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Ultimate FF is the series that had been hit the hardest since the relaunch of” Ultimate” titles only four months ago. Already cancelled it not only suffered from terrible sales from the get-go but an unforgiving and terribly done art team. Ultimate FF #4 marks the series’ third to last issue, but also Fialkov’s penultimate issue.
With such an unfortunately short series it becomes hard to see room for improvement over time or try to justify where it falters. For example, this over-arc (consisting of smaller two-or-one parters etc.) has mainly focused on introducing this team. On setting up a workable status quo from which to develop the rest of the series. The thing is that it now comes off as pointless given what we know about its upcoming demise. Through no fault of its own, of course, but the small moments where things are set up for future pay-off or characters introduced come off as fruitless in the overall scheme. The act of being cancelled has only hurt the story more as the knowledgeable reader won’t care to pick it up. If it’s not doing anything of impact, then it will just be forgotten.
Yet, despite that and disregarding that, this very issue still shows Fialkov is in top form. Both in his adept insight into the “Ultimate Universe” and, more specifically, the history of UFF, but in the way the characters interact. While previous issues may have been too jokey this installment strikes a better balance. There are still a few quips, a handful of snarky barbs, but it’s not as overhanded as, say, the first issue. Also, the recreation of the last appearance of proper Ult. Doom in the UFF story-arc “Frightful” is a nice boon for fans. Especially fans who were seeing this series as the long-awaited relaunch of UFF, in-spirit. It was a scene that really showed that Fialkov’s mind was in the right place.
The main conduit for humor in Ultimate FF #4 is none other than Ultimate Rick Jones, whom Fialkov has steadily been making into a very personable character ever since he got his hands on him during the Hunger miniseries. The “fish out of water” jokes are of a tried and true variety given that Rick is nothing but a normal boy with incredible powers who just happens to be stuck with a gaggle of super-scientists. The sequence where Tony Stark tries to explain their escape plan is priceless. There are some tender moments here and there, but they are fleeting in comparison, which is/was a problem with this series and wasn’t one with its predecessor. Yet the room, which will never be utilized, for improvement is there.
Speaking of the comedic aspects of this series, this is probably the best time to discuss the art. After the messes that the first three issues have turned out to be the in the penciling department, it is actually this issue where the first marked improvement is made. While the first issues suffered from wonky anatomy and facial expressions this seems to have finally gone for a more simple approach. It basically made everyone into chubby plush-dolls in terms of anatomy. Andre Aruajo’s art is not that good as it could be, but at least it is now bearable. There are even little doodle-esque asides that add a nice levity. To get a clear example there is a penned in “sigh” bubble that a character gets as an aside.
It really does strike one that the art is what may have doomed this series from the start, but in terms of tone/art quality this probably where the series should have begun and then grew from there. In Aruajo’s defense there is a surprise character introduced at the end of this issue who he captures very well, none other than Spider-Ham! Overall it’s just a middle issue of a series that will never get to blossom. Fialkov’s last issue is next month as he will not be doing the final issue, but all in all this arc has been a nice read probably more appreciated by old UFF fans. Thoughts and opinions on this series or its departure would be appreciated below.