The latest announcement coming from New York Comic Con is the release of “Ultimate Fantastic Four Requiem.” The one-shot special follows up hot on the heels of the “Ultimatum” event and teams “Heroes” writer/producer Joe Pokaski with artist Tyler Kirkham to tell the tale of the Fantastic Four…or should that be the Fantastic One?
For those of you not reading “Ultimatum, the team has been torn asunder by the tidal wave that wiped out Manhattan. Since then, Sue has ended up in a coma, Reed has gone off on his own and Johnny has gone missing, which left Pokaski thinking “You realize you’ve just left me with Ben, right? The Fantastic One?’ It stymied me for a bit, then I realized I had the opportunity to rebuild the team, one (member) at a time.”
While the team may not be big, the story is. “It’s a whole bunch a story jammed into one book,” Pokaski explained, “which is why the powers that be in the Marvel Tower were so kind as to give me 32 pages for it. It starts with what happened to Johnny. Then it weaves through the ‘Ultimatum’ story in a few cool ways, defining Sue and Ben’s friendship more, and giving us the reunion of Reed with his family – touching back to Earth for the funeral of Franklin Richards, and some really jarring team decisions on their future based on the tragedy and upheaval of ‘Ultimatum.’ If you’re not a little sad at the end, I’m a hack.”
From his work on “Heroes” to “Secret Invasion: Inhumans” to “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” one theme seems to follow Pokaski: family. “The family dynamic is archetypal,” Pokaski said, “since Zeus had a bunch of kids. There’s something about the combination of obligation and love that always seems ripe for drama. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be blood relation. Workplaces often have a family dynamic, for better or worse (think ‘CSI’ or ‘The West Wing’), or friendships begin to take on a surrogate familial definition. In the case of the Ultimate Fantastic Four, it’s ripe with the perfect combination of several typed of familial bonds. Sue and Johhny are family proper, Ben and Reed are surrogate brothers, and Reed and Sue have that romantic ‘start a family’ thing of true love going on.”
The dictionary defines requiem as “A song or a hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person,” but would the Fantastic Four’s requiem be that of one for a person or a concept, the end of an era? “A little of both,” Pokaski said. “Actually, a little of one and a lot of another, but I can’t tell you which.”
Fans can expect a few surprises when it comes to supporting cast members that will be showing up in “Ultimate Fantastic Four Requiem.” “Well, we’re kind of settling in for the Moleman (of all people) to be a supporting player in the Baxter Building, as well as Sue and Johnny’s mom. And Doom plays a big, big part in a small, small, way. Oh, and Spider-Woman and Aunt May, and General Ross, and a certain mystical baddie. Oh, and the Statue of Liberty in one of her first speaking roles. That’s about it I think.”
Having written in both the 616 Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe, Pokaski found himself having to realize that while The Thing might do one thing, the Ultimate Thing would do another. “That was part of the joy of telling these stories,” he explained. “As I read the Ultimate Thing’s arc over the 50-odd issues, I realized he was a considerably different guy from his Yancy Street counterpart. He was the boy who would grow up to be a test pilot, but not yet. He still was a kid, on a lot of levels. That presented a great opportunity for Ben to grow up in the last few books, and by the end of ‘Ultimatum,’ even have a new (or not so new) career path.”
As for which universe Pokaski prefers working in, it varies depending on which book he is writing. “You know, in terms of the FF, I think it’s the Ultimate Universe for me,” Pokaski said. “There’s something about the fact that these guys are younger that adds to the wonder of it all and the intensity of the drama. But I think the real genius of having the two universes is that it’s not either/or. I enjoy ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ and ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ as if they were two completely different characters that had nothing in common.”
It may sound cheesy but Pokaski’s time at Marvel has been nothing but fantastic. “From the onset, when Jeph Loeb vouched for me as a storyteller it’s been unreal,” Pokaski explained. “The Marvel editors handed me this tremendous honor of closing out one of my favorite books – and gave me a talented Artist like Tyler Kirkam and let me go crazy. It’s been an amazing collaborative event.”
Pokaski gave us a sneak peak of the title and let us know what readers can look forward to will find when they open it to the first page. “A quasi-familiar image,” Pokaski said. “In ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ #129 we saw Johnny watch as his new crush, Peter Parker-Clone Spider-Woman, swung away. We pick up right from there and then we see what happened to him when the water hits.”
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