Writers: Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar
Artists: Adam Kubert (p), Danny Miki (i)
The book opens five years in the past where we see Reed is becoming frustrated by his lack of success in his main experiment, and we see he enters into a partnership with a fellow genius by the name of Victor Van Damme. We then join the Reed and Victor in the present day as they've gathered together with Johnny and Sue Storm, as well as a visiting Ben Grimm, to witness the first test of Reed's teleportation device. Needless to say the experiment doesn't go as planned.
Well this issue advances us up to the point of the big accident that will presumably give the four their powers, and there's a fun twist on this accident as we see there's a fifth person standing beside Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben, when Reed's invention goes off the rails. The issue also offers up a nice twist on Reed's relationship with the man who will become their most fearsome enemy, as we see Victor Van Damme is actually on friendly terms with Reed, and Reed's big invention is really a collaboration between the two. Of course if the book sticks to the established formula than Victor Van Damme is going to blame Reed for the accident, and this in turn will transform into an irrational need to prove he's Reed's intellectual superior. However the simple fact that Victor Van Damme is standing beside the four others when the accident happens one has to imagine that he's going to be gifted with some super power, though perhaps the reason why the friendship sours is the direct result that the four others gain fantastic abilities from their exposure, while he's left seemingly unchanged. In any event I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, as this book is largely devoted to moving its key players to the site of the accident, and along the way we're given an interesting look at a character who is fated to become another one of the team's enemies, as we see one of the teachers has been given the nickname Mole Man by the students.
While his version of the Mole Man is a bit over the top in its bid to sell the idea that the man clearly has poor personal hygiene, Adam Kubert does turn in a fairly impressive showing, as the art does a wonderful job in the opening sequence selling the more sinister qualities of Victor Van Damme as he addresses the other students, while they are busy mocking the Mole Man. The art also does a nice job presenting the awkward teenage romance between Reed and Sue, as the two are clearly meant for each other, but they both come across an amusingly poor at expressing their feelings, with the scene where the two each share a smile that the other doesn't see being a wonderfully done moment. The scene where Victor Van Damme attempts to correct Reed's work is a nicely done scene as well, as we see Victor is desperate to finish his equation, as Reed is trying to pull him away. The big accident is also quite impressive, largely because of how understated the visual is, as instead of a big explosion, the scene is also completely hidden behind a blinding light.
I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the way Ben is pushed on to the scene so he can be present when the big accident occurs, as I have real difficulty believing the military would allow a civilian who just wandered on the scene on to the testing site of a top secret technology simply because they claimed to be a childhood friend of the scientist who developed the technology. In fact since the government isn't big on advertising the locations where they test out their new technology, I also have to wonder who Ben even knew where Reed was testing out his latest toy. Now I realize that Ben needs to be there when the accident occurs, as the Fantastic Four simply isn't the Fantastic Four without the Thing, but both Mark Millar and Brian Micheal Bendis are clever writers that I found myself a bit disillusioned by lazy writing they engage in to get Ben on site. I'm also a bit concerned about the young age of the team, as one of the more engaging elements on the original team is that they seemed to be old hands at dealing with the fantastic elements right from the word go, and while having the team go through a settling in period makes sense, and I've always been fond of the idea of heroes experience growing pains as they adjust to their new roles, I'm not sure I can extend this same feeling toward the Fantastic Four. Than again I plan on giving Mark Millar and Brian Micheal Bendis every opportunity to address this concern.
Einstein, The Incredible Butt Sniffer:
A very enjoyable issue that continues to follow the established pattern of the Ultimate books as it's taken two issues to arrive at the point of the story in the original first issue where the accident occurs. However, this is the pace that has been established for the early issues in the Ultimate line, and for the most part I'd have to say it works, as the characters are better established when they are brought together to form the team, and this in turn results in a stronger final product. This issue does a nice job establishing Reed's friendship with the man who will become Dr. Doom, and while I found Ben's presence on the scene of the accident to be a bit contrived, I do have to say the accident stands up better, than the original story that had Reed rocketing off into space with his girlfriend, and her kid brother. The issue also does a pretty good job of setting up the villain that I'm guessing will act as one of the first threats that our newly formed team faces, as the Mole Man is on hand, and we see he's given a motivation for acting like a villain, as we see he's fired for performing illegal experiments.
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