Saturday, July 3, 2004

Hey, let's do a couple of Quick comic reviews!
Ultimate Fantastic Four #7, 8
Say, this book suddenly got interesting. I read the first two issues of the latest "Ultimate" book a while back and was underwhelmed. While I like Bendis and Millar's writing usually, the "decompressed storytelling" technique -- where it takes 6-7 issues to tell a story that would've once been told in one -- was carried to extremes for me, and the idea of turning the Fantastic Four into teenagers did little for me. So I didn't read any further. But with issue 7, the origin out of the way, new writer Warren Ellis takes over, and the Ultimate Fantastic Four seems like more than just another money-making Ultimate title. Ellis, of "Planetary" and "Authority" fame, has always combined hard-edged, snappy dialogue with a science-geek realism. In these two issues, the first of the five-part storyline "Doom," we meet the "Ultimate" Doom, a radically different version from his mainstream Marvel counterpart. Ellis makes him a descendant of an infamous European royalty and gives him a different look. While these two issues don't quite tell us what his evil plan is, it's refreshing to see a new spin on a classic villain. Doom is more of a terrorist than a king. But what really sold this book for me is Ellis' take on the Fantastic Four's powers -- stretching Reed Richards is revealed not to have internal organs, for instance, and Sue Richards asks the question we've all wanted to know: how does the monstrous Thing go to the bathroom? Thankfully we don't answer this in gruesome detail but that inquisitive, real-world curiosity makes Ellis' "Four" much more intriguing than the first storyline. Grade: A-

Superman #206
Well, this is a disappointment. I reviewed the first issue of Jim Lee and Brian Azzarello's "reinvention" of the Man of Steel a few months ago, and was pretty impressed with it. It had stunning art, and a really ominous, intriguing tone. Strange vanishings worldwide, a doubt-filled Superman and a spare prose style made this seem like it'd be a classic Superman story. But by part three, this projected 12-part story has already lost my interest. Superman fights a generic villain who's a strong rip-off of the Authority's Seth, gets involved in a boring war in the Middle East, and generally doesn't do very much. It's not terrible, but it's incredibly plodding and average with an overblown sense of its own relevance, which is a shame since at first I hoped this storyline might move Superman to a new level. Even Lee's artwork seems a little more rushed and less detailed than before. Don't believe the hype; this is dullsville dressed up in pretensions. Grade: C-

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