Readers of The Lost Art

Ultra: Seven Days

March 4th, 2009

Writers and Artists: Jonathan and Joshua Luna.
Reviewer: Jean

Ultra: Seven Days
There is a slightly odd genre of comics – a sort of female “buddy movie” – by men, but about women. From Love and Rockets or Strangers in Paradise to Private Beach or the late, lamented Sleaze Castle, these focus on strong female characters, having love affairs but also getting on with their lives. The concept is always slightly creepy, but at best the stories and characters are good enough to make you forget that.

Ultra isn’t quite at the “at best” level. It concerns three attractive, successful young women, who happen to be superheros, in a society much like our own, except that it takes the existence of superpowers in its stride, and gives superheroes the same treatment as any other celebrities. There’s a clever idea here, and in the original edition, the individual comics had covers designed to look like celebrity magazines, which is ingenious and entertaining. But that’s as far as it goes – what could have been a thoughtful riff on celebrity culture, with its streak of prurience and envy, turns out to have its own voyeuristic streak.

Paradoxically, this is more of a problem than it would have been if the comic had been less good: but the three central characters are well-drawn, and endearing, and I found myself caring enough about Pearl (the eponymous Ultra) to want to defend her against her creators. I resented, on her behalf, the necessities of plot which drive her, after some five years of celibacy since the collapse of a serious relationship, to fall headlong into an ill-advised affair, just to enable the story to go where it’s supposed to.

But just as Ultra isn’t a searching sociological analysis, so it isn’t a subtle piece of character creation; it’s a slick piece of story telling, a? cross between a standard superhero story and a standard soap opera romance. Still, it isn’t every day you find one of those, and if you can relax and enjoy it for what it is, it’s an entertaining piece of froth with a lot of charm.

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Image Comics (4 May 2005)
Language: English
ISBN: 1582404836

(First published 27/07/2006.)

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