Top critical review
Fantastic art, not so fantastic writing, but a good starting point all the same
on 24 May 2010
One would expect the second coming from the pairing of Millar and Bendis, aptly aided by the amazing (wait, I mean fantastic!) Adam Kubert, here at his second milestone in the Ultimate Universe (after creating Ultimate X-Men with Millar).
What they achieve is a story just about their respective average, on par with Bendis's own retelling of Spider-Man's origin and Millar'sown remaking of th X-Men, but light years away from Bendis's creator owned masterpiece Powers and Millar's Ultimates or Authority.
The story goes like this: Infant genius Reed Richards has found a way to breach the wall to a parallel dimension. The first large scale experiment with this goes awfully wrong and it mutates Reed, his best friend Ben Grimm, fellow young genius Susan Storm and her brother Johnny into superhumans, while suspect fellow genius Victor Von Doom goes missing (he'll pop up again in Vol. 2, pissed as all hell).
The story has been intelligently reprinted without breaks and it does read like a single story: I honestly could not figure out where chapters started. The collected edition thus reads smoothly, alhough way too slow in the first half.
That's probably because both Millar and (I suspect) especially Bendis wanted to start the story giving us as much background and humanity as possible to our supposed identification figue, super (misunderstood) genius and ultimate nerd Reed Richards (sic).
Bendis's excesses in these directions are exaggerated by his own success with Ultimate Spider-Man (but alas, the magic doesn't work twice) and tempered by Millar's usually faster and more compressed storytelling.
The guy who really shines here though, is artist Adam Kubert, once again turning scripts ino rollercoasters of layout adventuring and simply beautiful art. As a true superhero artist, he fails a bit in facial expressions and the like (but some of them, when he nails them right, are still absolutely priceless). The best sequences are the 4-panels pages Warren Ellis praised him for (which are apparently his idea, meaning he should probably write his own stories and he would totally rock!) and those snake-like succession of panels in double-page spreads towards the end, as the underground cave the FF are fighting the Mole Man in goes down and we learn the final bit of the Invisble Woman's powers.
Thankfully, they also reproduced all of Bryan Hitch's covers to the series too (a pity the Adam Kubert ones were ruined by the most awful computer colouring ever, to the point that the cover to issue six looks like a bad Liefeld piece...), thus making the collection complete.
If you are a fan of the Ultimate Universe, o if you would like to know the Marvel heroes at the ground level and without the baggae of decadesof convouted continuity, this is defnitely for you.