Ultimate Doom is the third part of a 12-issue maxi-series that is pretending it is a standalone, four-issue mini-series in order to keep sales juiced. The first two parts of the maxi-series were Ultimate Enemy and Ultimate Mystery. In those books, a mysterious force launched stealth attacks on the American scientific establishment and on particular members of the New York superhero community. As a result of these attacks:
Sue and Rick escaped back to the Triskelion, where Sue had just moments to recuperate before Reed launched a second-wave attack, destroying the Triskelion and Roxxon Industries. We know that Team Spider escaped Roxxon and that Ben Grimm escaped the Triskelion. But the fate of the rest of our heroes is unknown.
We open with the most sophisticated visual storytelling we’ve seen to date in this maxi-series, as an omniscient narrator gives the readers a tour of all the locations destroyed to date by the Ultimate Enemy, whose putative identity is Reed Richards. It seems Reed (for ease of reading, I’ll refrain from putting that name in scare quotes throughout) destroyed Castle Doom; the Baxter Building; Stark Industries’ bioengineering research facility; a similar facility at Seattle Tech; and the Triskelion. The narrator also notes that there was an attack at Peter Parker’s home, but that it was thwarted, but neglects to mention the attack on Project Pegasus. Hmm.
In the waters below the Triskelion, Sue Storm holds our heroes in a series of linked force-field bubbles, along with a breathing tube to bring fresh air in from above. It’s an amazing feat from someone so injured, but she’s just that tough!
The problem, as Sue sees it, is that they can’t surface, because Reed thinks they’re all dead. As long as he thinks that, our heroes have a slight edge over him. More to the point, he won’t launch any more attacks against them if he doesn’t know they’re alive. So what should they do next?
Enter Rick Jones, who, inspired by Sue, exerts his own abilities to the maximum and teleports everyone to Project Pegasus in Wyoming. Ben saves his plaudits for Sue, which is unsurprising, given that he’s fallen hard for her.
The team relocates inside the ruins of the Project, which, you’ll recall, was attacked by a hijacked Captain Marvel in Ultimate Mystery #2 and then ransacked by Reed’s forces in Ultimate Mystery #3. There’s at least one survivor, namely Wendell Vaughn, the SHIELD officer who bantered with Marvel back in Ultimate Mystery #1. He has words for Marvel, none of which are kind, but Marvel refuses to accept blame. “Lovely. A little misplaced anger. How gloriously human of you”, he snarks.
So what now? Sue needs a good lab, then she can use Big Science to trace Reed’s extra-dimensional location. “I can find him and I can bring this fight right to him.” Marvel isn’t impressed, as his own experience demonstrates that Reed has infected opposing tech with a virus. Trying anything of the sort that Sue proposes will permit Reed to destroy them all remotely. This permits Vaughn his value-add of the issue, as he points out there’s a secret research lab buried deep below Project Pegasus, about ten storeys down. Fury and Danvers are nonplussed, but Vaughn explains that “This is Project Pegasus. This isn’t just some storage house. This was once the center of SHIELD’s universe.” The befuddled glances that Fury and Danvers share are priceless.
While Sue starts producing Big Science, the rest of the team share some quiet moments. Fury explains to Danvers how tough leaders have to be: “You’re in charge. You don’t get to let it get to you now. You hold it in. Just like I do.” Ben explains to Johnny that, despite appearances, Reed is capable of doing everything he’s said to have done... and that, if Reed has done this, Ben’s happy to kill him, their previous friendship notwithstanding. And Sue explains that she needs a fresh piece of the alien that attacked New York to complete her triangulation activities. Obviously, the ones at the Triskelion and the Baxter Building are too dangerous, because Reed will be watching them. But what about Roxxon?
Speaking of which, let’s check in with Spider-Man and a dressed-in-her-civvies Spider-Woman, who are attempting to evacuate survivors from the shattered Roxxon facility. There are lots of random folks in lab coats who get web-swung to safety, but one survivor prompts dissension in the ranks: Otto “Dr. Octopus” Octavius. “Take my hand, Otto,” says Peter.
“No...! Let him die!” says Jessica. “That’s Dr. Octopus and he has done nothing in his life but try to ruin ours!”
“We have to help him.”
“No, we don’t!”
Peter says, firmly, “We help everyone!”
A fine moment.
With Jessica’s reluctant help, Peter is able to free Octavius from the debris pinning him down. At that moment, Johnny Storm and Rick Jones teleport in. After some quick catch-up, Johnny grabs some of the alien tentacle, and all five teleport back to Pegasus. All five? Yes, Octavius comes along. As he explains it, he knows Richards’ work and he’s motivated to help, given that Richards seems to have killed the entire Roxxon brain trust. Jessica isn’t pleased, but she doesn’t get a vote: Jones teleports them all away as the “To Be Concluded!” caption appears.
Shorter version of the above: our heroes (plus Doc Ock) regroup at Project Pegasus and prepare to go on the offensive.
Yep, 22 pages retold in 16 words.
Par for the course, I guess, but it’s yet another - hopefully the final - example of how decompressed storytelling has made this maxi-series such a chore to read.
A one-web story, but I’ll be generous and award a half-web for the bit where Spider-Man chooses to help Doc Ock, and persuades a disbelieving Spider-Woman that this is the right thing to do.
And another half-web because no one is tortured in this issue.
Hey, this issue does feature Sue Storm most prominently, with Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm in back-up roles! Sure, they don’t actually fight anybody in this issue, but even so, by the standards of this maxi-series, this cover merits the description Accurate.