Arriving a little late to the Ultimate party, Marvel launched their fifth Ultimate book, Ultimate Fantastic Four. in 2004. The god-fathers of the label, Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis, collaborated to bring Marvel’s first family to the modern day. Like the other Ultimate books of the time, this was a fantastic book (pun!), until it wasn’t.
The series started by updating the origin. The team was younger, with Reed only 21 years old, Ben and Sue a similar age, and Johnny only a teenager. Reed, recruited be government agent Willie Lumpkin (the mail man in the original), was brought into a think tank in the Baxter Building, headed by Dr. Storm, Sue and Johnny’s father. Eschewing cosmic radiation and space ships, Reed was developing a teleportation system. His rival, Victor van Damme (no relation to JCVD, though he is descended from Dracula), changes the machine’s settings, thinking Reed’s calucations incorrect. The five are teleported through the N-Zone (Negative Zone), landing in New Mexico, transformed. The power set of the four are mostly the same as their contemporaries, with van Damme Doom seeing the biggest change. His internal organs were mutated into poison while most of his body transformed to metal and his feet changed to cloven hooves, something a few artists forgot (Greg Land).
The biggest difference with the team, aside from their age, was Reed’s role as the leader. The team was guided by Dr. Storm instead. There were a few other minor tweaks to their powers, such as Reed’s ability to stretch his brain, making him smarter, but nothing else worth mentioning.
After the opening arc, Warren Ellis, in his typical fashion, wrote the next two before bouncing. Ellis fleshed out Doom, mixing new and classic elements. His second arc had the team venture into the N-Zone, meeting and eventually battling Nihil (Annihilus).
Millar returned to the book with issue #21 with mixed results. His first arc was used to promote the upcoming Marvel Zombies (2005), having them face off against the Frightful Four. Mike Carey took the reigns with issue #33 until nearly the books end. Carey is an excellent writer, having created Lucifer, Unwritten, while writing across a plethora of Marvel and DC books. His work here, sadly, was uninspired. The Ultimate books began to fall into the trap of reintroducing characters and plot lines from the main line (Ultimizing). Thanos, the Inhumans, the Cosmic Cube, and more were Ultimized. UFF was a good book whose stock sadly began to plummet under Carey’s tenure.
The first major event book, Ultimatum, released in 2009, ending the title at issue #60. Like Ultimate X-Men, the last arc and the Requiem issues were handled by a Heroes staff writer. Here, Joe Pokaski. The team split, resulting in one of the most inspired choices to come from the Ultimate line.
Ultimate Comics: Doomsday was a 12 issue series (original 3, 4 issues series entitled Ultimate Enemy, Mystery, and Doom), written by Bendis. This featured a mess of characters from the Ultimate U. aside from the UFF. Essentially, Reed became a villain after the death of Dr. Storm and being rejected by Sue, romantically. He killed his family, faking his own death. When he stood reveal, Sue confronted him, and was subdued. Reed tortured her before she was rescued by Nova (Rick Jones), and flung into the Negative Zone (formerly the N-Zone). The heroes regrouped, attacking Reed. Johnny permanently scarred Reed’s face, leaving his right arm dead, hanging elongated at his side. He was left drifting in the N-Zone. The Thing’s powers evolved, his rock skin apparently a cocoon, now shed, leaving him with energy powers, similar to Wonder Woman. He and Sue wed. Johnny was left in the care of Aunt May, living with Peter Parker and Bobby Drake (Iceman).
Reed found his way back from the Negative Zone, starting a super society called the Children of Tomorrow in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates, by Jonathan Hickman, then Sam Humphries, and lastly Joshua Hale Fialkov. The Ultimates, along with Sue, helped defeat him. Eventually he was freed by a female Kang, who turned out to be some future version of Sue Storm (time travel folks!). Kang and Reed worked together to gather the Infinity Gems. Galactus arrived to consume the Earth, a fallout from Age of Ultron. Kang sensed his arrival, abandoning Reed by going further in the past. Reed put his differences aside, working with the Ultimates in Cataclysm (by Joshua Hale Fialkov) to defeat Galactus, who was banished to the Negative Zone. After, Sue, along with Iron Man, started the Future Foundation in Ultimate FF.
Much like the regular FF, UFF has had a tumultuous history. Like many of the Ultimate books, the early series was fantastic. The quality wildly varied though. Good look keeping a thread through that many books. Then again, that’s why you have me.
Think there were too many or too few changes to the team? Enjoy Reed as a villain? Comment below!
Did not think this would be so long.