By Al Ewing, Karl Kesel, Jefte Palo, Nick Filardi, Clayton Cowles, and Francesco Francavilla.
Civil War II: Ulysses #1 kicks off part 1 of the “Tower of Wisdom” arc. This series explores all the action that lead to Ulysses working with the Inhumans and serves as a prequel to the entire Civil War II event. Queen of the Inhumans, Medusa, and her entourage of Iso and Flint are escorting newly Inhumanized Ulysses to the Tower of Wisdom. There, he is going to assume tutelage under the watchful eye of Karnak, the Magistar.
Ewing really must love Karnak because he writes one hell of a storyline for this often overlooked character in this first issue. If Karnak speaks to you as a reader, one could assume you will see a lot from him over the course of this series, so this is a must to add to your pull list. He is not the only character on full display in this issue, but he is certainly the stand out. Civil War II: Ulysses #1 is a character-rich look into the events that led to thrusting Ulysses into the forefront of Marvel’s big summer event, pitting hero against hero and friend against friend over the use of his precognitive powers. Medusa is her usual royal self with her fabulous hair and pompous tone she steals every frame she is in. However, her and her accomplices, Iso and Flint, really kind of fade to the background when compared with the great chemistry that is sensed between naïve Ulysses and the old curmudgeon Karnak. His dialogue is perfectly timed wit, snark that is masked as blunt honesty, but mall together it makes this character so terrific and also likable.
The great moments from this issue come from each character interaction around the mysterious Karnak. Ewing gives every member a time to shine in this issue. Iso and Flint interrupt Karnak’s pragmatic approach to his powers as threatening to themselves and their queen and attempt to attack him. Watching him effortlessly intercept and defend himself against Iso’s pressure manipulation and Flint’s rock projectile reminds you that maybe Karnak is the most powerful Inhuman, not this Ulysses everyone is freaking out about. Remember, he sees the flaws in everyone and everything, maybe even Ulysses.
This issue featured Kesel on layouts, Palo on pencil/inks, and Filardi on colors, and Cowles on letters. The art in this issue really takes the lead from Ewing and is a character heavy depiction with lots of facial reaction shots sprinkled between great background shots and establishing shots of the Tower of Wisdom. The colors and shadowing is tremendous throughout the entire issue, with great use of green and red throughout the issue almost showing the pass of between Medusa and Karnak of the package that is Ulysses. The tower is place in a desert somewhere that almost foreshadows how Ulysses will spend his remaining days, alone with his powers.
Drawing and utilizing Medusa and her hair in panels must be either a delight or a nightmare to a creative team, but personally it is always great to see how the creative teams draws and uses her prehensile hair. She appears to demand your attention in every frame she is used in with her hair commanding your eye line over all else. There is a full page splash that uses her hair as a panel separator almost that is pure delight and magic as it separates the reaction shots of Ulysses as Medusa gives a backstory of how they found him.This issue features little dialogue and narrative, the panel layouts from Kesel really serve as the driving force propelling this story forward with strategically placed scenes between characters close-ups and pulled back scenery shots.
This issue is a fun read, especially for anyone who is in the thick of the Civil War II event and wants some more exposition and Inhumans. This is a great way to expose readers to the shape of Ulysses prior to the events that take place during his time at the Tower of Wisdom. This series is claiming to be centered on Ulysses, but this issue clearly belonged to Karnak. This first issue may have needed to give him a big entrance to explain his influence over Ulysses, but this makes me wonder if they should rename this series to Civil War II: Karnak is a Badass. This series is clearly going to be a necessity to tie together all the events unfolding in Marvel’s big summer event, but it will keep your attention will the great storytelling, fantastic art, and some badass moments from some of your favorite Inhumans.