Review by Frank Plowright
As was the case in Crossover, Frightful presents a pair of three chapter stories by Mark Millar and Greg Land.
Millar opened a door with the Fantastic Four travelling back through time in the previous volume, and if they’re able to do that, why can’t they travel back in time to prevent the accident that transformed them? Well, as we all know from numerous SF films, altering things in the past will alter things in the present, so that aspect is expected, but the thrill is in anticipating just what’s going to occur.
In this instance, it’s a world where superheroes are commonplace, exemplified by Millar in a creative scene where a game of baseball uses the entire planet as the diamond. Ben Grimm is the only plain human left on the planet. It’s all down to a gift from the Skrulls, and as this is the Ultimate universe instead of being devious alien shapeshifters, perhaps they really are kindly alien benefactors. It’s a clever, fast-paced story with a solution to match.
Land’s art is good throughout, defining personalities, and providing full environments, but he’s also beginning to sneak in an occasionally sleazy image, and look closely and there are also some rather shaky figures. That’s probably due to the digital creation process of not shopping in entire bodies to tinker with, so Land providing some with different heads. Crystal, for instance, looks as if she’s been extending her neck. Mitch Breitweiser fills in a for a few pages in every chapter of the second story, and although the difference can be seen, his pages are fine, and don’t interrupt the flow.
Having been instrumental in creating the Ultimate Fantastic Four, this is Millar’s last writing on the feature, and he goes out in style. First there’s some form of redemption and contentment for Ben Grimm as the Thing, and throughout the first story he foreshadows the threat of the second as he wraps up loose ends. In Crossover he introduced the Marvel Zombies, transporting and imprisoning that world’s zombie Fantastic Four to the Baxter Building. Crucially, these zombies retain their intelligence, but they’re not the immediate threat, and Millar also manages to involve Doctor Doom. Readers may be able to figure out how the zombies escape, although the sleight of hand is rapidly revealed, but little else is predictable in a story of complex and significantly amoral people. ‘Frightful’ is so fast paced it seems Millar won’t be able to wrap things up in three chapters, but he does, along with smart observations and character moments in an exhilarating, yet in places stomach-turning thriller.
Frightful is combined with Crossover in the third Ultimate Fantastic Four hardcover, while Mike Carey takes over with God War and writes almost the entire remainder of the series.