can’t be hurt?’ Ben asks. ‘I cannot’ Black Mamba replies. ‘Does it hurt when I do this?’ Thing asks her as he tosses her across the compound. ‘Janis!’ cries out Asp at the sight of her teammate being propelled away.

‘Settle down, creepy snake-woman!’ Susan tells Princess Python, whom she has trapped in an invisible bubble. Princess Python calls Invisible Woman “Barbie” and warns her that she is going to rip out her hair. Before she can say anything else, Susan interrupts, asking her if there is any chance she can tell her if she has a natural or manufactured mutation. ‘WHAT?’ Princess Python replies. Susan asks Princess Python if she is aware that she has gills and scales grafted to her human epidermis. ‘Bite me!’ is all Princess Python can say.

‘Well, so much for a level of banter that -’ Susan begins until Death Adder leaps on her and begins pulling at her face. ‘You looked better on TV! And you didn’t look that good there!’ she snarls. Johnny sees his sister in danger and tosses a flame-ball towards Death Adder, but Princess Python, now free from the invisible bubble, catches it and tosses it at Mr Fantastic, subsequently releasing Anaconda from his grasp. ‘Oh man…’ mumbles Johnny.

Susan traps herself and Death Adder in an invisible bubble and smashes Death Adder up against it, while the Thing asks Susan to let him in. Death Adder begins to say that this is completely entertaining on so many levels, when suddenly she can no longer speak. ‘Choke on a force field you $%^&!’ Susan shouts as she punches Death Adder in the face.

Thing remarks that Susan using language like that could get them fined, when Princess Python comes up behind him and punches him several feet across the complex, more shockingly though, a piece of his rock-like skin breaks off and lands nearby, which Reed, Susan and Johnny all see.

Mr. Fantastic stretches over to the Thing and tells him not to touch it, while Susan tells Princess Python to settle down as she traps her in a bubble. ‘I’ll kill you all!’ Princess Python shrieks. Susan just tells her to “shush”, then Princess Python falls to the ground, unconscious. Johnny flies over to Reed and referring to the flame ball asks him if he is okay. Reed replies that he is okay as the impact suit took most of it. ‘I would never -’ Johnny begins, but Reed tells him that it is okay.

As Reed picks up the missing rock from the Thing and puts it in a container, Ben asks if he is breaking. Reed tells him not to worry, that they will figure it out. Susan asks if it is epidermal shedding, to which Reed points out that there is no break, the top layer came loose on impact. Susan reminds them that Ben has taken harder hits than that in the past. Reed wonders if it is the start of secondary mutation, while Sue remarks that the rock-formational epidermis doesn’t get the kind of oxygen that normal human skin would get, when they are approached by a handsome man in a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform.

He introduces himself as Agent Wendell Vaughn and explains that he is in charge of security here at Project Pegasus, ‘But these serpent-women, man, they were hammering us!’ Johnny asks what this was all about, to which Wendell reveals that the Serpent Squad are a freaky cult. He informs the Fantastic Four that he doesn’t have all the information, but the Serpent Squad seem to think that Project Pegasus has their Serpent Crown, which he is told is some sort of unlawful energy source.

Reed asks Wendell if Project Pegasus does have the Serpent Crown, to which Wendell replies that all Project Pegasus business is classified under the Gruenwald Doctrine. The Thing goes over to Anaconda, who, like the rest of her teammates, are being led away by S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel and asks her what Project Pegasus is. ‘Off me!’ is all Anaconda replies.

Wendell tells the Fantastic Four that he thought he just told them that all Project Pegasus business is classified under the Gruenwald Doctrine. ‘Ah, vague! I love vague!’ Johnny exclaims. The Thing tells Wendell to make sure creepy and crawly stay in whatever freak jail they put freaks in. ‘Freaks? You’re calling us freaks?’ Black Mamba asks. ‘Look at you! You’re sickening! You’re a horror! You’ll die alone!’ she screams at him as she is lead away. The Thing looks to the ground, while Susan looks at her friend, concerned. Reed just rubs his brow.

Later, Reed sits at a desk, computers and papers all around him. He remembers how he told Ben that he promises to fix this, to trust him that he will. But Ben replied ‘Well, let’s see…took you fourteen years to find a way to mess my life up this bad. Guess I can wait around another fourteen…see if you ever figure out if you can fix it’. Reed rubs his eyes under his glasses.

He makes his way to the Negative Zone viewer, Quadrant 45-43. Standing before the massive red portal. ‘Damn it!’ he shouts, tossing a chair against it, which just smashes and falls down onto the platform. ‘Why can’t I do this?’ he shouts, when suddenly he sees lying beside the broken chair a small metal object.

A new day, at the Triskelion, headquarters and home of the U.S. sanctioned superhuman task force, the Ultimates, created by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘All I need is 22 million dollars…give or take…’ Reed announces to the gathering of important people before him watching his presentation. ‘Oh! Okay, let me get my checkbook!’ General Nick Fury replies sarcastically. Reed declares that he needs to make forty-two hundred of these interdimensional data retrieval constructs. ‘What’s in it?’ Fury asks.

‘Stuff’ Reed replies. ‘Stuff that will retrieve information from dimensions other than our own’ he adds, before explaining that he wants to launch these into every over-lapping dimension that they can find, starting with the uncharted areas of the N-Zone, then the Z-Zone, and going from there. He adds that this device will broadcast data back to the Baxter Building data banks. Reed announces that he wants to produce a library of readings and energy signatures for the world science community to have access to.

Reed begins to say that it is time they start figuring out the space they live in, when Fury interrupts him, asking if this is about Ben Grimm. ‘Because it sounds like you’re trying to get us to pay for more of your experiments in finding a way to reverse Ben Grimm’s N-Zone transformation. Reed replies that his findings have always ended up making the government millions and millions of dollars - even the transporter accident. ‘Well, I don’t think anyone is denying that you’re a very -’ begins Captain Carol Danvers when Fury interrupts her, declaring that he thought it was clear that they are done with any interdimensional exploring at this time. ‘It’s not about the money. The mood ain’t right for this’.

‘The mood of what?’ Reed asks, clearly frustrated. Fury reminds Reed that just this year they have had Gah Lak Tus, an alien invasion, the zombie accident, Atlantis, Mole Men, and the Hulk is out there doing God-knows-what. Fury declares that it is not a good time to go poking their noses anywhere else they don’t belong, that this is more of a regrouping period.

Reed begins to walk away, announcing that he will do it himself then, with whatever - ‘Uh, no you won’t, first of all -’ Fury begins, when Carol interrupts him this time, ‘Excuse me, Doctor? Aren’t you at all concerned with…what do you call it…the Butterfly Effect…?’ Carol begins to explain the Butterfly Effect, ‘A butterfly flaps his wings over here -’ ‘- it causes a mudslide in Kenya’ Reed cuts Carol off, assuring her that he knows what the Butterfly Effect is.

Carol tells Reed that the point is, every one of these experiments that he tries, he risks a cause-and-effect that he cannot conceive of, and won’t be able to control. ‘Hence the state the four of you are in today - no offense!’ Reed angrily replies that everything causes the Butterfly effect. ‘This conversation is causing a Butterfly Effect. Not exploring these dimensions causes the Butterfly Effect!’

‘The answer is no!’ Fury declares once more. Silence fills the room, which is broken by Reed informing everyone that he made a promise. A promise to his friend that he would try to find a way to reverse the damage done, which he cannot do with the data he has. ‘I need more data! I…I need more!’ Fury tells Reed that he is smart, that he will find a way. ‘But the answer to this is no’.

Later, rain pours down, and inside the Baxter Building, Reed watches it splash against the windows, before heading back into this laboratory. The red glow from the portal colors the room in hues of scarlet and blood as Reed begins to get to work on his project. He sends his devices into various Zones, while the piece of Thing’s rock-skin sits beside him, reminding him of why he is doing this. Reed watches, content, as the instruments are propelled into the portal.

‘Fantastic Four posable figures. Each 12-inch figure is expertly sculpted in full detail to capture the essence of each of your unique…characters’ a man meeting with Susan, Reed, Ben and Johnny announces as they gather around to look at action figures of themselves, Namor and Dr. Doom. The man informs the heroes that each figure offers character-dedicated accessories and multiple points of articulation, as well as 30-seconds of squeeze-activated sounds and catchphrases.

‘I don’t have a catchphrase!’ Susan informs him. ‘Isn’t that too many points of articulation?’ Johnny asks. ‘What’s articulation?’ asks the Thing. ‘Joints. The joints, it’s too many’ Johnny explains to him. Johnny picks up the action figure of himself and remarks that when he was a kid, action figures had a lot less points of articulation and looked heaps better. ‘Are we really talking about this?’ Ben asks. Reed tells the man that Johnny is right, they are looking for a more classic look for the next line. ‘No offense, Mister Richards. Kids today like -’ the man begins, until Reed cuts him off. ‘I’m eighteen years old, sir. I was a kid yesterday!’

Susan puts the Namor action figure down and remarks ‘You’re back from inside your head’. ‘I am’ Reed replies. ‘Good!’ Susan declares as they hug. Reed asks what is for breakfast, to which Susan replies ‘Me!’ ‘Uh, we can hear you!’ Johnny exclaims, when suddenly, there is a loud BOOM! The Baxter Building begins to break apart, building material begins flying everywhere. Susan tells everyone to get near her, and while Reed wraps himself around the action-figure man, Susan throws up an invisible field.

She begins to struggle though, all the rubble weighing down on her. Reed tells Sue that she has it, but Susan shouts that she doesn’t! Reed tells her to use her force field to push the rubble aside so they can see what is going on…what they see is the Squadron Supreme: Hyperion! Doctor Spectrum! Arcanna! Nighthawk! Power Princess! Inertia! Tom Thumb! Blur! Nuke! Shape! Kingsley! But what are they doing here…?

Characters Involved: 

Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Arcanna, Blur, Doctor Spectrum, Hyperion, Inertia, Kingsley, Nighthawk, Nuke, Power Princess, Shape, Tom Thumb (all Squadron Supreme of the Supreme-Verse)

General Nick Fury

Captain Carol Danvers

Agent Wendell Vaughn
Anaconda, Asp, Black Mamba, Death Adder, Princess Python (all Serpent Squad)

Project Pegasus Staff

S.H.I.E.L.D Staff

Man with the action figures

Story Notes: 

“Ultimate Power” is the mini-series crossover between the Ultimate Universe and what is known as the Supreme-Verse, which depicts the stories told in “Supreme Power” and “Squadron Supreme” (2nd series) as well as several mini series.

“Ultimate Power” takes place between Ultimates (3rd series) and Ultimates (4th series). Where that fits in chronologically for Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Fantastic Four and Squadron Supreme (2nd series) is anyone’s guess.

The characters on the cover are: Wolverine & Marvel Girl (Ultimate X-Men), Spider-Man (Ultimate Spider-Man), Captain America, Scarlet Witch & Iron Man (Ultimates), Invisible Woman (Ultimate Fantastic Four) and Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, Blur & Inertia (Squadron Supreme).

There are significant differences between the Ultimate and 616 version of several of the women who appear as part of the line up in the Serpent Squad. Additionally, most of them appear in this issue unnamed, though it is easy enough to figure out who they are from their characteristics.

- Anaconda (diamond pattern pants, blonde hair). In 616 Anaconda is portrayed as a rather unnatractive bulky woman who has frequently served with the Serpent Society.

- Black Mamba is named this issue and appears similar to her 616 counterpart, though she is addressed as Janis this issue, in 616 her name is Tanya Sealy.

- Asp (white costume) also appears similar to her 616 counterpart, Cleo Nefertiti.

- Princess Python, the one carrying a python, in 616 is named Zelda DuBois and was also a member of the Circus of Crime.

- Death Adder (physically resembles a reptile), in 616 was actually a male named Roland Burroughs, long ago assassinated by Scourge, who killed many villains.
First appearance of Ultimate Wendell Vaughn, who in 616 is better known as the cosmically powered Avenger Quasar, also a former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative and has a long history with Project Pegasus also.

Wendell Vaughn’s comment about all Project Pegasus business being classified under the “Gruenwald Doctrine”. Mark Gruenwald was of course legendary Marvel Comics writer who created the Squadron Supreme (616 / Earth-S) and wrote many of their adventures, as well as Quasar’s sixty-issue solo series, countless other Marvel titles, and of course Captain America (1st series) which he wrote from #307 right through to #443, sans #423. Gruenwald wrote stories which explored many lesser known Marvel characters. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in 1996.

The story of Squadron Supreme (of the Supreme-Verse) began in the series “Supreme Power” and continued into Squadron Supreme (2nd series). They are based upon the Squadron Supreme of 616 / Earth-S, but are NOT the same characters. Several of them have distinct differences also, such as the Whizzer now being called Blur, who is also black, and Amphibian now being called Kingsley, who is now an aquatic woman.

Special thanks to Clint Theron for the Anaconda correction.

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