Scourge, a bigot vigilante, has targeting and killing gangs for justice. His killing spree was put to an end when he was arrested following the Ultimates' battle with the Serpent Skulls.
The duo of the Ultimates, Cloak and Dagger, got in a fight and split up last issue. A mysterious villain in a skull mask has been watching the Ultimates, also.
The story begins with the broadcasting of the legal trial of Charlie Delazny, otherwise known as Scourge. Delazny is making a statement to the press, justifying his violent actions as his exercising his “right to push back the only way these animals understood.” When considering how many are calling him a bigot, the vigilante asks, “Is it my fault that it’s the minorities who decide to put on masks and terrorize us moral citizens?” There are protesters outside the courthouse, concerned that vigilantism leads to anarchy and angry that he killed their loved ones. Political commenters are also having a heyday with the case, blaming the killings on firearms or Delazny’s mental state. They are also appalled that Scourge actually has supporters.
Speaking of Scourge’s supporters, the Watchdogs prepare in their Pittsburgh headquarters to bust Scourge from his confinement. The Watchdog leader orders his companion to turn off the television because the reporters are being negative toward Delazny. One Watchdog is reluctant to carry out the mission because he hates going to New York, and another says, “Aw, New York’s all right…if you like saxophones.” Once all the equipment has been double-checked, the Watchdog leader explains to his group that they will “hit [the police] hard, get out quick [with Scourge].” They organize to leave and he states, “Today we gain a brother.”
Meanwhile in Manhattan, the Ultimates (minus Cloak and Bombshell) sit atop a bunch of gargoyles on a building. The team struggles to find something to talk about, suggesting they discuss the weather and sports. Miles thinks that the team should begin using more official terms such as “Affirmative” and “Ultimates on patrol.” Dagger explains that she feels bad about their battle with the Serpent Skulls, since they caused so much property damage. Who will fix and pay for it all, she wonders. Kitty figures that Damage Control will fix the property damage, but doesn’t know who will pay for the damage. “Oh, I thought you were talking about [the damage from Dagger’s] fight with Cloak,” Miles quips. “Pretend I’m speaking in metaphors if it makes you feel any better,” Dagger snaps.
Dagger asks where Lana is and Jessica explains she’s still recovering. After Kitty mentions some people need more time to recover than others, Cloak, who has been recovering from his fight with Dagger, drops from the sky. Jessica is glad Cloak showed up, but Tandy angrily asks, “Where’ve you been these last few days?” The other members leave the two to discuss their problems; Miles comments that couples never work in teams. Intensely, Tyrone declares, “No more talking, Tandy.” Tandy is still frustrated Tyrone just disappeared. Soon, the Ultimates decide to head to the prisons to make sure Scourge doesn’t escape or anything. Tandy has no problem if the protesters attacking Scourge, but Miles has a “weird vibe” about it all. “If a riot breaks out, can we pin the blame on you?” Kitty asks.
Later at the Vault, Lana visits her mother, a former supervillain. Lori Baumgartner, who looks pretty miserable and depressed, asks her daughter about her new friends. She explains that she has begun to warm up to them, but hasn’t seen them “in forever.” She enjoys being on a team with other like her. Whispering to her daughter, Lori says, “You better not get caught. I don’t want to see you in here.” Lana explains her parole office is either “dumb as dirt” or doesn’t care enough to find out about her superhero activities.
The conversation turns to the elephant in the room: Poey. Lori apologizes that she never met him, but she enjoyed his photos. “Some days I’m fine, but then out of nowhere, the image flashes…Poey…on the floor…” Lana divulges. Her mother decides she needs a distraction so she isn’t “left alone with [her] own thoughts.” She knows she’s a “lone wolf” by nature, but figures “it doesn’t hurt to mix things up a little.” Lori wants Lana to do right by herself and not push away her friends. Their discussion is abruptly ended when Lori’s visitor time ends.
Later at the NYPD 13th Precinct, a couple of police escort Charlie Delazny to a bus to travel to the prison as a bunch of protestors go wild around them. “It’s only gonna get worse from here on out,” an officer informs Delazny as he boards the bus. As they drive away, the vigilante wonders, “How many of [the protestors] are alive because I made it safe for them?”
The Watchdogs surround the bus and stop it using a rocket launcher. An officer aboard the vehicle orders his partner to call for backup, but his comrade is actually a dirty cop working for the Watchdogs. The police officers get out of the bus. The good cop attempts to attack the traitor, but he’s shot before he can. The Watchdogs load a confused Charlie Delazny onto a separate van. One of the Watchdogs explains, “It ain’t right, you being cooped up…not when we can pool resources and make some real progress. We believe in the same thing.”
Soon, the Ultimates arrive at the scene to stop the Watchdogs. Right off the bat, Dagger begins fighting the villains who call her a “race traitor.” Unfortunately, she gets shot by a Watchdog, ending her role in the battle. Kitty Pryde saves some civilians by turning them intangible. Cloak absorbs a villain into his cloak, and then launches him at another Watchdog on a rooftop. The goons fall off the rooftop and Spidey webs them up, asking, “Do you guys hate me a little less for saving your lives?” Then, Miles asks Cloak what may have become of the Watchdogs if he wasn’t there to catch them, but Cloak is too blinded by rage from Dagger getting shot to answer him.
The fight escalates when a Watchdog pulls out a giant gun and begins firing at the heroes, who all duck behind a building. Kitty is intangible as she rescues a kid from the gunfire. A Watchdog, believing Delazny to be a friend, gives him a pistol, but instead, the former prisoner uses it to kill the Watchdogs around him. “I operate alone, you white trash moron, so the offer to join your little hate club has been denied,” he tells the last Watchdog, and then shoots him. He escapes, yelling, “Justice is served!”
The Ultimates rush to the scene Delazny ran from, and Miles is appalled to discover many dead Watchdogs. Jessica is alerted when she sees Dagger weakly lying in Cloak’s arms. Dagger decides she must go to a hospital to treat her bullet wound, even if it means she has to turn herself into the authorities for being on the Ultimates. Black Widow convinces Cloak to take his former girlfriend to the secret clinic from All-New Ultimates #3 because “it’ll be discreet” and doesn’t charge superheroes.
As they’re rushing to the secret clinic, Dagger is totally tripping out, and she asks Cloak to stop off so she can throw up. After doing her business, Dagger jokes she feels like “a regular Miss America.” She thanks her ex-boyfriend for helping her and he apologizes for being stubborn before. “Whatever it is we have to work out, I’ll be there all the way,” Cloak explains. Suddenly, Dagger and Cloak get shot in the heads by the mysterious skull-masked man who watched them last issue. Bam!
To be honest, I realize that I’ve been soft on Ultimates lately, and this is partly because the past few issues have been far better than the first six. Unfortunately, All-New Ultimates #9 fails to match the freshness of the past few issues as Michel Fiffe takes the poorly conceived step rearward into the muck of the first story arc. The issue sees the release of Charles Delaney, a boring villain who would be better off left in jail. It’s obvious that, for the last three issues of the series, Fiffe plans on bringing back the Serpent Skulls and Scourge, tedious villains that should be left in character abyss. Overall, for the Ultimates, it feels like they’re only going backwards (see that Tame Impala song). I know Fiffe wants to make this whole Serpent Skulls think feel like some kind of multi-issue epic like Secret Wars, but it’ll probably turn into a giant mess like Maximum Carnage.
I’ve always been a bit on the edge about when writers kill off characters. It all kind of matters on who is being killed and the manner in which it is done. For example, I hated how Rick Remender killed off various symbiotes in Venom (Vol. 2) #16, but I didn’t mind it when Dan Slott recently killed off a bunch Spider-Men in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #7 (Story 2) or how Brian Michael Bendis killed off heroes in Age of Ultron. Well, I really don’t like how passionately Fiffe decided to kill off Cloak and Dagger. Firstly, it was ridiculous how Fiffe decided to have them get back together right before he killed them. This made Cloak and Dagger seem like directionless characters after their split-up last issue. In retrospective, it looks like Fiffe just brought the duo to the spotlight last issue (after using them very little in the majority of his arc) to quickly characterize them…and kill them off. My second reason for being against the characters’ deaths is that they are still very new characters and they have unused potential. It’s unfair to simply kill them when they have barely even been in a dozen stories.
Despite my gripes, there are still good qualities to this issue. Firstly, the scene between Lana and her mother was a relaxed but interesting character discussion. It’s nice to see how Fiffe has built up Lana’s character over the past few issues. The quiet moments will undoubtedly lead to her confrontation with the Serpent Skulls. Second, the character banter and dialogue is pretty good. The discourse, although it is mainly lighthearted, is good to pace the story. Third, Fiffe is still able to make this issue tonally fun and interesting.
Luckily, Giannis Milonogiannis’ artwork remains very consistent. His character expressions are good at capturing the story beats and the dynamism is solid. (I liked the slight trippyness of Panel 1, Page 19.) I truly believe that the past few issues have been better than the ones with Amilcar Pinna because Milonogiannis is an excellent storyteller; he has really benefited this title and it’ll be sad when he leaves next issue.
With this issue, Fiffe takes a major step backwards. Cloak and Dagger's deaths were frustrating. Milonogiannis' artwork was great, though. I predict the next few issues will be even worse, sadly.
(EDIT: Although it originally seemed like it, Cloak and Dagger are not actually dead. I won't raise the grade though because I still think this issue was a 2.5 webs story.)