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Ultimate Fantastic Four #53

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2008
By: Jon Judy

Mike Carey
Tyler Kirkham & Sal Regla
Marvel Comics
Ultimate Fantastic Four #53 is a crime perpetrated on the comics buying public.

The real crime here is not the cost of the comic book, or the nearly $20 said fans have sunk on this story arc. Overpriced comic books are a reality, have been for years and it appears they will be for years to come.

The crime here is not in the mediocrity of this issue, although I will elaborate in a moment on what makes it mediocre. No, mediocrity is not a crime; sadly, it’s the status quo.

This issue maintains that status quo from beginning to end. Kirkham’s pencils look like an amateur’s impression of Michael Turner – the art is credited to Top Cow Productions, so I assume that isn’t a coincidence – and I never saw the appeal of Turner’s art, so I certainly don’t see the appeal of a second-rate Turner knock-off.

As for the story, well… OK, from hereon out, there be spoilers here, so you’ve been warned.

A recap: As this arc opened, Reed was obsessed with creating a cosmic cube, and he locked himself in his lab and went to work on it despite all indications that it was a bad, bad idea.

Indeed, it was a bad idea, and to make a long, crappy story a short, crappy story, New York City ended up being launched into space while in the confines of a giant cube, Thanos ended up controlling the Ultimates’ minds and using them for his own nefarious means and Reed appeared to have been killed.

Don’t be too hard on Reed, though. He wasn’t in his right mind when he created the cube – a fact that becomes important later.

Just when it appears all will be lost, Thanos accidentally kills himself. You know how the cube responds to its wielder’s wishes? And how Thanos is always obsessing about death? Well Reed, clever Reed, had built a “safety” into the cosmic cube, so that it wouldn’t respond to whims or flights of fancy, but only explicitly wished-for things. Then, while Ben distracted Thanos, Reed – did I mention he wasn’t dead? – removed this “safety” and Thanos’ own death-obsession did him in.

So…as the wielder of the cosmic cube, Thanos had god-like powers, but Reed was able to manipulate the cube without him knowing? And Reed wasn’t in his right mind when he created the cube, but he had the wherewithal to create a safety? Well isn’t that just convenient?

But what about NYC, you ask? Well Reed used the cube to restore everything to its normal state – including restoring the Ultimates’ minds. Just – poof! – everything is back to normal.

And what did Reed do with that cube then? Why he sent it back in time, so that Thanos in the past could use it to kill a lot of people. Why did he do this? Apparently Carey thought this issue really needed to end on an inexplicable, unjustifiable, logic-defying time-loop. And no, I don’t mean logic-defying in the way that all time-loops are logic defying, I mean logic defying in the sense that Reed’s actions made no sense.

So to summarize, Reed was too stupid to avoid stirring up this trouble, but in the end pulled a deus ex machina on a way-stupid villain and then magically restored everything to the way it had been.

Therein lies the crime; it’s not the cost of this dreck that was criminal, or even that this stuff is dreck. The crime is that we’ve been subjected to identical dreck within the span of a handful of months. In the arc that ended in UFF #46, Reed got everyone in trouble by attracting a Silver Surfer knock-off to his lab, which brought them to the attention of the Psycho-Man. He transplanted New York to another planet, controlled people’s minds, and then, inexplicably, fell prey to a trick of Reed’s in which Reed got his powers, restored NYC to Earth, and fixed everyone’s minds, and then, apparently, gave up said power or something.

IT’S THE SAME DAMN STORY WE WERE SUBJECTED TO JUST FIVE ISSUES AGO!

Hey, I’ve always said superhero comics are about variations on themes, so, yeah, they’re going to get awfully repetitive, but come on! Give us just a little variation, please!

There’s the crime: It’s not the mediocrity or the cost, but charging outrageous prices for the exact same mediocrity you just made us read.

But this book isn’t the only thing that repeats itself. I didn’t learn my lesson last time, and so Carey and company gleefully robbed me blind – again. And I’ve already ordered the next three issues of UFF – because that’s how things work in the era of Previews – and I won’t want to drop the book mid-arc because, you know, the ending might just be good, so I’m going to be into Carey et al. for at least another eighteen bucks.

Which begs an important question: Is it really a crime if the victim is willing? Yes, yes in this case it is. For while I may be 31, my inner-fanboy is but a child – hence the boy part of that appellation – so at the very least this is a case of dork statutory rape.



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