The first new “Ultimate” title in two years (kudos to Joe Quesada and company for not saturating the market), Ultimate Fantastic Four isn’t simply a re-imagining of a familiar concept, such as readers enjoy every month in Ultimate Spider-Man. Rather, it’s an alteration of more significant scope, with the titular team taken back to their childhood days. Unlike Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1, the foursome in this issue isn’t old enough to commandeer a rocket ship, and they have yet to absorb power-inducing cosmic rays. (This time around, it is entirely probable that The Fab Four will gain their powers in an altogether different fashion.)
The most jarring aspect of The Ultimate FF is Reed Richards’ childhood. The nerdy young scientist gets picked on at school (Do smart kids always have to be outcasts?), he has a jerk for a father, and it’s tough watching the character, who has always been proud, dignified, and aristocratic in Fantastic Four, having his head flushed. Having Ben Grimm (whom Reed’s father affectionately calls “The Grimm Reaper,” thanks to his prodigious football skills) stand up for Reed is a touching sentiment, however, and Reed’s ultimate triumph—able to be around people and things he likes—makes the story one of hope and happiness.
Reed as a newborn looks and acts older than his age (this could be by design, considering the panel at the bottom of page 2), but the art is otherwise excellent, evoking John Byrne’s classic run on the original Fantastic Four, but with a modern slant. Adolescent Reed looks fantastic (excuse the pun), as does his father, who appears to be an older, gruffer, less intelligent Reed Richards. Also nifty is the story’s clever use of the Negative Zone, one of the most memorable aspects of classic FF.
— Brett Weiss
Collects Ultimate Fantastic Four #19–20, Anl #1; ca. 2005
Schrijver: Mark Millar, Mike Carey
Tekenaar: Jae Lee