By Tim Stevens
As the Ultimate Universe draws ever closer to ULTIMATUM, the X-Men and Fantastic Four take a brief sojourn stretching from the present to the Ultimate tomorrow.
On September 10 in ULTIMATE X-MEN/ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL # 1-and followed two weeks later ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR/ULTIMATE X-MEN ANNUAL #1-the heroes find themselves face-to-face with the future when a team of X-Men yet to come travel back in time to ensure that what they have seen never comes to pass.
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Writers Aron Coleite and Joe Pokaski, colleagues from working on TV hit "Heroes," have seized the controls of this time machine, working together to produce both one-shots. Initially, the plan called for Coleite to handle the ULTIMATE X-MEN special and for Pokaski to pen a bookend for ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR, however, inspired by the 1987 FANTASTIC FOUR VERSUS THE X-MEN limited series, the pair opted to team up and produce two interlocking issues. On the decision, Pokaski jokes, "I think the old saying goes: 'I was going to write something short, but I didn't have the time.'"
The duo has great familiarity with collaboration, having worked together in Hollywood and grown to become friends. As Coleite explains, "We're used to each others' little quirks and can rip each other's writing apart without taking it personally."
"I know my work is always better for his participation," elaborates Pokaski. "I've learned a heck of a lot from [Coleite] about story, especially in terms of comic book writing. Like any collaborators, over the
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course of working together, we almost kill each other. But I think at the end of the day the product is better because we've been tough on it."
Centering the story on a time travel plot came from the writers themselves, as inspired by ULTIMATUM writer Jeph Loeb.
"Since Jeph had told us that ULTIMATUM was 'the end of the beginning' it seemed time to tell the time-travel story," Pokaski recalls. "So we started topping each other with crazy time travelly ideas that were based on character."
To that end, the issues burst at the seams with characters. In addition to the titular teams and the future Ultimate X-Men, the epic also features the future Ultimate Fantastic Four. The number of heroes, however, should not intimidate readers.
"These are very stand alone and you don't need to know exactly what's been happening in continuity," assures Coleite. "They're still the same characters; even if they're older and wiser. People have
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a habit of not changing- even when the world changes around them. That said, it's always a blast imagining who people will become in the future. There's some surprises as to who these characters really are."
Devotees also should not feel overwhelmed by the prospect of this story tying too heavily into ULTIMATUM or spoiling it.
"We certainly did not want to give away the plot to Jeph's baby," notes Pokaski. "But you should flip back through the pages of these annuals after you read ULTIMATUM to see the bits and pieces we were throwing out to speak to the gathering storm."
In the end, UXM/UFF ANNUAL #1 and UFF/UXM ANNUAL #1 intend to entertain on their own merits without overreliance on what came before or comes next. Coleite pledges, "It is a wild ride. We were trying to do something fun and exciting-a big summer blockbuster in 64 pages. So, you'll feel like you've had a nice full meal after reading the annuals - and be psyched for what's coming next."
Enthusiasts can grab a seat at the table on September 10 when in ULTIMATE X-MEN/ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1 reaches stores, but really should save room for the second course, ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR/ULTIMATE X-MEN ANNUAL #1, on September 24. Go back to the beginning of ULTIMATE X-MEN with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!