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Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 3: N-Zone
Review by Christopher J. Shelton

Story
Ultimate Fantastic Four Review Cover Image
Ult. Fantastic Four: N-Zone

Story
Warren Ellis
 
Pencils
Adam Kubert
 
Inks
John Dell & Scott Hanna,
Mark Morales & Lary Stucker
 
Colors
Dave Stewart
 
Letters
Chris Eliopoulos

Publisher
Marvel Comics
 
Format
Softcover Collection
 
Publish Date
June 8, 2005
 
Cover Price
$12.99
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It takes six issues to go to the N-Zone (Negative Zone) and fight Nihil (Annihilus)? Six issues? That’s a lot of issues when picking up the serialized versions of Ultimate Fantastic Four, but I don’t mind the decompressed style of writing that seems to be everywhere in comics today just as long as I get a payoff. Warren Ellis, Adam Kubert, and crew deliver that payoff in Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 3: N-Zone, the book that collects issues 13 – 18 of the ongoing series.

Ellis is spot on with his characterization of Marvel’s first family. They might be the “Ultimate” version of the FF, but the traits of the original team that fans have always loved are in full effect in this arc. Without Ellis’ guidance, this third volume of the Ultimate Fantastic Four would’ve been a lot of boring pages with pretty pictures. Without the hip interaction between Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben, I would’ve gotten pissed that I had to wait until the end of the second chapter in the arc before seeing some action.

It’s fun to see Reed and Sue banter back and forth like the married couple they’re destined to be. It’s a hilarious moment when she reams him for not telling her that he was planning to blow up fifty pounds of C-4. As entertaining as the parts between Reed and Sue are, they can’t top the repartee between Johnny and Ben. Johnny dumps on Ben at one point and Ben replies, “I could snap your neck with my eyelid.” Ben is the straight man (or “Thing” if you like) to Johnny in their comedy act that’s worth the $12.99 price of admission.

So, great, I’m digging Ellis’ take, but as I’m rolling along I say to myself, “Self, something is missing.” I plunked down my 13 bucks and I haven’t yet seen the villain I’m supposed to be getting with my purchase. Oh, wait-a-minute, that’s him on the last panel of the last page at the halfway point. I knew Ellis wouldn’t disappoint. And just in time, too.

The Four encounter Nihil (more menacingly known as Annihilus in the regular Marvel universe) and I can hear Michael Buffer’s “Let’s get ready to rumble!” in my head. Nihil, instead of fighting right off the bat, decides to size up his opponents and probe them for information. Ellis scores some more points here with his version of Annihilus who comes across as a sly schemer rather than the transparent villainous brute he is in the regular Marvel universe. Villains can only restrain themselves for so long, and Nihil is no different as he attacks with the help of aliens who look like Jawas from Star Wars.

The key fight scene is cool, but I would’ve liked it better had the entire FF team been involved. This scene was clearly about Ben and a little “Clobberin’ Time.” The climax of the tale isn’t the ending I would’ve chosen, but it didn’t derail a fine effort turned in by Ellis.

Art
Adam Kubert’s art in this third volume of the Ultimate Fantastic Four is truly cool. It felt like I was watching a blockbuster movie on paper. There is much depth to each panel and a wide variety of point-of-view shots. There are a few splash pages that I could’ve done without, however. It was as if the story was moving too quickly and they had to slow it down by adding a couple of extra splash pages. On the other hand, I did like the splash page in which Reed and Ben are being attacked by Nihil — the look of fear on their faces is priceless. Kubert’s hard work drawing Ben really shines through. The detail shown on each picture is very fine.

Dave Stewart does a great job with the colors, although I don’t know that I would’ve chosen red as the primary color to represent N-Zone space. It does, however, translate an important subliminal message of danger to the reader. Also, the inks by John Dell, Scott Hanna, Mark Morales, and Lary Stucker do a great job of enhancing Kubert’s art.

Final Words

At first I was skeptical about the Ultimate Fantastic Four. The slow pace has always been an issue for readers (including myself), but for this volume, it doesn’t seem to be a problem. Warren Ellis does a great job keeping the things that make the FF special. You get the new spin of the “Ultimate” universe, but you don’t have to worry about the characters losing touch with what you like about them in the first place.

Recommended


Once nicknamed Richie Rich, Christopher Shelton (email) nowadays wishes he had gotten Richie’s money, instead of the nickname, so he could support his comic buying habit. Born under the Year of the Monkey, his favorite B—list comic book characters include Iron Fist, Paladin, and the Human Fly. Christopher has worked as a movie extra in Spider-Man and Renaissance Man. He’s been a radio disc jockey who has spun tunes in the alternative format among others. He’s also tackled the production side of radio, working in sports talk and in news talk. He’s currently climbing the copyediting/writing ladder in San Diego.
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