Review: Ultimate FF Vol. 5 – Crossover; by Mark Millar

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 5: CrossoverUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 5: Crossover by Mark Millar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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This is a solid 3.5 Star book that introduced a bunch of new possibilities, but docked back to 3 because it just abandoned a lot of what I loved about the series under Ellis’ watch.

Mark Millar is back in control here, and that’s a good thing, because Mike Carey was by far the weakest link in the chain (well, when you have Bendis, Millar, Ellis, Carey; one of these things is NOT like the other…).

I found the last volume quite a disappointment, but this one is an improvement, though I still find that Warren Ellis’ run was the peak of things for me so far.
Art Duties fall to Greg Land, and while he does some good work, I believe I enjoyed the Kubert brothers stuff the best so far…for this series at least.

So the FF is back in time chasing Chrono-Bandits…yup, looks like they did have a precedent before Mark Waid threw them into Indestructible HULK’s way during his run. (I KNEW I’d seen them before today!) Not the same people but the same idea. They threatened to kill the first creature that crawled out of the oceans as a precursor to Humanity….Millar wisely had Reed explain that would probably mean none of them ever exist, so we didn’t completely need to savage it.

We see here that the FF now has a name, they’re out and about, and working alongside the Ultimates (who don’t seem to give a shit about them, ahh I miss grumpy dick Cap!)
We pick up the story after that with Reed talking to the hologram Reed that contacted him at the end of last Volume’s Think Tank storyline…well Reed has a portal he’s constructed here, with the help of Holo-Reed, who even lets him meet Franklin (as a hologram).

There’s some problems for me by this point though…they’ve oversexed Sue at this point (no doubt a Mark Millar action) and Reed is slowly reverting to his driven scientist who ignores everyone persona from the regular Marvel U…
So Reed uses his machine to go thru dimensions to the other world…and finds out that he was duped…by ZOMBIE REED! and the ZOMBIE FF! On this world, the Heroes are all zombies who feast on human flesh…luckily, one “hero” still lives, who saves Reed, and then manages to explain what happened…Reed is more like our Ultimate version we love, and the rest of the story proceeds in a way that makes a lot more sense to me, just as a parallel universe activity, with a cool ending.

(Here’s a hint; Jeff will NOT like what goes down between Ben and a certain someone Green).

By this time we’ve done nearly half the book…and jump right into the next story…the return of Mary Storm! Mother of Sue and Johnny! (who was long thought dead but was only just working on a very important research project.)

We get some stuff about her being a bit of a bitch, careerist (she’s kind of a female Reed Richards from Marvel 616 but sexy, in a hot librarian way) terrible mother. I don’t love the art here, as they’ve totally changed everyone’s appearance, and not for the better.

So turns out, that Momma Storm was busy discovering Atlantis! (Ultimate U doesn’t have it) and she needs the FF help to go deep in the ocean and check shit out…Sue sees right through her and I loved that Sue’s not a moron, and calls her on her using them, and agrees only to be done with the woman ASAP.

Well it’s Atlantis, and we can’t have that without everyone’s favourite Mer-Mutant-Mariner! In this version, he’s still a gigantic dickhead, and still has a boner for Sue (good taste for sure, Ultimate Sue is hot hot hot!). Fighting ensues…not a surprise…But we see that Reed has built another machine (shocking how just a few issues ago he was all about the rules and teamwork, and now he’s built a dimensional portal, communicated with parallel Reed, and made a gigantic robot combining all the FF powers! (called Fantastic-05 of course, because apparently Millar didn’t get the memo that Ultimate FF mock the shit out of stupid names for things, and we the readers LOVE them for it!).

So Namor is subdued, but turns out, not for long, and long story short, he agrees to leave things in one piece if he gets a piece…of Sue! Dude, I kinda like your borderline rape-y creep blackmail style (this is Mark Millar, so don’t be at all surprised kiddies, at least this isn’t as sick as that) This just happens to be for a kiss, not a Lono special with Cheese.

So all’s well again…except we’ve totally abandoned most of the characteristics of the personalities, they don’t look the same, they are becoming more Ultimates(y) ie. dickish…reverting to stupid things, and we don’t get the same science or explanations, and the relationships are put to the backburner by Millar, who is more in his Michael Bay form here than I’d like…however, he does do that stuff well, and the Zombies & Namor stuff is fun, so it’s not a total mess.

All in all, I’m worried that the series peaked with Ellis’ ending, I just hope they can level things off and not regress much more…if they turn to in-fighting and acting like assholes, I’ll just stop reading…plus, we need more DOOM!


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Review: Ultimate FF Vol. 4 – Inhuman; by Mark Millar (and Mike Carey)

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 4: InhumanUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 4: Inhuman by Mike Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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OK so we’ve got 2 stories here: Think Tank, by Mike Carey (which is the weaker of the 2) and Inhumans (The Annual, by Mark Millar).

I guess the Mad Thinker Ultimate form is this girl in the story Rhona, who was rejected from the Baxter Building, and found out Reed got her spot instead (because her Psych consult was off the charts and she was a nutter). She is nuts because she lobotomizes her brother and then turns him into a robot or some shit? So she sets some trap in the BB…Reed figures it out, it’s kinda boring, and compared to the high quality the series was on so far, this was kind of a let down…the only interesting thing is the cliffhanger reveal where Reed is contacted by an alternate dimension…Reed!

I also didn’t love the art by Jae Lee.

The Mark Millar piece, about the Inhumans, was a bit better, introducing them to the Ultimate Universe. Johnny falls for Crystal, who’s being pursued by guards from Attilan. He tries to save her, gets his ass kicked, but she fixes him…because apparently the Inhumans are 10K yrs ahead of us, and avoid us because we’re like howler monkeys to them.
There’s a funny bit where Crystal gets taken back, and Johnny’s like “Oh no, how will we find her?” and Ben’s like “boy you’re really dumb aren’t you?” and then points to Lockjaw (the gigantic telepathic transporting Dog…) So they crash Attilan, we meet the Ultimate versions of Medusa, Black Bolt, Gorgon, and the others (including Maximus, who seems exactly the same).

A stupid fight ensues, and as such, Attlian must be abandoned, as the FF have ruined it. So Black Bolt levels it and they leave…the end.

Really, this was a big let down after Warren Ellis’ last 2 volumes…I just feel like it jumped all over the place, and the story really didn’t interest me much at all, nor did it explain anything, and the stereotypical caricatures of each member returned…

Rather disappointing, but not quite low enough for 2 stars…a generous 2.5+ rounded up?

Skippable.


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Review: Ultimate FF Vol. 3 – N-Zone; by Warren Ellis

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 3: N-ZoneUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 3: N-Zone by Warren Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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OK, so Volume 3 again is helmed by Warren Ellis, who for me, has done nearly the best sustained job of writing Reed Richards that I can recall. He gets just how smart this guy is, but also in the Ultimate version, makes him have a slightly more in-tune with other humans vibe. (If I can put it this way, most people write Reed like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory in the first season, whereas Ellis writes him more like Leonard, who’s still super smart, but gets the social contract a bit more…) After our adventures with Victor Van Damme last volume, here we focus on the N-Zone (negative zone).

The science in this book is fascinating, but done on a level where anyone who reads it slow-ly can un-der-stand. I love that Reed takes the time to try and metaphorically explain things to Ben, who fully admits that he’s clueless, but I love that this Reed cares enough to try.

Adam (& Andy) Kubert is back on art duties in this volume, and one thing that jumped out at me, is that he totally captures just how sad Ben Grimm’s eyes are. There might be 5 panels in the book where he doesn’t have that sad distant look in them, and it’s brilliant…Ben is completely cut off from his humanity, unlike the others who still maintain human forms. However, a small conversation with the usually shallow Johnny kinda hits home for him: Ben wanted to play football, and Johnny says OK so you wanted to be broke and washed up at 30 with bum knees to score a few goals? Dude, you punched out a Sea Monster the other day. You get to be a Superhero! Are you really going to be that sad about not playing ball?

It’s things like that, this Fantastic Foursome are not just cardboard cutouts or generic FF settings, these are actual young people, who’ve undergone a huge change in their lives, and are mostly excited about what that change presents them with…Sue is strong, fiercely intelligent biologist in her own right, not just ‘Reed’s Girlfriend and Johnny’s Sister’ or the kids’ mom. Johnny is the young one of the group, not tremendously different from the regular version, but he’s still excited and eager, and not as jaded or douche-y as he can be. Ben as I’ve mentioned before, is an actual person, not just a dumbass with catchphrases (though we do see the etymology of his famous rallying cry, which is neat), he’s self-aware, mournful for his lost humanity, but also a strong and loyal protector to these people.

We also see humour that’s not just canned stale jokes, these guys rip into Reed for his naming of things Fantasti-anything, and as a result, Johnny gets to name the Shuttle, which of course, he decides on ‘Awesome’ which he and Ben love, and the other 2 are mortified about.

The science of the N-Zone is handled in a intelligent way, so that we get what is being talked about; I feel like in the regular FF we sometimes are forced to take things for granted and just accept them, whereas here, there’s an effort to understand, like how it’s impossible for Sue to be invisible, yet she is…and how Johnny suffers some adverse side-effects from using his powers, but we see a sort of evolution/change in them as things go on.
We see just how FANTASTIC they really are, and can be, when put into the hands of a smart writer who’s engaged with them. If I knew this title was so good, I’d have told everyone who didn’t like FF to read this. It really makes them fresh and interesting and people I care about.

Of course, what would a trip be into the N-Zone without contact with another life form in a new universe…this one is called Nihil, or as Ben calls him E-Vill. (Annihilus of our universe) the first contact is done very well, I wish I had faith our own first contact would ever be so intelligent…
math forming the basis of communication, the extreme excitement from Reed that nearly blinds him to the dangers that Sue and Ben seem to sense a bit more…it’s just so easy to read this without ever thinking the’re stupid, or the writing is off, or you’re being forced to accept too much weird stuff.

The of course, there’s the final action sequence, straight out of Con-Air, and I loved it for that. General Ross as mad as hell, until Reed tosses him a piece of space tech from N-Zone, and then his proclamation of love for young Richards.

We also see Ben missing his family, the public reveal of the team, a bit more of Reed’s non-contact with his family, and the bonds of this group getting stronger…

I really was so impressed and enjoyed this, it all came together for me, even if it’s not a 5 star book, I enjoyed the hell out of it like one. So what more do you really want in a book but to enjoy it and not have any problems?
(OK, one prob…that was the last of Ellis on this book…SAD FACE!)


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Review: Ultimate FF Vol. 2 – Doom; by Warren Ellis

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 2: DoomUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 2: Doom by Warren Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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More tardy Foursome Shallow Buddyreads!

Volume 2 picks up on the hunt for Victor Van Damme, and we discover that he’s had to construct himself a suit of armour to cover his decaying body. He’s based in a squatters area in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Before we get the first showdown before him and the Four, there’s some other stuff to take care of…first off: Warren Ellis is writing!
He’s got a different style than Bendis and Millar, less for the masses, a little more intelligent, but still highly enjoyable. (That isn’t a knock on Bendis or Millar either, I very much enjoy both men’s work).

But here we get explanations of scientific questions about the four that many of us would ask if we ever had the chance: Does Ben still use the potty? (Yes, but it’s not pretty) How strong is he? (7 Tons of psi per hand!) What happens to Reed’s organs when he shifts shapes? (Turns out he doesn’t HAVE any anymore, just some lung-like remnants that oxygenates the blood!)

Very cool stuff. I really liked it.
Victor builds a bunch of robot insects to attack the Baxter Building, which lets Reed know he’s still alive, and he’s got the codes that he changed before the test that changed them all. Reed wants it at all costs, but first, they need to survive the attack. We get to see Reed as the helpless one here, with Johnny and Ben fighting and strong, Sue strong in the use of her powers (and mind, she’s an internal biologist!) and pushes herself to the edge many times.

We also see some jokes about names, like the Human Matchbox, and the Asbestos Thing (Ben isn’t affected by heat in this version, and is also bulletproof (last volume)). We also get introduced to the Fantasti-car, which Reed built at 13, using info Tony Stark put on the internet and his own brain.
Ben and Johnny mock the everloving shit out of Reed, calling everything Fantasti-something. It’s a nice way to develop characters, and also keep Reed from being too high and mighty above everyone else, which was something I always found off-putting about Marvel U Reed a lot of the time.

Sue’s also no slouch intellectually, which I greatly enjoy!

This all leads to a breakout where the Four go after Victor, and we see a showdown, only broken up by the arrival of the Army, and then the realization that he’s got diplomatic immunity…as a Danish citizen…
However, we see a bit more anger and action from Reed here, so it’s a different direction, but I will for sure be following along with this one.


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Review: Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 – The Fantastic; by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Millar

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: The FantasticUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: The Fantastic by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Better late than never…my library was just a little slow on the delivery, but I now have a stack of 9 FF volumes to get through for our Foursome Shallow Buddy Read…from LAST week…my bad…

Anyhow, here we go! Welcome to the Ultimate Marvel Universe, a place which varies slightly from the normal Marvel U, and which allows us to tell familiar stories with slight twists…

Here, Reed Richards is still a super smart kid, Ben Grimm is a big jock who defends Reed from bullies in exchange for help with Trigonometry homework, and Sue and Johnny Storm are kids of Dr. Storm, the head of the Baxter Building.
Reed’s father (Gary, not Nathaniel) here is a bit of a dick, mad that Reed breaks the blender and other devices…eventually, the Baxter Building program for super genius scientists recruits him at the Science Fair, and off he goes, but even there, there’s not much love from the family still (mom is OK, but dad isn’t).

Sue is a smart one here, Reed is in love from day one, and Victor (Van Damme, not Von Doom – though I hope it means he’s great at Kung Fu and does Volvo commercials!) is his main rival. Mole Man is a professor at the BB who’s fired for doing human DNA work and General Ross (Thunderbolt?) and Dr. Storm fire him for immoral work.

Johnny’s his usual self, a bit younger, and Ben just happens to come visit one day when they’re doing a big experiment…it goes wrong, and they all wake up in different places with variations of their powers (Earth – Ben, Air – Sue, Fire – Johnny, and Water – Reed (makes more sense than Elastic)) However, Victor is still missing…

There’s a Mole Man creature who shows up to attack the city, and Ben and Johnny dive right into ass-kickery, Reed a little less so…they then discover that Sue was found by Mole Man, and there’s some awkward shit there…

We’re left with the whereabouts of Victor still unknown and the army concerned about what the four have become, especially Ben…

So this is a great variation on the origin story, and a fun place to jump into a series that can alienate by being too high concept and science-y for some of us troglodytes, but it also corrects the blatant sexism of the early 60s FF when they weren’t quite sure how to deal with Sue…

I’m looking forward to continuing the series, and cannot wait to see how Victor will manifest himself. I’m also happy to see the comedy and action mix, courtesy of Bendis and Millar, who wrote this together! Now, onto Vol. 2!

This should have been the required read for Foursome Week…great fun read that’s not too fluffy or too heavy.


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