Ultimate Fantastic Four #1-6
In my collection of DVDs I have a bootleg copy of the 1994 movie Fantastic Four. Simply put, there is nothing fantastic about it. Fast-forward to 2005 and I am sitting in a theater waiting for the newest Marvel comic adaptation jump to the big screen. It wasn’t all that bad, just a good summer movie that slipped under the radar with filmgoers flocking to the theaters to see the reimagined Batman Begins and a little indie movie called Revenge of the Sith. I don’t consider myself a huge Fantastic Four fan, but I rank the movie higher than other Marvel movies, namely Man-Thing. Since I was already submerged in Ultimate titles such as Spider-Man and X-Men, I knew the next comic book I should look into picking up was Ultimate Fantastic Four.
UFF treats the reader to a “This Is Your Life, Reed Richards.” Reed is seen showing off his knack for tinkering with household appliances. The end result is his parents yelling at him. Next, we see Reed getting teased at school, where his trusty friend, Ben Grimm, comes to his rescue. When Reed dismantles the telephone, he gets another stern lecture. If I were his parent, I would tell him, “Reed, you just took apart the phone and now we got free long-distance calls to anywhere in the world, let’s go for ice cream!” But it’s simply not meant to be. A few years later, Reed discovers another plane of existence in his garage. His sister threatens to tell on him until he promises to take her there. Now what if Reed did teleport his sister to another dimension and in the process vaporizes her? How would you explain that to the folks?
Well, all this tinkering around builds up to the school science fair, where Reed demonstrates his teleportation machine. By the way, keep an eye on the little toy car. Having been discovered for his exceptional talents, Reed is chosen to attend a special school. And it’s not called Bayside High, it’s known as the Baxter Building, home of some of the brightest minds in the country.
Reed is introduced to Professor Storm, a scientist who has two kids of his own enrolled at the school, Susan and Johnny. A little advice for Reed: befriending the teacher’s kids is a catch-22, you might get an extra heaping of pudding in the lunch line or you might have a hard time making other friends. The professor tells Reed about their own teleportation device, which blows the young man away. To top it all off, he shows Reed the little toy cars they have been finding in this uncharted area known as the N-Zone.
Another faculty member is introduced in the following pages. A condescending prof named Arthur Molekevic, baggy jowls, liver-spotted skin, coke-bottle glasses, and the whole nine yards. Neutrogena, Noxzema, and Clearasil wouldn’t help this guy’s face. We also meet another student, Victor Van Damme, no relation to Jean-Claude, thankfully. Victor is later caught in Reed’s room, messing around with his formulas. I guess in smart school you toy around with your classmate’s calculations rather than stuff his backpack in the garbage can. Victor and Reed later come to an agreement to help each other out, just like when Jerry helped Newman with his mail route so Newman would get the transfer to Hawaii.
The next scenes deal with Artie Molekevic getting canned for working on a project he wasn’t supposed to. He tries to explain that he’s creating life, but that doesn’t save him from getting the boot. Some of the panels go extremely up close on Artie, showing moles and nose hair that truly portray his hideous appearance. Got to give props to Adam Kubert for his pencil work here.
Fast-forward to the present. The Baxter Building’s pet project, which Reed had a hand in creating, has finally come to fruition. On hand for this glorious event are Reed, Sue, Johnny, Victor, and a surprise visitor from Reed’s childhood, Ben Grimm. Ben showing up here is a little too convenient, I think. But since it’s a different spin on things, I won’t nitpick on it. The first experiment is with an apple, sending it to Guantanamo Bay; which makes sense because you wouldn’t send a cigar to Cuba, right? While the apple appears in Cuba, we see Reed waking up in a desert with a little more flexibility than before. Johnny wakes up in France and discovers he can set himself on fire. Ben comes to, only to get hit by a poultry truck. Actually, the truck crashes into Ben as if he was a brick wall. Take a guess to what he had for supper as he made his way back to civilization. Then there’s Susan, who wakes up on a smelly mattress in a sewer, greeted by Artie Molekevic.
Back at the Baxter Building, tests are being run on Johnny to see what exactly sets him off. A constant delay to a certain series drawn by a certain Editor-In-Chief cough-Daredevil: Father-cough sets me off. But in Johnny’s case, it’s a simple “Flame on!” that does the trick. He’s got to be a hit at picnics and barbeques. Meanwhile, Reed and Ben are discussing the accident when suddenly Ben attacks his friend. Not that Reed did anything wrong except expose Ben to massive amounts of radiation, altering his physical makeup. Again Adam Kubart draws a scene with Reed wrapping himself around Ben. I had a fun time trying to find where Reed’s body starts and ends.
As for Susan, she’s listening to Dr. Molekevic explain what happened to her and her friends. The best three panels in the trade paperback, in my opinion, show Susan phasing back to a solid form. Artie goes more in-depth about why he’s down here, mainly his pursuit for the lost continent of Atlantis, which happens to be in my backyard, Artie. He also professes his love for Susan, and as a token of his love, sends a Godzilla-like creature up to the earth’s surface to retrieve her brother, Johnny.
When Reed, Ben, and Johnny see this monster emerge from the ground, they take quick action. Sometimes I have a hard time following fight scenes in comics. Maybe it’s due to the fact that the panels are shaped differently and I don’t know which panel comes next. But after reading it a few times, I get a better understanding of what went down. Speaking of down, the Fantastic Three drop down the hole where the beast came from. Here’s where some of the arc’s best dialogue takes place, as they work their way down the gaping abyss.
Down here, the trio is finally reunited with Susan and is confronted by Artie Molekevic. Artie tries to explain his ambitious plans to the Four, but they don’t stop firing back with questions of their own. Finally Artie has enough and unleashes his mole-like creatures upon them.
Another fight ensues, and while this one is much easier to follow, all I can think is “Wow, how long did it take to draw all these mole-men?” During this chaos, Artie’s underground lair starts to collapse and Susan uses her powers to transport the Four out of Dodge. Now here is where I got confused: Susan and Reed meet up with her father at the transportation device. What happened to Ben and Johnny? The story also ends here, with Dr. Storm telling Reed about the Baxter Building’s new mission statement: to find out and learn everything that resulted from the accident. Which is great, but the arc could have ended with the four of them standing around the transportation machine.
I’m not a big fan of the Fantastic Four. It takes a lot of leaps in logic to explain everything and understand it. It’s like the tag line of the 1978 Superman: The Movie: “You’ll believe a man can fly.” So when the book does jump off the scientific deep end, instead of trying to comprehend it all, I just nod my head and say, “yup, okay, sure that could happen.” Talk of this N-Zone gets confusing, so I just think of it as a sort of Bizzaro World.
Ben and Johnny’s relationship isn’t really depicted like it is in the regular Marvel Universe. But this is only the first arc, and if that facet was introduced this soon, it would feel more forced than anything, so I’m glad they didn’t show it here. It is interesting to note that Victor Van Damme does not appear in his altered state yet. Even though it shows that he tinkered with the calculations that brought about the changes, he disappears, and if the footnote at the end of the issue is any indication, he will show himself in the next arc. I thought it was neat to save the Four’s main villain for a later story, almost guaranteeing another arc, because you have to have Dr. Doom fight with the Fantastic Four.
Overall, despite the dislike I have for the Fantastic Four, I still recommend reading this arc. Especially since they make appearances in other Ultimate titles, so it’s nice to have a little background on them. When I did read this title, during the run about Namor, I wasn’t always rushing to the store to pick it up. If I had a lot of books already that week, I’d buy it the following week. But this early in the series, I definitely plan on picking up the following arc to see what happens next.
Next Issue: The Ultimates Volume 1: Super-Human