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Comic Review – Fantastic Four #1

Fantastic Four #1 Cover

It’s been a rough couple of years for the Fantastic Four. Both in the real world and in the Marvel Universe. The on-going battle between Marvel Studios and Fox over the film rights to the franchise saw Marvel Comics stop publishing a monthly Fantastic Four comic in a bid to deny any sort of cross-promotion to the 2015 Fantastic Four movie. Given how infamously awful that film turned out to be, they needn’t have bothered, but that’s another story.

Regardless, the past few years have seen Reed and Susan Richards lost in space, Ben Grimm joining the Guardians of the Galaxy and Johnny Storm living with The Inhumans. They also saw Doctor Doom reinventing himself as a new Iron Man during the time when Tony Stark was presumed dead.

Thankfully, with Fox recently sold to Disney, the time has come for Marvel Comics’ First Family and their greatest enemy to return!

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It spoils little to say that we don’t actually get to see the glorious return of the Fantastic Four promised by the cover in this issue. The first steps are taken, however, to see The Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic reunited with The Human Torch and The Thing. That’s not really what this issue is about, however. What this comic is about is reminding us of who these characters are and what made The Fantastic Four so revolutionary.

While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would go on to refine the formula more strongly with later creations, Fantastic Four was the first superhero book to challenge the usual character cliches of the genre and develop its main characters into more distinct personalities. Reed Richards, for instance, looked like the usual stock scientist character common to Atomic Age science-fiction but was also a pompous jerk. The hot-tempered and impatient Johnny Storm seemed like a more realistic teenager than the clean-cut, golly-gee Robin and Bucky. The Thing was a noble monster – Frankenstein’s creation in orange rock. And Invisible Woman… well, eventually she became a more proactive heroine. (Sorry, Stan! Gotta be honest!)

Dan Slott’s love for these characters is apparent and he does a fantastic job of handling both The Thing and The Human Torch, who are the focus of most of the first story. The artwork by Sara Pichelli, with colors by Marte Gracia, is vibrant and animated. The story and the artwork feed each other perfectly, balanced yet piercing, like a finely made sword.

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Where this issue truly excels, however, is in its back-up story. It is here that Slott and artist Simone Bianchi begin to restore Victor Von Doom to his proper place as the greatest hero in the Marvel Universe. Hero? Yes, you read that right, True Believers! Because nowhere did Lee and Kirby more masterly subvert the order of superhero comics than with their creation of Doctor Doom – a villain who was, in many ways, more heroic than the “heroes” he routinely fought against.

The story here is a prime example of this, focusing on a Latverian peasant who dares to enter into the long-vacated Castle Doomstadt, after spying a light inside of it. It is here that she finds Doom, wounded in body and spirit, lamenting as only the truly great can after a fall from grace. Yet Doom puts his cares aside, after the woman informs him that the forces that have taken over Latveria in his absence now threaten to destroy his people with Doom’s own technology.

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Slott writes Doom in a Shakespearean fashion, with all the gravitas that the character demands. Bianchi’s artwork proves a perfect match for this dialogue, possessing a similar dark complexity. Even those who dismiss Doom as a mere villain will find it hard to reconcile that portrait, forged by lesser writers, when they consider his actions here.

Fantastic Four #1 may not bring about the return of Marvel Comics’ first superhero team. It does, however, take a solid step in that direction. It’s also a darn good read and well worth picking up.

9/10

Fantastic Four #1 releases on August 8, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Marvel Two-In-One (2017) #1

Marvel Two-In-One (2017) #1 Cover
Things haven’t been so fantastic for The Fantastic Four lately.

For a start, there’s only two of them left.

Scientist Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic) and his wife Susan Storm (aka The Invisible Woman) are missing and presumed dead, along with their children. Pilot Ben Grimm (aka The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing), newly returned from an extended adventure in space, is filling his free time with charity work. And Johnny Storm (aka The Human Torch) is living life as he always did – dangerously close to the edge.

When Johnny’s behavior turns reckless even by his high standards for living fast and furious, a worried Spider-Man approaches Ben Grimm about trying to talk some sense into their friend. Reluctantly, Ben agrees to do so, remembering a promise he made to Susan to look after her brother if anything should happen to her.

Before he gets a chance to seek Johnny out, however, Ben is approached by Doctor Doom. Newly reformed (or so he claims) Doom has come not to quarrel but to offer The Thing a bequest – a piece of technology Doom recovered in the wake of Reed Richards’ apparent death which he believes only Ben Grimm can open. Though The Thing doesn’t trust Doom any further than he could throw him, he accepts the gift… and discovers one more reason he needs to seek out Johnny Storm immediately!

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The original Marvel Two-In-One series was one of the odder works to come out of Marvel Comics in the 1970s. Nominally Marvel’s answer to DC Comics’ The Brave And The Bold, the series teamed Ben Grimm with a different superhero every month in the same way that The Brave and The Bold showed different characters joining forces with Batman.

Though nominally teaming The Thing and The Human torch up, this first chapter of Fate Of The Four doesn’t bring the former teammates together until the final few pages. This issue is primarily concerned with setting up the two heroes working together again, though we do get a brief team-up between Spider-Man and the Thing against another villain. There’s also a nice but brief battle between The Thing and Doctor Doom.

It remains to be seen if this revival series will match the original in weird stories and wry humor. With Howard The Duck writer Chip Zdarsky writing, it’s a safe bet that it will. Even this issue, which largely comes off as a more traditional Fantastic Four style story, features a few out-there comedic moments, such as Ben’s conversation about collecting cigarettes with a random woman at a dull ritzy party. And you can’t fault any comic which gives us Spider-Man wearing a tuxedo jacket over his costume.

Artist Jim Cheung does a fantastic job on the artwork for this issue. Boasting an aesthetic that evokes comparison to John Romita Jr. in terms of detailed pencil-work and general appearance, Cheung is also a fantastic choreographer. The rest of the art team prove equally skilled, with two different inkers providing the finishes, though you’d never know it from looking. The colors by Frank Martin look great, as well.

Those Marvel fans who have been missing The Fantastic Four would do well to pick up this issue. So would any comic reader who enjoys good comedy. It remains to be seen what the final fate of The Four will be in the wake of this story but if this issue is any indication Marvel Two-In-One will remain fantastic regardless.

8/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.