Mark Millar pulls out all the stops on his return to the Ultimate Fantastic Four. This hardcover version contains the 12-issue run that Millar did on the book. I was fascinated at the beginning when our young Reed Richards keeps secret the fact that he’s managed to contact an alternate version of himself in another dimension. And Millar is sly about his story, spinning a hanging curveball over the plate while I was watching in wide-eyed amazement.
I’ve heard of the Marvel Zombies, but I haven’t read any of their books despite wide acclaim from readers and friends. I just didn’t care for the idea. However, when Millar delivers the story, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the zombies. Now it looks like I’m going to have to go out and pick up more graphic novels. But it’s a small price to pay for the wonderful story.
The scenes where Reed wandered around a desolated world were great. I kept waiting for things to jump out at him. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was surprised. There’s something just inherently gross about the idea of heroes turned into zombies. But the juxtaposition of young, innocent Reed Richards facing them while bereft of his companions was striking. Even though I knew he would be rescued or save himself, I couldn’t help but anxiously turn the pages as the story developed.
I had to laugh when I saw Ultimate Thing take on Zombie Hulk, then take out the undead green giant with a single punch. It was perfect, a good way to lighten the overall somber story line. Millar continues showing this young Fantastic Four still breaking rules laid out by the adults. Just as any teenagers and twentysomethings would do, Reed keeps on challenging himself and those rules. He’s drawn into the science and the unknown like a moth to a flame.
Even though the zombie Fantastic Four get locked up at the end of this arc, one knows they’re not going to just fade away. Zombie Reed is cunning and malicious, and Millar shows some of his best dialogue when writing the confrontations between Ultimate Reed and his undead adult version.
The second arc really pulls a rabbit out of the hat when Johnny and Sue’s mother puts in an appearance. They believed their mother has been dead for the last 15 years. Not only is she alive, but she’s also discovered the lost remains of Atlantis. And she needs the help of the Fantastic Four to help her explore those remains.
The fact that they find Namor the Submariner there isn’t a really great surprise. What is a surprise is how he is so much different than longtime readers expect him to be. The story is tense, and there’s a lot a conflict between Sue and Reed in this one. One of the funniest bits that occurs is when Reed imagines Sue’s mother nearly nude at a very inopportune moment.
Greg Land pencils all of these 12 issues. I’ve loved his art on other things, but it looks almost too finished here. Maybe it was all those years of looking at Jack Kirby’s artwork, and the fact that Andy Kubert draws with a savage looseness of his own, but I didn’t feel comfortable with what I saw. I think Land did a fantastic job on the zombies and on Sue’s mother’s Victoria’s Secret cameo.
The next part deals with the return of Dr. Doom and the zombie Fantastic Four breaking out of their prison. I have to admit that I knew how they were going to break out from the minute zombie Reed started in on his tirade. I couldn’t believe the security teams weren’t trained any better than that. But that’s a small flaw in an otherwise wonderful story packed with action and suspense.
In the final story contained within the volume, the Ultimate Super Skrull puts in his first appearance and we get a story about time travel as Reed tries to go back and change the event that altered himself and his friends. I knew how the story had to end, with them being unable to change the events. Instead, Millar goes even further by allowing them to change them. I really liked what he did with the potential future world he dreamed up, as well as how he resolved the whole time travel conundrum.
In my opinion, this hardcover collection is the best so far and will be very hard to beat. These stories offer all the cutting-edge technology, relationship issues, and nostalgic feels that any longtime fan could wish for, and it covers a lot of interesting and fun territory for the newcomer.