"Frightful" Part 1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Greg Land & Mitch Breitweiser
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The main word in Ultimate Fantastic Four under Mark Millar and Greg Land has been BIG. BIG ideas, BIG dialogue, and BIG art. This week's #30 is arguably the biggest issue yet, and so much is packed into these short 22 pages that the result is a severe lack of focus and little characterization to speak of.
UFF #30 is predominantly set-up for what should be some crazy action in future issues. "Frightful," the culminating arc in Millar's year-long stint on UFF, brings the story from his first arc ("Crossover") to a head. Millar deserves credit for bringing Robert Kirkman's Marvel Zombies series to life, but otherwise the zombie subplot has been terribly bland. The zombie-FF have done nothing but make the same seemingly hollow threats of escape time and again.
Worse, Reed is surprisingly na´ve. I realize that he is a younger and less experienced version of the "real" Reed Richards, but it's baffling that, in addition to refusing to take the zombies' threats seriously, he seems to think his old friend Victor Van Damme will willingly help him send them back to their own zombie-verse. Guess he doesn't remember that he was greeted with a bazooka the last time he visited Latveria.
Meanwhile, Johnny Storm (a.k.a. the Human Torch) learns he will give birth to an alien lifeform that could potentially destroy the entire planet within a week. Can I use a rolling-eye emoticon in a review?
Individually, Land's images look fantastic as pin-ups, but sequentially they fall apart. The artwork is stiff and relies on slanted panels to give it the slightest sense of motion. The glamorous, toothy smiles of every single woman (and Johnny) are annoying and give the impression that each character is posing for a picture. Luckily, I didn't recognize any of Land's characters from previous appearances on magazine covers or movie stills in this issue. That's a step up, at least.
Inexplicably, the middle part of the issue is penciled by a different artist with an entirely different style. It's a jarring change, but Mitch Breitweiser does a serviceable job. The best thing I can say about the artwork is that it fits the tone of the story quite well, but given the weakness of the storytelling that's a back-handed compliment if I've ever written one.
UFF breaks what I call the "Ultimate mold" by implementing short, explosive arcs that allow character development to fall by the wayside. It's so un-decompressed that there's no breathing room. The story is so over-the-top that nothing can be taken seriously. Millar has some fascinating ideas, but the frantic pace doesn't allow any of them to be fully explored before he moves on to the next BIG thing. Ultimate Fantastic Four #30 is a mess of an issue of a severely overrated title, and could very well prompt me to drop an Ultimate title from my pull list for the first time.
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