Ultimate Fantastic Four #21

Here's my spoiler-free review:

I miss Warren Ellis on this title almost as much as I miss Adam Kubert

Now for the one with the spoilers:

The Art: This is an excellent visual team. Greg Land on pencils, Matt Ryan inking and Justin Ponsor (Or "Jutin" as his front-page credit would have it) doing a spectacular job on the colors. Each page has something really cool and shiny and well-rendered on it. I have no complaints about the art.

I do, however, have several complaints about the character design.

Sue has been restyled as an underwear model. Not that I have anything against underwear models but this interpretation goes far away from the previous looks for the character. I find Kubert's Invisible Woman to be much more attractive and far more human. I have trouble seeing past the cheesecake of Land's version. The eye candy is nice but it does nothing to give me any sense of the character.

Also, Land couldn't decide which "as seen on the hit show" hairstyle to give her so he changed it from panel to panel. She sports four different hairdos on page 20, alone. Or maybe that's one of her lesser known powers. She's got an invisible Flowbee!

The previous two artists (Kubert and Stuart Immonen) made Johnny look young and brash and, well, hotheaded. In UFF #21, Johnny looks like "Human Torch, 90210". He's too pretty and it doesn't work with the character. Both of the Storm siblings are well-drawn but something about them doesn't click with me. Reed and Ben look good.

The Writing: Mark Millar completely failed to piss me off in this issue. That's about the best he can do at this point. I went into this issue expecting to dislike it and I came out of it mildly interested in what's going to happen next. Nice work, Mark!

The opening scene looks cool but it doesn't stand up to multiple readings. The FF have chased some hackers into the past in order to stop them from killing the first thing to crawl out of the sea. "That's just the kind of wacky hijinks the FF were always getting into!" I have heard some people cry. No, it's not.

Let's think about this for a minute: You're a 1337 haXXor who has just broken into the system of a huge government-funded research group. Do you:

A) Steal the plans for a time machine, build it and threaten to kill the aforementioned amphibian unless the U.N. pays you a zillion dollars?
B) Steal the plans for a superbomb (hello! government-funded), build it and threaten a big city?
C) Siphon a bunch of that government funding into several accounts of your own thus setting you up for life?
D) Build the time machine, buy a sports almanac and bet on lots of sporting events throughout time.

If you chose "A" then you, too, are lame.
If you chose "D" then your name is Biff.

I have no problem with the time-travel as throwaway tech angle. I do have a problem with how weak this premise is. I know, I know, it's a comic book. Just a bit of fun. However, things like this knock me out of a story. I'm not the kind of guy who goes looking for things to nitpick but when they jump out at me like this they take my suspension of disbelief with them.

As the intro is wrapping up, Millar becomes a nominee for "Lamest use of the phrase Who let the dogs out?". There's an Eisner for that, right?

The actual story of the issue is pretty good. This is how Millar keeps getting me to buy stuff he writes. He doesn't totally suck. There's usually just enough to interest me and this issue is no exception. I like the idea of Ultimate Reed meeting Alternate Universe Reed. There are some nice moments (and only one stupid one) between them.

The ending I have mixed feelings about. First off: Ultimate Reed gets tricked into teleporting into the universe of the Zombie Fantastic Four! That's pretty cool. However, given some of the stuff I've seen Millar do in The Ultimates 2 and (ye gods!) The Authority this story could remain kinda cool or it could piss me off. With Millar and me it's a crapshoot.

We'll see.

By the way, here's a guy who pretty much disagrees with everything I just wrote. His review has a shot of the other, cooler cover.

Next up: Powell-a-palooza!

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