The Broken Showcase: "Hunger #1"

Jack Fisher

For years, Marvel's Ultimate brand was very strong, introducing stories and concepts that would later find their way into Marvel’s 616 universe and the Marvel cineverse. But Hunger #1 shows exactly how this line has been flagging in recent years.

Comics: Hunger #1
Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov, Leonard Kirk
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-09

There was once a time when Ultimate comics were considered Marvel’s gold standard. It wasn’t just another series full of new iterations of well-known characters. It was a brand, not unlike Apple or Rolex, that denoted a certain level of quality. For years, that brand was very strong, introducing stories and concepts that would later find their way into Marvel’s 616 comics and the 2012 blockbuster the Avengers. However, in recent years that brand has deteriorated to a point where it keeps trying to be the next Apple iPod, but instead it has turned into the ill-fated Microsoft Zune.

Rather than being Marvel’s gold standard, Ultimate is now a line where quality has been sacrificed in favor of creative anarchy. Marvel now bills Ultimate as a series where anything can happen, even if it shouldn’t. This has led to stories built around shock value rather than an engaging plot. A very recent issue of Joshua Fialkov’s Ultimates had an evil Reed Richards performing brain surgery on a still-conscious Tony Stark. And the sad part is that’s not even close to the most shocking thing Ultimates has done. This is a series that has utilized cannibalism, incest, and sex tapes. And therein lies the problem that Hunger #1 faces before it even begins. It’s attempting to make a shocking change in a series where the audience has already been desensitized to shock tactics.

That’s not to say that Hunger #1 doesn’t have appeal. It definitely does and it delivers on that appeal to an extent. In many ways this issue and the concept of this series is less about the ongoing events in the Ultimate comics and more about the aftermath of Age of Ultron. This issue ties directly into the universal upheaval revealed in Age of Ultron #10, which showed Galactus tearing his way into the Ultimate universe. However, it takes a while for us to actually see that story.

Like going into a movie that has way too many bad previews, the first half of Hunger #1 follows the utterly unappealing story of Rick Jones. In the Ultimate universe, he was chosen by the Watchers to be the protector of the universe. And in this comic he approaches that responsibility the same way most teenagers would approach a part-time job at a McDonald’s. He spends most of this comic complaining endlessly about his responsibilities and carrying on like every juvenile stereotype ever portrayed in a John Hughes movie. He’s no Peter Parker or Miles Morales. He’s just a kid who whines incessantly about not getting his way.

It’s hard to really care about Rick Jones in a story that is supposed to be about Galactus entering the Ultimate universe. However, Rick isn’t the only Ultimate concept that is utilized in Hunger #1. After the Watchers drag Rick back to his responsibilities, they take him to the middle of an inter-stellar battle between the Kree and the Chitauri. Ultimate fans and fans of Joss Whedon's Avengers should recognize the Chitauri, who actually come off as much more likable than Rick Jones. Even though they’re fighting a war that involves them sacrificing their own people, at least they carry some emotional weight in the story. It’s way more compelling than watching Rick Jones ditch his job so he can grab some burgers on Earth.

This battle between the Kree and Chitauri leads to a direct confrontation with Gah Lak Tus, which is the Ultimate incarnation of Galactus. It also brings back one of the more unique characters of the Ultimate universe that didn’t rely on shock tactics. In Ultimate, the concept of Galactus is different in that Gah Lak Tus is a massive swarm of world-destroying robots that have decimated life of countless planets for reasons that are very different than the mainstream Galactus. It’s a novel concept that was once consistent with the Ultimate policy of being the gold standard. And it would have made Hunger #1 a lot more engaging if it didn’t take half a comic of Rick Jones whining to get to this plot.

By the time the events of Age of Ultron #10 finally converge, the impact is overdue. Nonetheless, it is still very satisfying to see Galactus literally tear a hole through space and force his way into the Ultimate universe. And his presence immediately affects Gah Lak Tus. In what is definitely the most compelling moment of the issue, the Gah Lak Tus swarm tries to consume Galactus. But in the end they actually merge to become one being with the Gah Lak Tus swarm now acting as heralds. It effectively delivers what Hunger #1 promised, but only for those patient enough to endure the forgettable filler that preceded it.

And that’s the biggest problem with Hunger #1. Only one third of this whole comic is compelling. The plot with Rick Jones was needlessly juvenile and the war between the Chitauri and Kree felt like it was just shoehorned into the story to add a few obligatory explosions. It’s akin to throwing darts at a dart board blindfolded, but still hitting the target a few times. It’s not a bullseye, but it still delivers something appealing.

The promise of Hunger is definitely there, but the realization of that promise is lacking. Just throwing Rick Jones, the Chitauri, and Galactus into the story isn’t enough in the same way that just tossing ice cream and milk in a blender doesn’t make a good milkshake. It still needs to be effectively blended. And Hunger #1 failed to do that until the final third of the book. And for an Ultimate universe that has been lagging almost as badly as Lindsey Lohan’s movie career, that’s just not enough.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

Next Page

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

Jesús Carrasco's debut is a tale of psychological brutality that is as rich as it is slow.

If you were born in the '80s or '90s, you may relate to the experience of picking up a videogame -- one frowned upon by the gaming community for being too difficult or frustrating -- and finding it delightfully to your taste, as it recalls the unwieldy and impractical adventures you grew up with. Such a game, you might feel, belongs to another age.

I could say the same of Jesús Carrasco's debut novel Out in the Open, the original edition of which caused quite the sensation in 2013, when it was first published in Spain. Reading it now, in Margaret Jull Costa's translation, feels very much like reading a book from another age, with a pace and a sense of focus that are quite unlike those of most published fiction today.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.