by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by James Robinson, Art by Leonard Kirk
I very rarely read the editors page, or the letters page, or whatever the particular comic has this time around, but this one was red and looked eye catching. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life, but I am not certain that was its intention. It is written by Mark Paniccia who is the new editor for this comic and this particular part amused me so much; ‘When he [James] turned in the first script it was like he’d been writing these characters all his life. James made me feel like I was back home (or school) with the magic of those early issues. Powerful. Emotional. Fantastic.’ Well they turned the Fantastic Fours’ costumes red in this series so I know he has some powerful rose tinted spectacles, but even still that comment is hilarious. The early issues of the Fantastic Four are laughable, if incredibly important historically. Sure to a child (and one born the best part of 50 years ago) they probably did seem fantastic, but it is the ‘emotional’ that made me chuckle as those early comics are anything but that. Stan’s grasp on human interactions is terrible, only made to look better because of how badly he wrote female characters.
So now I have unveiled myself as a hater of old Fantastic Four comics, where does this new book take us? Firstly, it is a heck of a lot better than the first issues from the 60’s! If we start with the art, which is my personal bench mark for a comic, then this is a really effective comic. They have changed the costumes from the traditional blue, or more recently their white ones, which while my personal favourite, did make them look a bit sterile. Other than looking like a rip off of the rip off, The Incredibles, the costumes are more than passable even if I find their completely skin tight outfits a bit extreme. In fact the artist appears to be having the same thoughts that I am, if your costume is so figure hugging that you can see Sue’s belly button, then it is going to reveal a lot more just a little bit lower. In order to counter act that the artist has managed to never show the groin section of any character in anything but an extreme distance shot using every trick in the book to hide it; shadows on Ben, Reed always stretching out at that point, Jonny’s fire starting at his waist, word bubbles covering Sue’s modesty and a heck of a lot of butt shots. With costumes that revealing it is no wonder Sue only has one thing on her mind.*
I am wondering if in recent years anyone has told a straight forward story with the Fantastic Four. I will be honest; I struggle with their books in a similar way that I struggle with the Hulk. The Hulk I find difficult to read because I find he is almost never the protagonist of his own story, he is the fulcrum on which the story turns and that is product of his creation in the 60’s. In a similar way I find the Fantastic Four stories very difficult because they try to balance this level of complex made-up science, with off the wall bizarre events and try and keep the characters sane all at the same time. For me it feels like wanting to use Deadpool and Batman in the same comic and keep both sides working; Deadpool being a mad 4th wall breaking joker and Batman being grim and serious; the two concepts would conflict. Sure it would make for an interesting one shot, but not for an ongoing concept. This is how I feel about most Fantastic Four comics; they take a hugely complex storyline, throw in a wacky villain, have a party on the moon and then try to make you feel sad that everyone is going to die, it never sits well with me. However I know that some people utterly love the way they are written, so, they will probably be disappointed with this series.
This is another Fantastic Four time skipping story; at least the issue starts in the future and then skips back to see how they got there. Well, not quite because we leave this issue far away from the disaster that it starts with, we have a lot of issues to go before we reach that point. Fing Fang is rampaging throughout the city and the Fantastic Four swing into action to stop him. It feels absolutely out of character for him and fortunately Reed calls it as well so this does not feel like the random-monster-of-the-week comic that it could have been. But how are we getting from this point to the disaster that Sue is describing at the beginning?
This is a Fantastic Four book that I think I will like, but as I alluded to above, that probably means that it is less like one of their normal books and more like the sort of comics that I prefer. I hope this is not the case and that this is just a well crafted story that everyone can enjoy. This book sets up so much for the later issues to pick up on that it is little wonder Marvel is using this same trick over and over again in its comics with the cold future opening before the snap back to the present.
* And honestly that is the worst panel in the entire comic, she looks either short sighted or constipated in that picture.