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Ultimate Fantastic Four #26

Posted: Friday, February 3, 2006
By: Mark J. Hayman



"Tomb of Namor - Part 3 of 3"

Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Greg Land, Matt Ryan (i), Justin Ponsor & Laura Martin (colours)

Publisher: Marvel Comics


From their decompressed origin through a downbeat first encounter with Doom (well, something Doom-like), from their creepy-curious but oh so slow adventure in the N-Zone to the nasty, zany and somewhat controversial Crossover, the team gets back to basics with the first appearance of Namor - kind of. The Ultimate version is in most respects a clone of his 616 namesake: arrogant, seemingly unstoppable, and smitten with Sue. The differences are noteworthy but not striking: prisoner, not Prince, apparently super-intelligent (let's face it, "Classic" Namor has always come off as a bit of a mackerel brain), even more seemingly unstoppable, saddled with a permanently bad hair day and, evidently, able to exert control over water the way, say, Pyro manipulates flame (well, there's Hydro-man, but Namor has him licked in terms of scale).

The story picks up with the spurned Atlantean having a tantrum, unable to fathom Sue preferring anyone, let alone a geek like Reed, to his majestic, fishy self. Given the punishment to which he's subjected, Namor does appear on the indestructible side, while that great, big Neptune he conjures must have weighed in at thousands of tons of water, indicating a fantastic breadth of power (which is rather striking). Indeed, the FF's best effort, impressive though it is, serves to do little more than tick him off, leaving what is essentially an attack of ennui to send Namor back to the surf (in exchange for a smoochie from Suzie). And that's it. Three meaningless issues punctuated by a couple of not so big fights and the supposed bomb drop that was the return of Mary Storm (who is or was under the control of Doom... making the vein in my forehead twitch that much harder). Ah, and the potential mining of Atlantis' technology, though I don't expect to see this played out any time soon.

Millar does have a handle on the characters, principal and supporting. The dialogue is (in context) believable and consistent. It's his plotting that remains suspect. One wonders if the fits'n'starts schedule of the Ultimates isn't behind his finding ways of working them into the pages of UFF. Last issue was the throwaway concept of the Minimates (truly a one-note joke), this time they make an appearance courtesy of Reed's magic helmet which functions much like a homemade Cosmic Cube. If he ever finds a suitable power source, the rest of the Ultimate heroes can retire. Yes, the big robot, Fantastic Oh-Five, was vaguely clever, yet in the long term stands as one more silly concept. I understand that Millar is exploiting Reed's inherent childishness; after all, so far as I'm aware the kid's still a kid, but it's a device that's on the cusp of parody. Millar's other grand scheme appears to be the team's interaction with alternate realities, what with the recent Crossover and pending President Thor arc, but that, too, is an idea nearly spent. Millar is a talented and otherwise innovative writer, but his spin on the UFF has grown threadbare.

Then there's Greg Land. While there is little debate that he draws some mighty pretty pictures (with the help of deft inks and a flawless colour palette), action is not his forte. Whereas Millar's other near photo-real collaborator, Bryan Hitch, is able to convey a sense of vibrance and motion (albeit verrrry slowly), Land's work appears more stop-motion (or frame capture) than cinematic. His pencils are gorgeous, Johnny's action-figure hair notwithstanding, they just don't flow. That said, I'd take Land over most anyone else, warts and all, especially if he can stay on schedule. The third bullet is up there entirely for Land's contribution.

The next arc offers a chance for Millar (and Marvel) to redeem the UFF, and I sincerely hope they do. Alas, it's looking very much like this portion of my discretionary budget will soon be discretely spent elsewhere.

Oh, right, this was another flip-book, the reverse being the concluding chapter of the Ultimate Vision story. Ultimate or not, that ain't my Vizh, and Romita the Younger hasn't impressed me since Bob Layton finished his pencils on Iron Man. Having read about half of the Vision micro-series, I'm giving it a solid .



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