Editor's Note: Ultimate X-Men/Fantastic Four Annual arrives in stores tomorrow, September 10.
This crossover annual sees the Ultimate Fantastic Four and the Ultimate X-Men team up to tackle a time-travelling threat from the future, in the form of an eerily familiar team of superheroes who travel back in time in order to break into the FF's headquarters and abduct one of their number.
I'm not familiar with either of the writers who contribute to this issue, but Coleite and Pokaski do a pretty good job of bringing the familiar story concepts to life, without ever really exploring any new territory for superhero comics. Some interesting ideas are woven into the issue - I enjoyed the manner in which Reed Richards deduces the identity of the new Phoenix, and the concept for the future-Sentinels was a novel one - but there's a sense that these ideas are never developed very far beyond their basic concepts, and the whole thing doesn't come together to create a particularly compelling story. That said, I don't get the sense that the issue has delusions of grandeur, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with an unambitious book that tells a straightforward story reasonably well.
Art-wise, there's a confusing mixture of visuals, as both Dan Panosian and Mark Brooks pitch in to share the pencilling chores. Brooks handles the future-set segments, whilst Panosian deals with the present-day scenes. Both artists provide perfectly adequate work, but there's a sense that neither one of them has really been able to do anything particularly distinctive with the characters (perhaps due to the mechanics of co-ordinating two artists who are working on the same story at the same time). The character designs are pretty faithful to those found in the regular titles, and I enjoyed the costume designs for the new characters, but there's nothing that stands out as a particularly memorable visual. Again, like their writers, the artists tell a fairly simple story in a straightforward manner that doesn't draw any particular attention to itself (whether negative or positive).
Surprisingly, the book ends on a cliffhanger that leads into a second instalment, to be published in the Ultimate Fantastic Four/X-Men Annual*. It's obviously an attempt by Marvel to get readers of each Ultimate title to buy both of their annuals, and it leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth for anyone who had expected this annual to provide a self-contained story. However, at least the story that's provided isn't a notably bad one.
One final element that I'm not particularly keen on is the constant foreshadowing of a disaster for the Ultimate Universe. This is presumably a reference to Ultimatum, a series that has been trailed for so long without actually appearing that I can't believe that anyone really cares about it any more. Personally, I'm sick of hearing about it already – and it hasn't even started yet. Still, I'll be interested to a certain extent to see whether this crossover story gives us any new information about that "event," whether it's able to stand on its own two feet, or whether it proves to be little more than an extended trailer for the series.
* The last time this idea was put into practice resulted in the abysmal Ultimate X4 two-parter - so if nothing else, this book can at least this can be considered as an improvement over than effort.
What did you think of this book?
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