Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Reinventing the Fantastic Four
Long, long ago when I was but a youngster, I totally dug the Fantastic Four. So I know how the story is supposed to go ... four young astronauts bombarded by cosmic rays return to earth as superheroes. That's how Stan and Jack told the story way back when.
I figured that this graphic novel -- Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 1: The Fantastic -- was retelling that story. When I noticed that a few things didn't jive with the "real" history of the group. Then I realized that history was being rewritten...
Turns out that the word "Ultimate" on the cover clued in everybody but the clueless (meaning me). According to Wikipedia, Marvel redid a bunch of it's big name comics this way, in part to dump the "sometimes convoluted back-histories of the original versions." To find out just how convoluted the Fantastic Four had become, try following the story of founding member Sue Storm. (Skip down to "Marriage Problems.)
This new "Ultimate" Fantastic Four origin story is pretty wild stuff -- no astronauts, lots of monsters and some sort of trans-dimensional accident to transform the characters.
The writing is snappy, although the Ultimate FF have the same tendency to talk each others' ears off as the original FF. The art, by Andy Kubert is quite good. He does a great job of showing that all four members are now monsters, not just The Thing.
I have to wonder about this whole "Ultimate" idea, however. Is it like reading both endings of Great Expectations and no longer knowing what the "truth" is? Or is this merely a story from an alternate reality (a concept familiar to FF fans)which can be enjoyed for what it is?