Review: Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis – Ultimate FF #2
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov. Art by Tom Grummett, Mario Guevara, Juan Vlaskco, Scott Hanna, Mark Pennington, Jay Leisten and Rachelle Rosenberg.
Once I adopted Eric Larsen’s creed of “all issues are jumping-on issues” I’d like to say I’ve become a better comic reader because of it. Using that motto has removed the excuse “… maybe it’s better if I’d read the backstory” from my fallback position when an issue is subpar. In its place comes the knowledge that a comic can be judged devoid of context. The dialogue can be snappy without previous knowledge of what came before the page you’ve read. More to the point: jump into Silence of the Lambs 45 minutes in and it’s still a great movie. I say all of this because I need you all to understand: Ultimate FF #2 is an absolute top-to-bottom atrocity. No context needed.
Let’s start with the script / plot / words on the page. Joshua Hale Fialkov generally grasps the beats and characterizations of his Future Foundation. Beyond that grasp though, is a mishmash of simplistic and idiotic dialogue awash in a plot dug out of a half-read Dungeons and Dragons campaign, topped liberally with incoherent action sequences to pad things out. The plot as it were: Sue Storm’s FF field team investigates the disappearance of some 130 wealthy Atlanteans. They arrive, things get weird, and then there’s fighting. Tah Dah!
I understand that it’s hard to effectively move a complex plot in only 20 pages or so, but then I think of all the other amazing comic books I’ve read – one shots, parts of a whole, or otherwise – and I come to the bitter conclusion that the modern trope to write for the trade is merely an excuse. I like to equate a single issue of a comic to a single episode of a cartoon. If Ultimate FF #2 were on TV, it’d be akin to one of those 12-minute shorts they traipse out during Adult Swim. It’s short, it’s shallow, and its attempts to ride on more style than substance falls on deaf ears.
All this, and the big ending is a tongue-in-cheek nod to issue three’s impending catfight. Yawn.
While I admit that I’ve not dabbled in the Ultimate universe for years, the tenants and tent-poles that make up the characters must hold true. And Fialkov seems to want only to revel in them without any further exploration. Akin perhaps to the remake of Ocean’s Eleven remake, sans the Julia Roberts subplot. FF here is just Stalwart Sue, Angry Douche Doom, Generic Black Guy Falcon, and Rich Douche Iron Man on a tepid adventure to fight the multiverse, or the garbage therein. That caveat I can buy – it gives us a good excuse as any for this rag tag team of type A’s (minus Falcon, of course) to get into nasty spills. But unlike Matt Fraction’s whimsical Defenders or terse and tepid Others (where that tepidness was a perfect foil), this team is a collection of islands that only know the melody amongst one another. And when the first big reveal gives us Namor, we simply add another tool to the chest. Emphasis on tool.
Artistically, I’m nearly at a loss for words. If you count my accurate list above, you will see that it took seven people to put together twenty pages of loose, scrappy, crappy art. At first, I was almost won over: the delicate inking and detailed underwater environmental renderings were certainly an antithesis to today’s modern photoshoppery. But the devil is in the details, and here Tom Grummett and Mario Guevara fail to deliver on their initial pages’ promise. Figures are jerked and crammed into panels without care or cause. And the litany of inkers scrawl excessive lines throughout, causing tons of unnecessary visual confusion. From Namor’s oddly shaped five-finger forehead and Doom’s spastic cape, to Falcon’s always-hash-shaded-muscles, there’s nary a page that doesn’t contain an obvious rush or flub. And given that over half a dozen people touched this issue? I’m aghast with curiosity as to how this passed mustard with anyone calling themselves an editor. All this, and I haven’t even talked about the colorist!
Long considered the unsung hero of the medium, here Rachelle Rosenberg barely decided to show up. The book itself is a constant juxtaposition of old-school simplistic flat art, layered over generic paper texture, all adding to the facade of an older book. But these tricks belie the truth that this is an ugly ass book and the color choices do nothing to elevate that fact.
While there’s a masochistic part of me that enjoys that no added glows, knockouts, or filtering try to hide the scrawl and plunder, even the most basic color choices here – on model or not – are unflattering and unsettling. And to the person that picked a lime green logo over a purple, blue, and sky blue palate for the team? I implore you to go back to Parsons, and retake fashion design, and color theory.
Perhaps I’ve been too mean, too hard and harsh to poor Joshua Hale Fialkov and company. Or perhaps, I’m apt now to cast a pall on those waste opportunity with the biggest and arguably best comic book publisher in print today. These are revisions of classic characters, in an all but open world, ready for modern spins and serious explorations. In the wake of that opportunity sits this muddled mess of in-fighting, back-biting, and herky-jerky art. Ultimate FF #2 spends too much time trying to be witty and gritty, instead of layering nuance, complexity, and exploration that should be the foundation of the book.
Erik Larsen is right: every comic is a jumping on point… and as such, I suggest those interested in this new iteration of the Future Foundation jump elsewhere.