By Marc Strom
The Fantastic Four can't escape the Ultimatum.
When Magneto makes his move against the Ultimate Universe, the FF will find themselves stripped down to one member as Ben Grimm journeys to the center of the earth in ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #58, on sale November 19.
In anticipation of the upcoming storyline, Marvel.com spoke with writer Joe Pokaski, who will jump onboard the title for three issues to shepherd the Ultimate First Family through their coming crisis.
"One of his friends is in trouble, and there's only one doctor who can save the day," says Pokaski of the Thing's motivations during his arc. "A doctor who lives under the earth. You might say he's Dr. Molekevic, the Mole Man. Wait, that wasn't coy-I just gave it away, didn't I?"
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The Thing's adventure will allow Pokaski to explore the soft spot he's always had for the FF's rocky-skinned member.
"Ben has always been one of my favorite characters of all time," the writer shares. "Like Spider-Man, I think the Thing is one of those characters whose outer-super hero shell and inner-soul are the perfect combination. Big muscle-y characters are a dime a dozen in comic books, but you'd be hard pressed to find one as human, as likeable [and] as identifiable as Ben. From Stan Lee on, he's been the subject of some ironically human stories.
"And in the Ultimate Universe, he's even more human. Not a test pilot, just a college kid who befriended a nerd way back when. Which brings me to the central question I always wondered in reading the book: Why Ben and Reed were such good friends. Issue #58 poses that question and answers it."
When Pokaski sat down with Ultimatum mastermind Jeph Loeb to hash out the details of his FF tie-in, he learned what role the other members of the team will play in the storyline, leading him to shine the spotlight on the Thing.
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"The way it laid out in the first two books [of ULTIMATUM], Reed, Johnny, and Sue are occupied to some way or another by [that] story, so it's all on Ben's shoulders," Pokaski explains.
"The events of Ultimatum will take the team and tear it apart, in more ways than one. The plan is to strip the team down to one, then slowly rebuild the team back up to two, three, and four-have them come together, and overcome ridiculous obstacles to reform as a team. Then comes the big surprise."
Pokaski, who works with Loeb as part of the writing staff for NBC's "Heroes," promises that his story in ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR "will be very closely tied" to the main ULTIMATUM series.
"It starts with the inciting incidents of ULTIMATUM, which changes the equation for the FF," teases Pokaski. "Then the two [series] are kind of braided together, along with [Brian] Bendis' ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and [Aron] Coleite's ULTIMATE X-MEN. Ben's last moment in ULTIMATUM #2 is his first moment in ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #58."
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For Pokaski, writing a story-arc which ties into a larger event proved very similar to the work he does writing television.
"There's that same sense of collaboration," he notes. "In a lot of ways it's a pain in the butt to try to line things up, but when you do it most often results in a better story-and certainly all the work makes for a robust comic book experience for the reader who picks up both titles. I think what Jeph, Aron, Brian and I are trying to do is create something in the Ultimate Universe that is greater than the sum of its parts."
Finally, Pokaski left us with a few hints as to the tone of the next three issues:
"All I can say is that this is really an honor. I grew up loving the FF and I got an important little bit of my youth back when I flipped through those first few books of ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR. So I hope these next few scripts will pay tribute to the story started 57 issues ago by Mr. Bendis and Mr. [Mark] Millar. Issue #1 started with Reed's birth. This issue begins with Ben's...."
Look for ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #58 in stores on November 19. And check out the series' early days on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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