As the second re-thinking of Marvel's First Family goes,
Ultimate Fantastic Four had it easy. The first time
around was Jim Lee's Heroes Reborn project, in which
Lee tried to make sense of why this particular group of
four would go off into space without violating several child
endangerment laws. Lee was constrained by trying to pay
homage to continuity - all of continuity, compressing it
into less than a year.
Thankfully, Bendis and Millar had no such limitation,
and snuck it all past us.
Still, some fans have howled. Of all the ultimizing done
in the past few years, this is the most radical, mostly
because the Fantastic Four here are so …young. All so young.
Right now, it looks like it's even a rethinking of Bendis'
original presentation of the Fantastic Four in Ultimate
Marvel Team-Up. Take away what you thought you knew
and loved, and just look at the core concept, and you'll
find a pretty nifty comic.
Most of the major ideas associated with the Fantastic
Four have been crammed into this initial six issues. The
boy who will be Dr. Doom lurks on the edges of Reed Richards'
bonding with the people who become his family. Amped up
to a much more believable level of dangerous, the Mole Man
plays a key role. Instead of a space shot, the four gain
their powers through an attempt to breach the Negative Zone,
that stalwart plot element of every creative team's run
on the original book. Somehow, Bendis and Millar got it
all in without any of it seeming forced.
More importantly, they have given the Four more equal
footing with each other. Reed may still be the smartest,
but Sue and Johnny are no slouches in the brains department.
Granted, Johnny is still the hot-headed immature one, but
that doesn't make him stupid. Only Ben doesn't quite belong,
but Bendis and Millar firmly cemented his friendship with
Reed and thus his place with the group.
Again, hindsight makes it easy. Sue discovers the greater
usage of her powers almost immediately, whereas with Lee
and Kirby it was a couple of years before it even occurred
to them that maybe she could do something besides turn invisible.
Despite her name, there's no way this version will
be an invisible woman. (That is, of course, assuming they
all take the code names we're familiar with - that hasn't
happened yet, and really, is Reed old enough here to be
Marvel hit another one out of the ballpark with this.
Combining Millar's flair for high plotting and Bendis' incredible
eye and ear for characterization turned this into an extremely
satisfying story. Of course, having Kubert do the penciling
didn't hurt, either, and he turned in work both tight and
Of course, for a variety of reasons including Bendis having
to essentially rewrite the rest of the Marvel Universe proper,
this creative team has already disbanded. Next month, though,
we may forget our sorrow as Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen