Guardians of the Galaxy #1 has a pretty fantastic opening. Artist Valerio Schiti and colorist Richard Isanove treat readers to a double page of the monstrous Annihilus and Brood Queen (who were relegated to talking heads in the Galactic Council in the previous volume of Guardians) planning domination of the universe. But then they are never heard from again, and this issue is filled with quipping (and repetition of the same jokes sadly), a little action, some arguing, and a third act that is over too early. Also, all the characters seem distilled to one character trait, except for the Thing, who gets a few solo pages to spread his wings and enjoy his freedom in space away from the Fantastic Four. For example, Rocket Raccoon is angry, Drax uses big words, Flash Thompson is awkward in space, and Kitty Pryde has a tense relationship with the absent Peter Quill. In fact, this whole issue is overshadowed by Peter Quill instead of letting him be king of Spartax while the Guardians go on cool adventures.
With a dose of political satire, some soaring team-up action grounded in character moments (Storm struggling with her power; Quicksilver’s daddy issues; Wolverine the reformed assassin), and a robust arc for Cyclops, Ultimate X-Men #4-6 is definitely an improvement over the preceding three issues. The “death” of Beast is a cheap storytelling ploy, and I am still skeezed out from Wolverine’s sexual liaison with Jean Grey, but Millar and the Kuberts end this first arc on a triumphant, if dark note albeit with some skeletons in the closet waiting to be brought out for the following “Return to Weapon X” storyline.
Mark Millar and Adam Kubert’s work on Ultimate X-Men #1-3 really is the blockbuster action take on the X-Men, but there is enough flashes of characterization, pretty layouts (Not so much those ugly leather costumes.), and clever twists like Wolverine being a bona fide villain and Colossus’ old crime boss supplying Magneto with a nuke. It’s not a particularly deep comic and scratches the surface of the idea of “post-humanism”, but Ultimate X-Men #1-3 is adequate popcorn entertainment, which led to it selling like hotcakes. (Ultimate X-Men #1 was the number one book in December 2000 with 117,085 copies, and issues 2 and 3 stayed in the top 3 with numbers around the 90,000 range.)