There are some mild spoilers ahead, but I tried to
keep it vague enough that it won’t be anything new to
people who have only read the original version.

General Information

Title: Ultimate Fantastic Four #1-6: The
Fantastic

Authors: Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar

Illustrator(s): Adam Kubert on pencils, with Danny
Miki on inks

Original Publication Date: January through May,
2004

Cover Price: $2.25 US, $3.25 Can each

Premise

Marvel’s First Family gets an Ultimate treatment to
replace their
origins in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. In this
set, the origin
story goes back to Mole Man and his creations, and
incorporates Doom
into their lives (although he doesn’t resurface until
issue 7, already
on the stands, but after this issue.)

High Point

Issue five. This isn’t just superhero action, but
it’s character
driven superhero action. Reed calculates his
trajectory to bounce to
where he needs to be. Ben gets in on the action
because he refuses to
believe that his new reality isn’t a dream: “Well,
the way I see it,
clearly, I’ve gone ape#$%^ insane. Or I’m in a coma
having some
fantasy dream or something — So, guess I might as
well be the
hero in it.” Johnny is just having fun.
This is really,
really well done, and could well be my favourite
comic book action
sequence because of the comedy and characterization.

Low Point

Issue six. These characters struck me as fairly
mature until this
point, and it all degenerated, with some deus ex
machina discovery of
new powers to get them out alive.

The Scores

Well, the originality can’t be perfect, what
with this being
the Ultimate version of existing characters and all.
Still, there are
some significant changes, in the origins of the
characters, the Baxter
Building, Doom, the Richards family, and so on. The
original Marvel
Universe version launched the Marvel Universe we know
today, and had
some potential. This not only has potential, but
it’s already lined
up the first story arc or two. Still, the events of
the last issue or
two just aren’t different enough from the original to
merit a high
score. I give it 4 out of 6.

The artwork is Kubert. We’ve got good
looking close-ups,
mediocre medium shots, and some loss of detail in
long shots. The
action sequence looked excellent, too, particularly
in the lettering
of the sound effect in Ben Grimm’s last punch. I
give it 4 out of 6.

The story is very well done. It’s very
similar to the
original origin in impersonal details (replacing
space travel with
teleportation to match current technological
frontiers), but the
character aspects have been changed considerably. We
know how
everybody met and why they’re friends (or why they
aren’t friends),
and Doom’s personal connections to the group will no
longer come
across as some forced retcons that should have been
around the first
time he appeared. The last issue, however, spends
too much time
trying to jam in future ties, and reducing the
maturity we’d already
seen in the characters. I give it 4 out of 6.



The characterization is pretty good, in case
you hadn’t
already picked up on that above. Everyone has depth
except for
Johnny, whose defining characteristic seems to be a
lack of depth. I
give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response to issues 1-3 and 5
was excellent,
while issues 4 and 6 were a bit mediocre. I think
four just felt
stretched. I know that this was originally going to
be a five issue
arc, and I suspect that issue four was supposed to
end with the
creature’s escape, with issue five covering the
underground portion.
Now, we get some expanded conversation, including a
bit in issue three
that bugs me. I know that writers like the “earth,
air, fire, water”
symbolism in the powers of the group, but pointing
that out in issue
three only serves to show that the characters are
already excluding
Doom from the group, which hasn’t happened yet.
There’s a lot to like
here, but there are a few moments that drag, and that
one that just
irks me. I’m also disappointed that they seem to
have deliberately
contradicted the Ultimate Marvel Team-Up
appearances when
that wasn’t really necessary. They started out in
the past as it was,
and could have just kept things in the past a little
bit longer.
Instead, Ben makes a comment that requires their
origin to happen
after some of those events. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow suffers only in issues 4 and 6,
that drag enough to
make me wonder if they were stretched out so that the
arc would fill
six issues instead of five. (Bendis has said the
fight in five needed
more space that he originally allowed, and that’s why
they made the
change. The fan argument of “filling a trade”
doesn’t make sense
here, since a five issue trade wouldn’t be very
different from a six
issue trade.) I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a strong origin story. I
still prefer Mark
Waid’s run on the mainstream title as an introduction
to the team, but
if you’re already reading the Ultimate Universe, this
is definitely
worth a look. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Ultimate Fantastic Four: The
Fantastic
receives 30
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

I’ve still got reviews of Ultimate X-Men: New
Mutants
, two
volumes of Essential Captain America, the
second volume of
Essential Tomb of Dracula, the fifth volume
of Essential
X-Men
, three volumes of Daredevil, two
volumes of
Alias, and JLA: Heaven’s Ladder to
review. I’ll try
to get everything caught up by the end of the summer,
but there’s just
too much good stuff and not enough time to get
through it.