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Home / Reviews / Something Fantastic? – Ultimate Fantastic Four Rated And Discussed By Story Arc

Something Fantastic? – Ultimate Fantastic Four Rated And Discussed By Story Arc

We have spoken about the Ultimate Marvel Universe (1610) a few times before on the blog.  It’s a different take on the traditional Marvel (616) Universe with more modern characterizations and the stories take different twists and turns than their traditional counterparts.  This can create innovation and life that comic readers thrive on or it can build a terribly intriguing mess.  The Ultimates (Avengers), Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Ultimate Fantastic Four have been stocking the coffers of Marvel Comics since about 2000 and are still going strong, albeit somewhat differently.  This is a series where we break down the epic runs of these juggernauts of comic-dom; some series lasting over ten years.  We will attempt to read and rate each story arc to show bright and dark spots for easy trade paperback consumption.  Today’s entry, Ultimate Fantastic Four.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four was an “Ultimate” series that came to the game a little bit late (2004) as it was built off of the success of the other “Ultimate” properties.  It offers a slightly different take on the Fantastic Four as they are changed as young people and victims of inter-dimensional travel as opposed to gamma radiation.  This gives it a fresh take on an old concept.  The writers that were stocked on the book sought to make it scientific science fiction and feature concepts that were not just techno-magic.  The results are a mixed bag.  Some of these stories are wonderful takes on characters that I didn’t like the first time around and therefore are beneficial to me as a fan.  Some are sub-par and only one or two are “fantastically” awkward.  For the sake of simplicity, we will rate them from 1-5 Thing heads.  1 being abysmal and 5 being “fantastic.”  To give you an idea of what was going on in the book before critiquing it, we will provide a brief synopsis (taken from Wikipedia).  Without further adieu…

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“The Fantastic”

Issues #1-6

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar

Artist: Adam Kubert

Brief Synopsis: A young Reed Richards is recruited by a government think-tank after they are affected by his experiments.

Review:  This story-arc sets the table for the whole series.  With two superstar creators, it seems like Marvel was hedging it’s bets that this would have to be good.  We get a lot of personal moments with the Four as adolescents and get introduced nicely to all of the characters.  As far as making it realistic goes, you could see this sort of thing playing out very easily in the military industrial complex.  If there was anything negative to say about this arc, it would be that the Mole Man stuff was a little too coincidental and opportunistic.

4

 

 

“Doom”

Issues #7-12

Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Brief Synopsis: Reed and his friends must learn to adapt to their new situation. Victor Van Damme, also affected by the accident, decides to get revenge.

Review:  Stuart Immonen is so crazy good at art that he re-designs Doom and makes him look even cooler than his costume usually looks.  Wasn’t a huge fan of robot tattoo dragons.  The character interactions are spot on and Ellis writes the team well, but I somehow found the story too short and bland to be compelling.  It was good, but a little vanilla.

3

 

 

“N-Zone”

Issues #13-18

Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Adam Kubert

Brief Synopsis: Issues #13-18 show the Ultimate Fantastic Four’s first encounter with the bizarre and sadistic alien Nihil. Reed outfits a space shuttle, and the FF use it to travel to the N-Zone, parallel universe experiencing heat death, an entropic state that signals the eventual end of that universe. Nihil follows them back to earth, and battles the FF trying to take over the dimension.

Review:  This was the story arc that killed the “Doom” story for me.  If I had read the “Doom” story without then reading this, it probably would have gotten four stars, but this was just so well done that the “Doom” story pails in comparison.  “Ultimate” Annihilus’ characterization is just nailed by Ellis.  He’s alien, he’s superior, his world is different…the whole story is creepy and hits on all of the right notes.  Choosing to give “Ultimate” Annihilus double forearms is probably my favorite stylistic choice in the whole series.

5

 

 

“Think Tank”

Issues #19-20

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Jae Lee

Brief Synopsis: The Fantastic Four are attacked and kidnapped by Rhona Burchill, who failed the Baxter Building test the day before Reed arrived. Ben, Sue and Johnny are taken down, but Reed revives them. After a brief battle Rhona escapes using a sort of holographic duplication defense. Not knowing which is the true Rhona, the team has no choice other than to let her go. Later, Reed receives a strange contact from somebody that looks strangely like him.

Review:  The only thing that I found redeeming about this story is the fact that it broke Mike Carey in on UFF.  Jae Lee’s art is striking in this series and not always in a good way.  It’s so dark and muted that the character who is contrived and the plot which is muddy all descends into a confusing dark mess.  Nothing really moves the plot along and this is a throw away story arc for me.

1

 

 

 

“Crossover”

Issues #21-23

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Greg Land

Brief Synopsis: Reed receives contact from an older version of himself from an alternate dimension. After crossing over, Reed discovers he’s been duped and that the entire world is infested with blood-thirsty zombies, looking for their next meal.

Review: It’s so odd to me that when we add the creative team of Mark Millar and Greg Land to this book, we get such a mixed bag.  Greg Land has been accused of tracing images before, but I just don’t like his general art direction.  Everyone looks like they walked out of a 70s movie (Human Torch especially) and they all make the strangest faces.  Everyone is super-attractive and it feels very plastic.  Not my favorite.  Millar’s story is odd and the whole thing ends up being a big tease for a fake crossover between Ultimates and Marvel Zombies.  I really enjoy the Zombie FF.  Their introduction as an older, wiser group that is also…undead is entertaining and bold.  They make no qualms about who they are or what they want.  Zombie Reed’s blunt-ness amuses me to no end.

3

 

 

“Tomb Of Namor”

Issues #24-26

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Greg Land

Brief Synopsis: The Zombie FF now locked in a containment unit, Reed, Sue and Ben explore Atlantis in a bathyscaphe. In a new twist on a Lee and Kirby classic Namor surfaces, and the FF subdue him, Reed noting that Namor’s strength “is completely off the scale.”  Namor makes various threats, in a misguided romantic overture to Sue. He leaves after threatening NY with a sea-giant; receiving a kiss from Sue as payment for not flooding the city.

Review: Millar and Land are back to bring Namor and Mrs. Storm into the Ultimate Universe.  Sue and Johnny’s mom is a huge witch with a capital “B” and Namor is about as overpowered as he is irrelevant.  It is at this arc that I began to wonder “are they just going to keep introducing stupid challenges to overcome, even if they make no sense?”  Millar gave me my answer over the next two story arcs.

1

 

 

“President Thor”

Issues #27-29

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Greg Land

Brief Synopsis: the Fantastic Four travel back in time and attempt to erase the accident which gave them their powers, inadvertently changing the history so that Thor is the President of the United States and almost everyone on Earth has superpowers, thanks to the Skrulls.  Ben is the only un-powered human left, and he takes advantage of that fact to correct the timeline.

Review: Ok.  The only good thing about this story is that the Fantastic Four finally have to deal with monkeying around with the time stream.  Thor is President.  Everyone has powers.  Everyone is dumb.  The powers are a Skrull Trojan Horse.  They try to retcon the Chitaurri from Ultimates, which is a superior series.  Just everything was disappointing.

2

 

 

“Frightful”

Issues #30-32

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Greg Land

Brief Synopsis: Johnny has one week to live, and only Doctor Doom can help him. Meanwhile, the Frightful Four escape. Ben spends time with Alicia, whom he met in issue #29. Doom has sickened Johnny, and he cures him in exchange for switching bodies with Reed. Dr. Doom battles the Frightful Four as well as exiling himself to the Zombie Universe along with the removed parasite from Johnny’s body, and ends up battling the Zombie Galacti that just gained the powers of Galactus with the outcome of the fight unknown.

Review: So, when you hear the plot of this, it sounds like this story arc was the worst of the bunch.  You might be thinking “did he mmake a graphic for zero Thing Heads?”  But, the situation that presents itself is quite the contrary.  It is in it’s pure absurdity that Frightful effectively jumps the shark and achieves greatness.  Millar’s writing can be gritty for the sake of being gritty and sort of childish at times, but when it is taken to the extreme, there is a beauty in the kooky shenanigans that ensue.  Yes, Johnny Storm is infected with a CTHULHU MONSTER.  Yes, I peed my pants (metaphorically) when the Frightful Four hatched their brilliant plan to escape.  Yes, Dr. Doom switched bodies with Mr. Fantastic and played hero while Reed, trapped in Doom’s body cried in Latveria.  Yes, the whole thing wrapped up with Reed hosting the CTHULHU MONSTER and then Doom willingly switching places with him to go fight zombies in the other universe.  Just a bat-poop crazy romp with little regard for anything.  Loved it.

5

 

 

“God War”

 

Issues #33-38

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Pasqual Ferry

Brief Synopsis: Seed Nineteen show up and attack the FF while looking for “the seed.” The seed informs Seed Nineteen that they will need the FF’s help to defeat Gallowglass, and the groups team up to do so. They are all transported to an alternate dimension, and interact with Thanos the Destroyer and Ronan the Accuser.

Review: Despite the confusing nature of the story, there are great characters and the epic nature of the storyline makes it feel important.  I really enjoyed the updated character designs and the world-crafting in space.  Gallowglass is a great character and I wish that we could have more stories with him.  From the time the story takes off, we realize that the aliens are far superior to us and that we are less significant than we thought.  The scope is surprisingly bold and jumps right in.  If you can suspend disbelief and the need to have everything explained and just embrace it as a sci-fi story, you will like this one…a lot.

4

 

 

“Devils”

Issues #39-41

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Mark Brooks / Scott Kolins

Brief Synopsis: Diablo, a sorcerer from the past, looks to the future for the ‘elementals’ he needs, which turn out to be the Fantastic Four. To challenge them, he kidnaps Dr. Storm, Ben’s mother, Johnny’s girlfriend, and Reed’s sister. After Diablo appears in the future, the Four must accept his challenge to save their loved ones.

Review: I had never experienced the 616 Marvel Universe, Diablo, but I liked this one.  Depending on how you feel about magic in comic books, but I like it.  Diablo presents a super powerful foe that is strong in a different area than Reed, Sue, Johnny, or Ben.  This was a good middle of the road story arc.  There were some good character moments and all of the elements were there.  This was a good story, but was kind of “vanilla.”

3

 

 

“The Silver Surfer”

Issues #42-46

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Pasqual Ferry

Brief Synopsis: Reed Richards’ attempts to create a Cosmic Cube have caused him to pierce the barriers of a hundred universes.  And falling through the opening into our unsuspecting reality is the keeper of the Power Cosmic, Ultimate Silver Surfer.  The leader of the Silver Surfers planet turns earth into a world where everyone is happy, but different. With the help of the Surfer, Reed Richards restores the earth to normal and turns the Psycho-man’s mind into a childish persona, babbling about flowers and silver men.

Review: In Ultimate Secret (a miniseries set in the same 1610 universe) we are introduced to a Silver Surfer that doesn’t talk and is undeniably alien.  The way that he is portrayed is downright frightening (multiple rows of teeth for goodness sake!).  In comparison, this Silver Surfer is kind of a letdown and we are treated to a weird mind control fantasy story with great art and a slightly boring concept.  It is not Mike Carey’s fault that I like the creepy Silver Surfer from another series better, so I won’t fault him.  I simply didn’t love it by chance.  It had a few fleeting moments, but ultimately was sub par.

2

 

 

“Ghosts”

Issues #47-49

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Mark Brooks

Brief Synopsis: Susan is headed toward a conference in Siberia when her helicopter is shot down for reasons unknown. With her survival in doubt, Reed Richards must abandon his completion of the Cosmic Cube at its most crucial time to confront the Crimson Dynamo. While Reed, Ben and Johnny fight Dynamo, Sue confronts the Red Ghost. After an intense battle, which includes another four Crimson Dynamo models, they triumph and return to New York, only to find it encased in a box similar to the cube Reed created.

Review: I never got into the Red Ghost, but I am not a huge fan of the zombie-animal collective design.  Other than the villain design, I thought that everything else about this story arc was pretty good.  There is good dialogue and inter-relational moments, but nothing that tips the scales to make it a solid “good.”  “Ghosts” is stuck at “pretty good.”

3

 

 

“Four Cubed”

Issues #50-53

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Tyler Kirkham

Brief Synopsis:  The inter-dimensional war that the Fantastic Four have been involved in and around has dragged them back in once more as Thanos attempts to finally claim the Cosmic Cube from Reed at any cost. The events of the arc play out as Reed and Thanos each make their plays for the Cosmic Cube. Reed eventually defeats Thanos but it is revealed a paradox existed in which the present events were the cause of Thanos getting the Cube in the past.

Review: “Four Cubed” was good, but although it was as epic as “God War,” the fact that the world had already been established lessened it a bit for me.  There was no discovering anything new and that brought the excitement level down. This felt like, with a few little tweaks, it could have been the series finale.  As it was, it was a nice conclusion to “God War” and a better than decent story arc.

4

 

 

“Salem’s Seven”

Issues #54-57

Writer: Mike Carey

Artist: Tyler Kirkham / Eric Basaldua

Brief Synopsis: A parasitic creature infiltrates the Baxter Building posing as Agitha Harkness, a psychiatrist from SHIELD. Harkness can split into seven alternate bodies at will, which pose as a superhero team calling themselves Salem’s Seven. Namor reveals that Harkness is from a species called the Hydra, which were responsible for the destruction of Atlantis. Harkness kidnaps Johnny in order to use his energy to hatch a Hydra nest, but Reed manages to destroy both her and the Hydra nest.

Review: To me, this was really a let down from the last story arc.  I feel that it would have been much more effective to end the series on the “Four Cubed” story and therefore, this series seemed gratuitous.  There was something epic about the previous arc that left this one feeling contrived and sort of pointless.  Trying to introduce Hydra here was dumb too.  Ultimate Comics Spider-Man did a much better job with Hydra, making them an anti-government militia.  A mutant creature that can either be an overly salacious woman or seven superheroes seems pretty contrived.  Also, the lesbian scientist felt really stereotypically aggressive.  This is a case of “ridiculous” done in a not funny or entertaining sort of way.  When dumb and pointless meet, you get one star and in this case one Benjamin Grimm head.

1

 

 

“Ultimatum”

Issues #58-60

Writer: Joe Pokaski

Artist: Tyler Kirkham / Eric Basaldua

Brief Synopsis: Sue is left in a coma after trying to turn back a tidal wave in Ultimatum #1. Ben cares for Sue in the absence of Reed, who is investigating the destruction, and Johnny, who is missing. When Ben and the Moleman shrink to enter Sue’s body and repair the damage, they discover security nanites placed inside her by Reed. A now-conscious Sue plans to use Reed’s nanites to locate Johnny.

Review: This series isn’t a good end to Ultimate Fantastic Four.  It’s not even a good chapter in the “already going too hard” Ultimatum saga.  It just kind of drags to the finish line.  Boring and irrelevant.  The relationship with Sue and Ben is sweet, but cannot make up for the silly Atlantis stuff or Fantastic Voyage rip off material.  Just a sad way to end a series that had some good bright spots.

1

 

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Check Out This Gallery Of Villain Designs!

So, now that that is all done, you’re probably wondering why I stopped there?  After Ultimatum ended, the Ultimate Marvel Universe (1610) began to exist in short mini-series that although important to the story of the universe, are not numbered Ultimate Fantastic Four Issues.  If any of that looks interesting to you, grab the trade paperback and read it up.  With this series you’ll either get solid gold superheroing or straight foolishness.  If you liked this post, share it with friends or drop us a line in the comments section.  Keep your eyes peeled as we will be doing this with the entire Ultimate (1610) Marvel Universe.

 

~ Scott Deaux ~

 

About Scott Deaux

Favorite Comics: Lazarus, Essex County, Chew, Superior Foes Of Spider-Man, Age of Apocalypse stuff, The Nightly News, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Pax Romana, Avengers, NEXTWAVE: Agents Of Hate, Sweet Tooth, We3, others... Favorite Quote(s): "Journalism is just a gun. It's only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that's all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world." - Warren Ellis "People who hold signs go on...to hold many other things" - Eddie Pepitone

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