“Doom: Part 1”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Stuart Immonen (p), Wade von Grawbadger (i)
A new arc begins as a new creative team builds on Bendis and Millar's work on the title, giving us our first glimpse of the Ultimate Fantastic Four's arch-enemy, Ultimate Doctor Doom...
Whilst Ultimate Fantastic Four may have debuted in the sales charts in the expected manner for a bright new wunderkind of Marvel's Ultimate Universe, the product itself was lacking: Lacking the down-to-earth accessibility of Brian Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man, lacking the big-budget blockbuster cinematography of Mark Millar's Ultimates, and lacking a real sense of direction or character. Redeemed in part by Adam Kubert's great art, the first arc left us with little more than the suggestion of a new Super-Hero-Family and the vague possibility of a looming threat which tied into the Ultimate FF's origins. Here, Warren Ellis takes the bull by the horns and, in a surprisingly exposition-heavy issue, manages to pack in more interesting character development than the lauded Master Of Dialogue managed in the last six issues, as well as introducing an intriguing new take on the classic villain of classic villains.
Call me a comics neanderthal, but apart from some fleeting glimpses and skim-read issues this was my first introduction to the work of Warren Ellis. I know him by reputation as an over-the-top high concept explosion-o-matic writer, which left me pleasantly surprised by when the lion's share of this issue's writing was devoted to sharp character interaction and some extended character history that still manages to capture the reader's attention. After a brief recap in the issue's opening pages, Ellis introduces us to the boy which any Marvel fan knows will one day become the vain, facially-scarred, metal-masked Doctor Doom - and paints a surprisingly rounded and sympathetic picture of a boy born into fanaticism, violence and abuse. Alongside this character history sit some nice moments between Sue Storm and Reed Richards, which deepen their nascent relationship to a far greater level than we've seen so far, as well as exploring the faux-scientific implications of their wacky superpowers. Whilst some may find minor fault with his use of the barely 6-issue old characters (Sue displaying character facets that we know from the regular MU but which are new to her Ultimate incarnation; The Thing and the Human Torch being relegated to a virtual footnote) it is a solid start for Ellis, boding well for the remainder of his run on the title.
Artwork this issue is provided by Stuart Immonen - again a creator who is new to my reading habits, and again a pleasant surprise. Whilst the transition from Kubert is not the smoothest I've seen, there are clear strengths to his approach to the title which were missing from the previous arc - an ability to capture a more serious tone and a more pseudo-realistic approach to character proportionality and architecture (as evidenced in the beautifully moody first few pages) - and despite missing the cartoonish style which suited the team so well, it looks like Immonen is going to be a safe pair of hands to carry a more weighty story. (His use of darkness and linework remind me of the Dodsons' work which I'm currently enjoying in the Marvel Knight's Spider-Man, but that might just be me. Or maybe Wade von Grawbadger's inking style?).
Ellis crafts an important issue for the series, setting up the Doom-Reed dynamic nicely, reminding us of their earlier conflict whilst showing us how similar these characters may be, with Doom's abusive upbringing running in parallel to the violence bestowed upon Reed in the series' opening episodes. What's more, Doom's character is given a twist, and one which I didn't pick up on the first read due to being so over-familiar with the concept of Doom as a scarred human being behind a mere metal mask. It's a nice idea which will set Victor notably apart from his regular MU counterpart, as well as tying him in more closely to the team as they stand in their Ultimate incarnation.
An encouraging first issue for Warren Ellis' opening arc, which throws up some questions (who's the swamp-monster-guy in the flashback to the accident? - or am I being dumb here?) as well as setting up a solid conflict. This arc promises a fully-fledged classic Marvel villain for the Ultimate Universe, a darker tone and some real jeopardy for our team - and who knows, maybe they'll even get their costumes.
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